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How to Get Kids to Study Harder

Updated on February 7, 2016

How To Get Kids To Study Harder?

How to get kids to study harder? A lot of people have offered solutions to the poor quality of education offered in American public schools. Professional educators always seem to have the same few solutions. They say, "reduce class size" and "increase teacher pay in order to attract better teachers" and other similar solutions.

Sometimes they suggest more technology in the classroom, or new styles of lessons. Funny how things that are supposed to be good for the kids always seem to be the same things which make teachers' jobs easier and higher paid.Too bad there doesn't seem to be any relationship between these reforms and any actual improvement.

None of these sorts of solutions attacks the root of the problem, which is that if the students and their parents are uninterested in education, the kids won't study and won't learn.

In the old days, this problem was solved with violence. Kids who didn't do their lessons correctly were beaten by the teacher, and then by their parents. Read some of the classic stories from that era, like the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Even the good kids were beaten if they failed their lessons. Kids who had no particular interest in learning might still study, just to avoid the pain. It worked then. I doubt we will return to that method, so we have to find something besides fear and pain to motivate kids.

We have all heard of parents who bribe their kids into studying, offering cash for "A"s, or a car on their birthday if they keep a high GPA, along with various punishments such as grounding if they get poor grades. This can work for some individual parents and kids. The old carrot-and-stick approach isn't out of date.

But a lot of parents don't have many resources to make these kinds of bargains. It is fine for a rich or middle class parent to offer MONEY for a good grade, or a car on the kid's 16th birthday. But it isn't really the middle class or rich who have the problem. It's the poor parent, the single mom who just does not have the money. And what about those parents who simply don't care much? Even if they have the resources, they won't use them to bribe their kids, if they don't care.

Poor kids, for a variety of reasons, have the worst school outcomes on average. Poor kids have fewer material resources, go to poorer schools with inferior teachers, and are surrounded by kids with lower average intelligence. That is harsh to say, but sadly true. Even the brightest kid can be dragged down in an environment like this.

A bright kid who is enthusiastic about learning can overcome these disadvantages. The problem is that few lower class kids are all that enthusiastic about learning. The energetic ones may get diverted into sports, where very few succeed long-term, or into the black market where they imagine they can get rich selling drugs. School just doesn't seem like it leads towards a better future, for too many of these kids.

So how do we, the enlightened ones of society (yes, that is a bit of sarcasm), convince these kids and these parents that school is worth the effort?


I suggest we bribe them.

In recent years we have been spending over $10,000 per student per year. How much of that money is really being spent usefully, on things that actually improve the childrens' minds? That is a very hard question, but we know that other advanced countries seem to educate their children a lot better on a lot less money. We spend far more than most countries and get worse results. So it is pretty obvious that we are spending bundles of money to no good purpose. There isn't even any strong evidence that spending more money on schools improves student performance. Really. Click on those links and read. Spending more money DOES NOT HELP!

Looking at the Money spent is simply failing to engage with the problem. It doesn't matter how much money is spent. That is looking at the problem from the wrong angle. The problem is in the student's MIND, not in the school's pocketbook. Kids who want to learn, will learn. Students who don't, won't.

We need to aim our efforts at methods that work in today's modern society. In the 1800s what worked was violence. (It would probably work today, too, if we had the nerve to follow through.) What kind of society do we, or rather, our kids live in? A capitalist, consumer society. What motivates kids and their parents? Money. Cash. Loot!

I suggest that rather than pay teachers, administrators and schools more and more, we straight out pay the students.

Verify results any way you please. It could be national standardized tests, privately administered tests similar to the SAT or ACT. It could be results on State designed and administered tests. Verify learning any darned way you please, as long as the kids had to learn and improve each semester in order to get the loot.

I suggest graduated tests for each grade level, perhaps $100 for each "A" grade, $50 for a "B" and $20 for a "C".(Have to keep the $ amount for grades less than an "A" high enough that we don't lose the less intelligent. We want them to study hard too.) Have an outside company design and administer the tests, not the school, to prevent grade inflation. Have outside observers to verify that the teachers are not cheating by giving the answers. Give the tests en mass in the gym or cafeteria without the teachers present, but with plenty of proctors.

Does this sound expensive.? Sure it is, but remember we are talking a yearly budget of TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS per kid. A school with just 1000 students has $10,000,000 to play with. Every year. TEN. MILLION. DOLLARS. Can't afford this, you say? Liar!


And, pay the parents. How about $1000 per kid if he or she maintains a GPA (outside verified) of 3 to 4, and $500 for a GPA of 2 to 3? Or pay parents based on the results of the last test in the school year. Pressure on the kids? You bet. Pressure on the parents too, to make sure the kids study. And you can bet the parents will be watching the teachers to make sure they are sending home plenty of homework! Poor heart just breaks thinking of how hard they would have to work.

So, we are looking at paying, between paying the kids and paying the parents, some-odd two or three thousand dollars per year. If the kid gets straight "A"s and aces the tests. Don't like paying rich kids to study? Means test it, so only kids who fall under a certain level get to benefit. Bless your little liberal hearts! That would mean a bigger pool of money for the poor and lower middle class, so we could raise the payments even higher! Liberals should just love this, and conservatives may grumble but would probably go along...

Now, you can pick all kinds of holes in this idea. But I have to ask, how could it be WORSE than the education system we have now? Is it really right to take all of that money from workers and waste it on millions of kids who simply don't care? Kids who barely bother to learn to read? Remember, that is the key. The kids don't care so they don't study. Find a better way to make the kids care than what I have offered here. I'd be happy to listen.

We expect our kids to grow up and be motivated by money for the rest of their lives after they graduate (if they even do), but we pretend it is immoral to use money to motivate them in school. The kids who want to study already do. I am not worried here about the smart kids, the enthusiastic kids, the kids whose parents can already buy them a place in life. My concern is for the dumb kids, the slackers, the ones who have tuned out or joined gangs. We need a way to catch the attention of those kids who DON'T want to study. Before we lose any more of them.

Bribe them? Sound Off Here in Comments.

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    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 

      5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      I never had to shout, never hit a kid, and those were kids' parents to pay my time. How I did it -- feel welcome to compare

    • tmbridgeland profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Small Town, Illinois

      Thanks. I don't think it would hurt. Considering the vast amounts of money spent on education, it shouldn't be too hard to fund either, though the teacher's unions would certainly object.

    • 2patricias profile image


      8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Here in the UK we have a problem with kids who do not do well at school. It is always referred to as "the system letting them down" - as if it can never be the kids or their parents at fault.

      I think the idea of paying parents for good results is a very interesting idea. If it worked it would save money in the long run.

      Possibly it could be incremental. A small payment for good attendance, a slighly higher payment for getting the kids to school on time, and then more for good grades.

      Some parents here (usually those who have never had a job) do not see much value in sending their kids to school. Bribery might help.

    • tmbridgeland profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Small Town, Illinois

      Well, no system will work for everyone. A lot of people respond to violence by becoming defiant. That part of the Hub was fairly tongue-in-cheek. Thanks for the kind comment!

    • editorsupremo profile image


      8 years ago from London, England

      Interesting hub. Fortunately I was a bright child so didn't suffer the beatings or the cane, but I remember some kids who were constantly outside the principal's room for not achieving high grades. It was a brutal and cruel regime back then. And it didn't even work.

      I love the suggestion about paying the parents too. You will definitely see parents stepping up if there is a payment involved!

      Good job. Voted up!


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