Report Card Challenges

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. We participate in other affiliate programs as well. For more details, please see our disclosure policy.

How do you praise and coach children who have very different natural ability levels and bring home report cards that look nothing alike? Life as MOM contributor JessieLeigh offers some great suggestions from her own experience.

Report Card Challenges | Pay for Good Grades?

photo source: Brad Holt

There’s that age-old question I see tossed around every now and again: should children receive financial compensation (i.e. get paid) for good grades?

There are, not surprisingly, many differing opinions on that one. It’s similar to the debates that spring up when you pose the question, “should children get paid to do chores?”

Like everyone else, I have my own opinion about the issue and, in our home, we choose not to offer financial rewards for even excellent grades.

There are many, many reasons we’ve made that choice, but one of the simplest to explain is very simple — our children have different natural ability levels. An A for one child might be a walk in the park while the other could put in all the effort in the world and still not get top marks.

So, we’ve eliminated the need to mess around with money when report cards arrive, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still challenges. Frankly, it’s tough to have children who receive remarkably different marks. We’re not talking about a goof-off versus a hard-worker here. We’re just talking about two unique individuals who have been gifted with very differing talents.

What’s the best way to handle that situation? How does one properly praise and coach two children who bring home report cards that look nothing alike?

Well, I don’t have any perfect answers, of course, but I can offer some suggestions for things that have worked for us over the years.

Focus — a lot — on areas of improvement (or decline.)

We spend a lot time praising our children for areas where they’ve shown any sort of improvement. For one child, that might mean bringing that one “consistently meets expectations” up to a “consistently exceeds expectations” like all the others. For the other, it might mean cheering for a category that moved from “minimal” to “inconsistent.”

Both indicate very real progress in the right direction! Such things are to be acknowledged and celebrated. On the other hand, watching marks slide backward can be a red flag– even if they’re still “decent.”

Report Card Challenges | Pay for Good Grades?

Set goals.

For our child with the stellar grades, this might mean encouraging going beyond expectations. “How can you help out more in the classroom? What enrichment can you do to help support your reading even more? Would you be able to spend ten minutes helping another student practice their 7s facts?”

For our little one who struggles to pull in those perfect marks, we still set goals– and they’re not always academic. Knowing that art is an interest and talent, we offered a challenge to work toward “exceeds expectations” in that subject this last marking period.

Don’t ignore evaluations and comments on character traits.

Natural talent has little to nothing to do with being a good friend and polite student! While we might not expect identical grades in most areas, we feel comfortable in setting the bar pretty high when it comes to character. We expect both children to be respectful and work well with others. The playing field is even on that one, and they both know we’ll be paying special attention to these things.

Our school encourages responsibility, honesty, compassion, perseverance, integrity, loyalty, and courage (among a few others)– these are traits we also value as a family and we definitely pay attention to how they’re doing in these areas.

Celebrate uniqueness.

These two children have provided us with a great opportunity to teach about unique gifts and talents. It’s so important that little ones learn, early on, that they are so much more than a score or grade on a paper. Their value is not singularly tied to their academic achievements.

We all have strengths and weaknesses and it’s okay to acknowledge both! We regularly remind them of these things using us, the parents, as examples. Mommy’s quite musical, but Daddy’s artistic. Daddy has a great memory for formulas, while Mommy is the queen of problem-solving with graphs and charts.

We have different talents– and that’s not just normal, but also fantastic. The same is true for them.

Do your children receive significantly different marks on their report cards? What are your best tips for handling it?

– A mother of three, including a 24 week preemie, JessieLeigh is a determined advocate for even the tiniest of babies. She can be found celebrating life’s (sometimes unexpected) miracles and blessings at Parenting Miracles.

You can read all of Jessie Leigh’s posts for Life as MOM here.

More Help for School Challenges:

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

Read Newer Post
Read Older Post


  1. I couldn’t agree more! Hubby and I have always been adamant about not paying for good grades. We want those grades to be a reward of their own, for the kids to aspire to do well so they can feel good about doing well. We praise kids who improve a grade and when one gets worse we talk about how we can do better next time. That said, neither of my kids has a very difficult time with school and both love to learn. I could see how a parent might want to offer incentive (monetary or otherwise) to motivate their child to try harder at school when their child finds no joy in learning.

Thanks so much for participating in this conversation about "a mom's life."

This is a place where moms can be themselves. Remember that each mother's path looks a little different. Please keep your comments respectful and kind. Reasonable minds will disagree in a nice way.

So let's talk about it, using "our big girl words."

Share Your Thoughts