The Use of Rewards and Punishments for School Grades

If you're a parent who uses rewards and punishment for children's school grades, this article is for you.
The Use of Rewards and Punishments for School Grades

Last update: 04 January, 2019

The effectiveness of rewards and punishments in the world of education is an ongoing debate among parents. This is because both tactics give children a different type of motivation, which isn’t always effective. In this article, we’ll analyze whether using rewards and punishments for school grades is good or not.

In general, we know that rewards and punishments can change an individual’s behavior. However, using rewards and punishments comes with the danger that grade-focused teaching goes against the very meaning of learning.

The purpose of learning becomes achieving good grades and rewards, not mastering the material. As a result, we don’t search for innovative and imaginative solutions for difficult problems.

Prizes and punishments are used as incentives to help children reach their goals. On the one hand, rewards are a positive way of shaping their behavior. If someone does something good, we praise him or her for it.

On the other hand, punishments are the opposite of prizes, used when someone didn’t meet appropriate goals. 

If a kid gets a bad grade in school, in addition to not having any advantage, the child receives a penalty. For example, he might get fewer hours outside or need to study during the summer.

Rewards for grades

Many parents want to keep their children motivated. Therefore, they use rewards to encourage small children to get good grades. Prizes can be offered in a variety of ways, either as a gift or additional play time.

In most cases, both parties need to agree on the rewards. The goal is to encourage the child to reach certain objectives.

The Use of Rewards and Punishments for School Grades

While it’s true that rewards motivate students to get good grades, there’s the risk that rewards could become their sole motivation.

Therefore, if you choose to use rewards for school grades, make sure they aren’t excessive. Also, make sure your child understands that the true success is gaining knowledge.

As for the rewards, you must take into consideration that it’s better to give intangible rewards that kids value.  They’re more realistic to what they’ll get in the real world. For example, they’re allowed to do something in exchange for a good job or a positive attitude.

“Using rewards or punishments comes with the danger that grade-focused teaching goes against the very meaning of learning.”


Parents use punishments when kids don’t follow the agreed upon rules. This means that parents set guidelines at the beginning of the year. Then, they list the penalties if the children don’t follow the rules or achieve certain goals.

Punishments or consequences usually involve taking something away that the student enjoys. They’re meant to dissuade kids from repeating the bad behavior.

The Use of Rewards and Punishments for School Grades

Therefore, fear of punishment causes children to follow clearly articulated rules. Mentioning these punishments causes them to behave correctly. However, in some cases, fear can cause a student to work simply to survive. They won’t work to reach their full potential.

Consider the fact that punishments for bad behavior must always be realistic, logical and effective for each age group.

Finally, don’t forget that rewards and punishments should end when children have gained self-control. It’s not easy, nor does it happen overnight. However, ideally, both will reduce as children get older.

Our advice is to always talk with your child. Explain why you would use punishments or rewards based on grades. After all, learning is the most valuable thing you can offer.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Roth, C. (2011). The Entrepreneur Equation: Evaluating the Realities, Risks, and Rewards of Having Your Own Business. BenBella Books.
  • Navas, L., Maicas, G. S., & Germán, M. A. S. (2003). Predicción de las calificaciones de los estudiantes: la capacidad explicativa de la inteligencia general y de la motivación. Revista de psicología general y aplicada: Revista de la Federación Española de Asociaciones de Psicología56(2), 225-237.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.