Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thoughts on "Passing Gifts"

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.


  1. I don't reward my kids for moving onto another grade. I mean you can pass with all D's. I reward my kids for good report cards.

  2. I never got rewarded for my grades. I got lectured for getting less than an A in any class without a REALLY good reason ("everyone else made a D" good reason). Until, that is, I managed to fuck up badly enough that they stopped having high expectations of me at all...

  3. I don't remember ever receiving gifts or cash for my grades in school. My parents did reward me in other ways regarding curfews and such.

  4. My psych doc thinks the passing presents fueled my perfectionism... or something.

    Even though it didn't matter the grade, I always got A's (except for that mofo I call 'calculus').

    I agree with you. Maybe a dinner out or something, but not extravagance...

    Seriously?... Reeeally??... Seriously?


  5. Take it from a super-child who was rewarded ALL THE TIME for being a general overachiever: once your children get into the real world and start becoming "normal" people, they will feel like failures because you boosted them up so much as children.

  6. I don't believe in presents, but I do believe in punishment (no TV, etc) if one of my kids isn't trying their best. I contact the kids' teachers through the year and make sure they are on track.
    My boy (who is 9 and wasn't always on track this past school year) told my wife the other day, "Sometimes Dad makes my life miserable." Yep, I'm not here to be your friend. I'm your dad.

  7. I can't bring myself to pay for good report cards with money like my kids want, much less giving them expensive gifts for moving on. They are supposed to move on. The reward for moving on is not being humiliated by being held back. We have a special dinner where they can pick the restaurant, but other than that, nothing.

  8. I heard this same kind of discussion not too long ago. I'm not saying which side of the fence I'm more apt to be one, but the argument was that if you give your child an allowance, they should receive it whether they do household chores or not because they are part of the family, and paying them after they've done something is only reinforcing capitalism. My only response: Well, where we live, you only get paid by your job if you do the work. If I were to pay them after they do a chore, that would be exactly the same thing that happens to me at work. I go, I work, they pay. I'm not sure their argument holds up, because teaching them that they get money whether they work or not doesn't prepare them for the current status quo. Just saying.

  9. Here from Feministe. You may find the works of Alfie Kohn to be of interest on this topic.

  10. Mabbo - Thank you for the link. I read through it and I do think I'll look up more of his work. I like the ideas he presented here.

  11. When we were kids, my mother implemented her dad's strategy: no gifts for passing, because passing is a reward in itself; you get a gift if you fail, because that's when you need cheering up.

    Of course, if we hadn't all been overachievers, she might have done things differently...

  12. When I was a kid, I was always jealous of my friends who bragged about getting money and/or other material goods for their straight As. Me? I'm an immigrant daughter of immigrant parents, for whom As were always expected. You got all As? Good. Now do your dishes. etc. There wasn't even a pat on the head. Money? The one time I inquired about this, my mom laughed and asked if she got paid for doing the housework. I was raised to understand that my parents worked their asses off to come to the US and that my filial piety entailed getting good grades and making the most of the opportunities my parents provided for me. My parents' point was, you don't get rewarded for doing what is expected of you. Granted, their parenting was more a product of the way they were raised (in China, when no one cared or even expected you to go to high school, let alone college) and not one that I'll mirror, but it's certainly one that I understand.

    I agree with your points in that it's definitely good to reward children for hard work. There are instances where it is obvious that the child went above and beyond, such as the one you cited. Also, I'm a huge fan of praise. Honestly, though I wouldn't have said "no" to money or gifts, I never wanted for anything, and frankly, a "good job" would have been sufficient for most of my report cards.

  13. Just want to say how much positive praise can be helpful.

    Or the "it will all work out" "things will get better" and those messages.

    Support and love without labels like "good" and "bad".

    Trying to remove judgment, but support positive behaviours.

    I'm learning the hard way what an impact the word "BAD" has had on me since childhood, even though my folks were just doing their best.


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