Well, another school year has come and gone and with it, year end report cards. Generally, my youngest gets glowing reports in the A and B area. The oldest, although very smart, has a little more trouble with school, but on the whole, she gets by with B's C's and the occasional D.
A friend on the Facebook brought up an interesting question.
What do you think about giving your kids gifts for passing onto the next grade?
Me? I think it's kind of like paying your kid to clean their room. A Non-issue. It's something they are expected to do, it's their responsibility. So no, I don't necessarily agree with buying gifts for simply passing from one grade to another.
That's no to say that there aren't some good arguments. One other friend pointed out that working parents get yearly raises, so why shouldn't kids get similar? And that's fair, to a point. However, many raises are also awarded on merit, rather than for simply being there.. not for simply doing your job, but for doing it well. A raise is also supposed to cover the increases in the cost of living that accrue each year. A new bike, or XBox is not a living expense.
However, going to school is a responsibility, much like keeping ones room clean at home is a responsibility. It is expected as a part of a household, and as a current/future member of society. In my honest opinion, these are things that should be expected if they are within your capabilities, and offering rewards for them may only serve to foster a sense of entitlement, a "What's in it for me" mentality. Education in and of itself is a reward. Feeling good about yourself for having accomplished something is a reward. Satisfaction on a job well done is a reward and I think a focus on these things is important to a child's self-actualization.
Now, I will say that I don't think there isn't some place for rewarding your children for hard work. If they have gone above and beyond, then there's nothing wrong with acknowledging that with a gift or a special day, especially if you have a kid that really struggles. But the focus should be on the effort rather than the end product. Myself, I'd be more apt to reward a child who struggles with school who manages, through dedication and determination, to raise their grade from a D to a C+, than I would a kid who regularly excels at school getting straight A's yet again. I will admit that I don't know what it's like to deal with a kid who routinely struggles with school. If I did, my expectations would be different, I suppose.
To use the housekeeping example again, I don't think I should have to reward the kids for doing things they are expected to do as part of a functioning household. However, if there was something they did (say, for example, weeding gardens, cleaning the bathrooms etc) that was not a part of their expected chores, then I'd be inclined to give them a little something for their efforts, along with a (more importantly) a sincere "Thank you!" and "Great Job!" - an acknowledgement for contributing beyond normal expectations and going out of their way to help out. It's probably an interesting contradiction that I'm more likely to reward my kids for doing things without the expectation of a reward.
It's also important to take into consideration what is considered a 'Gift'. I knew a girl growing up who received extravagant gifts each year for passing into the next grade. Call it sour grapes if you will, but looking back this girl was a bit of an entitled brat, and this always became apparent around the end of school year, as she would brag about the new scooter, or bike she got for passing. I know not all kids are like this, and giving your kid a present doesn't mean they'll also be entitled brats, but it's something that has always stuck with me.
I did enjoy one woman's idea that her and her family have a special dinner or special day, more as a tradition to celebrate the end the school year. It sounds like less pressure for the parents (since much like the Tooth Fairy tends to leave more money with each tooth, Passing Gifts may get more expensive as the years go by) and a fun way to reflect on the year and look forward to the coming summer.