I had an eye-opening conversation with a mother at the end of the school year last year. Report cards came home on the last day of school, and she said she paid her kids for the As they earn on their report cards. My jaw hit the floor. “I thought we weren’t supposed to do that,” I said. “I thought that sent the wrong message about the value of learning. Or something.”
Her reply was really quite simple: right now, they are school children and their job is to work at school. If they work hard, she will reward them for it. She was careful to point out that the money does not go to them directly. It goes into their RESPs. The life lesson here is, work hard now, and it will not only make getting into university easier, it will help to ease the work of paying for (or paying off) a post-secondary education. The money stays in the education circuit, so to speak.
The more I think about it, the more I love this idea. One of my most pressing concerns as a parent is to avoid fostering a sense of entitlement. That whole special snowflake thing. If the kids can begin to understand from an early age that income is tied to excellent performance, perhaps they will give 100% from the get-go.
“Good luck with that,” has been our response for the last six months, but my husband and I are now saying, “Why delay the inevitable?” I’d like him to have a phone for middle school, which is a year away, so why not make it available sooner rather than later, and make him work for it.
As part of the process of making the decision about middle schools, he has to write the SSAT test. I used to work for one of the companies that does preparation courses for these standardized tests, so I know that a concentrated dose of preparation can go a long way to improving the scores. That and studying thousands of vocabulary words. Which is what he has been doing. For an hour a day. At the end of the road: established work habits, a better score and a phone. He gets it on the day he writes the test.
I think it’s a plan that works in everyone’s favour, and he is certainly more eager to sit down with flashcards now that he knows it’s getting him closer to the phone. The whole atmosphere around the test preparation has lightened enormously. And I will continue to live in the hope that the vocabulary he learns in the next few weeks stays with him for life and does not vanish into the ether once the test is done!