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How to create a reward system for your high school student

Many parents of teens struggle with how to create rewards that are good enough to motivate their teen to want to do better in school.

Most parents feel worn out and burned out after trying with so many different types of rewards to motivate their teen.

Parents come to me after everything they have tried has failed, and ask me: What can I do to create the right rewards for my teen?

So here is what you should do, and what not to do!

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Don’t Give Cash

First, I would tell any parent, don’t use cash as an incentive for better grades. Nine times out of 10, it just doesn’t work.

This is because many teens do not know the true value of a dollar. Many teens have never had a paying job, or had to pay for their bills.

(This is why I encourage all parents to help their teens get a small job. I believe that all teens should be preparing for their financial future, whether or not you are paying for their college tuition.)

If you already cover all of your teen’s expenses, then cash probably won’t be the right reward system for you.

Don’t try to use the same reward for siblings

If you have more than one child, you might be thinking that you can use the same reward for all your kids to reap the same result.

But, as you already know, it just won’t work!

You know exactly how different each one of your children are, which is the same reason that you cannot use the same reward system for each child.

What motivates one child may not work at motivating your other child.

Create small rewards for small milestones

Not many adults will be motivated without the right rewards system, so we know teens definitely won’t work harder without the right reward system.

So next we need to create a system to reward our teens in order to see results. I would encourage a small reward for a certain amount of work. For example, completing a homework assignment before dinner.

For example:

  • when your teen completes homework before dinner = small reward

  • when your teen studies for 30 minutes after school = small reward

  • when your teen finishes an essay = small reward

A small reward could be an after school snack, getting out of 1 chore, or having 30 minutes to play on their phone.

TIP - The small reward is only given for completing work BEFORE dinner. If not, your teen will be staying up at all hours of the night trying to finish.

Create big rewards for big achievements

Next, create a bigger reward for a bigger achievement. If your child brought their grades up from C’s last quarter to A’s and B’s next quarter, they should have a reward that makes them feel good about what they have accomplished!

For a bigger reward, you could try:

  • No chores for a whole weekend

  • Letting them go out with friends for a fun evening

  • Letting them drive the car for an evening

These big milestones are what makes a difference in your child’s grades, and should be highly celebrated!

Brainstorm the right rewards

I wish I could tell you to “try X”, but, unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. Because every child and teen is so unique, each reward system will have to be unique to them!

Only you can know the right rewards to motivate your child. So try to think creatively. What does your child love to do? How does your child spend their time?

  • Do they love playing on their phone for hours? (If you are paying for the phone, you have the right to take it away) #privilegenotaright #notcrueljustparenting

  • Do they love playing video games?

  • Do they like to hang out with friends?

  • Do they enjoy driving your car?

Figure out what makes your child tick, and what gets them excited to jump out of bed in the morning. Use that excitement to help motivate them and encourage them to do better in school.

What motivates your teen?

So what motivates your teen? Leave a comment below to let me know what rewards system might work for your child. I’d love to hear and get to know your teen!



Hey there! My name is Rachael and I have been a private tutor for over 10 years. I earned my undergraduate degree in 2 and a half years and earned my graduate degree by age 22. I have tutored dozens of high school students, college students, and graduate students. I offer support, encouragement, and resources to help parents learn how to best help their teen or child that is struggling in school.