1. Parenting

Readers Respond: Best Ways to Motivate Your Teen To Earn Good Grades in High School

Responses: 23


Quick Links: High School Survival Guide

Earning good grades in their high school classes is a worthy goal for teens. Good grades help empower a love of learning and make their future endeavors easier. But they do need to be earned, which is hard work. How do you motivate your teen to get their best grades possible?

Money for Grades

Money for grades has motivated at our house. I have 2 high school daughters, both doing great! I pay $10 for A’s $5 for B’s $3 for c’s if they get a D they pay me $5 and for an F they pay me $10. I think life pays for a good job, and while kids are in school, that is their job!
—Guest Sandy

Using Arbitrary Standards

As an educator, I would prefer that grades reflect the intrinsic value of learning rather than being work that earns a salary. However, education is also tied to the work world, which does reward with money. Young people may not develop a love for learning right away but the habit of study can develop that over time. Money for grades can motivate but must be awarded within the actual capabilities of the child. An arbitrary standard of money only for As may be too high for an individual kid so one must know what one’s child is capable of achieving.
—Guest John Stinespring

Fiendish Plan

For my 11 and 8 year olds my fiendish plan is to make an A worth an outrageous amount of money. Make the A worth the effort. They each have 6 subject areas in their report cards. I’d say making an A worth $20, a C worth $2 and a B about $8 - this will likely get their attention.
—Guest Scott Boyer

Fiendish Plan

Why reward a "C" grade at all? You're in effect, rewarding mediocre performance if you do that.
—Guest Bill

Rewarding As taking away for Ds and Fs

If your son is capable of As or Bs, maybe he should lose priveleges for getting Cs. He is going to have to learn that he will get back from school in direct proportion to how much effort he puts into it. To not put forth his best effort, he is in effect, cheating himself.
—Guest Bill

Defining learning success

Everyone wants his/her children to succeed. It is difficult, as a parent, to see lower grades that make you and your child feel like he or she has failed. I prefer to help my two children understand that learning is a life long effort. The ultimate goal is that they understand and retain the content in the long term. In other words I will take a C or B if they retained the information. I want them to measure their success by what they know not what they knew when they got the A or B.
—Guest Tony

Have a Goal

We just had a meeting with my son’s high school counselor on this very topic. My son is a sophomore and just doing the minimum to get by in school. The counselor asked him, “Where do you see yourself in four years?” My son had no idea. The advice we received was to have a goal, and if your goal is to be in a specific college then when it comes to doing homework everyday or studying for a test the teen might put in more effort if they have a goal and are trying to meet that goal.
—Guest Kym

Attention-Challenged Learner

Like me, my teenage son also has ADHD and though he's bright, getting him interested in school has remained a challenge. Let me rephrase that - he's plenty interested in certain subjects and in those he gets consistent As. But in the subjects he doesn't like, he teeters between Cs and Ds all the time! This quarter he set a goal for himself to make the Honor Roll! I was so proud of him and told him that I'd reward him for doing so but was very proud that he'd set that goal on his own. Later came to find out that his father (we're divorced) promised him a new TV if he could make the Honor Roll. So much for self-motivation! I admit that it's difficult to be intrinsically motivated when you have ADHD so an outside reward of some type is often necessary, but the TV was just too much for me. I was thinking more like having some friends over for a movie night or going out for dinner. It's hard to remember what motivated me at that age to do well in school because I don't think much did.
—Guest leener

Book: Punished by Rewards

It seems to me the biggest goal that we really all have, is to help our kids develop into adult human beings who have their own healthy internal motivation. It's a fair question to ask whether external factors like punishments & rewards, really nurture the INTERNAL motivation within a human being for the long term. There's a really provocative book called "Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise & Other Bribes." The author is a guy named Alfie Kohn. The way I read his book, the bottom line is that human beings do not like to be manipulated or controlled, and both the carrot and the stick, according to his explanation of psychological research, are counterproductive in many circumstances. If you're game to stretch your brain a bit, try reading that book. I personally really felt like the explanation of the difference between Encouragement and Praise was very helpful to me as a parent.
—Guest kelly Cusick

Rewarding As taking away for Ds and Fs

So my son has the option to earn money for As and Bs. He loses privileges for Ds and Es. So he gets Cs. Never dreamed this would happen but he chooses to do just enough to not loose privileges and dosnt care enough to work hard to earn the cash. Consider this when you create your reward and consequence standards. Talking to him now about his plans for the future as this may be the actual issue.
—Guest Mike

The contract

Have a contract with sliding scale. Better the grades the more we pay for college and her car. The low grades ca nd below and we don't pay. She is capable of A's, but often settles for less, which is fine, she just gets less and has to work more.
—Guest guest


It would be so easy if all my kids were the same- but they are not! I have three very intelligent, beautiful girls. Unfortunately their learning styles are very different. The same "reward system" for each is not at all possible. Each child and I have always had an individualized/strengths based "reward plan" (yes, it usually involves money, but also includes privileges throughout the process); each based on personal responsibility, continued success and a supportive plan from us. I have one who thrived in a private school system and refused to attend public school, she homeschooled through high school and went onto do very well in college. Her youngest sister is challenged by the education system (currently in grade 6) and is in the process of transitioning over the next couple of years to an online academy. Then my middle child, who loves school, has her college goals in tact, and is getting straight A's in her public high school. So far, so good.
—Guest Pattie

Motivating teens- give them the tools!

In order to help my girls to succeed in school, I started at the beginning by making sure that they are utilizing tools to know what they have due and when. It sounds simple, but they're both in High School, and they both use a planner that I check nightly, which their teachers sign off on. This helps me to know what they have due each night and what tests are coming up, and helps the girls learn personal responsibility and accountability. If the planner is not signed, they do not get to do any after-school activites that day, including friends, tv, internet etc. That way there is an immediate consequence. If assignments are missing, then more priviedges go out the door for a longer time. Structure is really helpful to some teens. Homework at our house is done at the dining room table always, so there's none of that distracted, half-homework half-tv watching. Phone go off during homework time, as well as computers unless there is school work involved.
—Guest Arika

Working Together

The best motivation is to work together with your teen on self-change. Plan a mutually agreed upon date & time to sit down with your teen--don’t just pull him or her away from what they’re doing. At this time discuss 1 or 2 of your personal or professional goals with your teen & listen to your teen discuss his or her academic objectives with you. Once you decide on your goals, set specific but relevant short-term goals that will serve as stepping stones to your overall goal. In addition, set milestones & decide how you will measure the progress of your goals. Most importantly, decide how you will celebrate your successes. Create a plan to help you assess setbacks, obstacles, & possible failures. Teach your teen never to give up but to always come back with a PLAN B! Working with your teen on goals will help you bond, make the process more enjoyable & allow you to grow as an individual. Use each other for support & encouragement. You will be surprised what you can learn from one another


I have a 16-year-old in a dual enrollment high school/college program w/ a 3.5 GPA. He has always been motivated with privileges. If the grades slip, the privileges begin to disappear. It has always gone hand in hand with trust - to stay out later, to have friends over, to see certain movies, etc.
—Guest Sherry

©2015 About.com. All rights reserved.