Should Kids' Slipping Grades Threaten a Family Vacation? This Redditor Wants to Know

Summer is coming and it's time for vacation—but maybe not for one family. The question of whether poor grades should affect an upcoming trip divided Reddit. What's your take?

The phrase "let's make a deal" might be a popular line on a TV show, but one parent posting on Reddit made a deal with her children that didn't work out very well. Now, there's an internal family debate about whether it should potentially derail their summer plans.

The woman, who shares legal custody of her two children with her husband, posted on the site in 2021 in an attempt to settle the conflict. Instead, she sparked a larger debate.

An image of a F on a piece of paper.
Getty Images (1). Art: Jillian Sellers.

"Deal was simple: Make honor roll this quarter and score an awesome vacation," she wrote in a now-deleted post. "They were well on their way just a few weeks ago, and I started booking flights and making reservations."

Unfortunately, the poster counted her chickens before they hatched. She explained that, over the last few weeks, both of her kids' grades had slipped.

"They won't be able to pull them back up to a B," she said. "As far as I'm concerned, a deal is a deal."

Their father wasn't so sure.

"My husband still wants them to go," the poster explained. "I've put my foot down and said 'no.' Why should I reward my kids and punish myself for them dropping the ball? Any advice?"

The Redditors couldn't come to a consensus, proving just how tricky this situation is.

Some commenters were Team Dad.

"Making deals with your kids is risky business. They likely will remember the time [you] wouldn't let them go on vacation much more than they will learn about being good at homework," one Redditor pointed out. Another added, "I would have never tied grades to a family vacation, much less demanding honor roll ... no way am I putting my family's vacation, which is likely much needed after the pandemic, [at risk because of] my kids' grades. I'm with your husband on this one."

Others supported Mom's stance.

"I'm with you," said one parent. "A deal is a deal. If they get away with it this time, they'll just push harder next time. Taking them would be reinforcing bad behavior."

Some people understood the poster's point, but still had qualms about the situation. "Personally, I would not have tied a vacation to grades that are subject to change because it steals a vacation away from ME too, but you did, and now you all need to deal with the fallout," a commenter said.

It's a tough call, for sure. But Karen Aronian, Ed.D., a New York-based parenting and education expert, says the woman did the right thing.

"The best way to ingrain change is to stick to your word," Aronian insists, explaining that the lessons the poster's children will learn from this experience are more important than their immediate dismay.

Of course, as many Redditors noted, skipping the vacation's no fun for mom. Aronian suggests that she consider leaving the children with someone, such as a grandparent, and taking the trip herself.

To the larger question about whether it's ever acceptable to use rewards to encourage good grades, Aronian says yes, they can play a role. "We live in a reward system," she emphasizes. "You go to work, and you get paid. You do good work, maybe you get [a bonus]."

In her "Ask Your Mom" column for Parents, clinical psychologist Emily Edlynn, Ph.D., agreed that when properly applied, rewards and consequences can help shape the behaviors you wish to see in your children, an effect called 'behaviorism.' It's important not to bribe your kids, however.

"Bribery involves giving the reward before the desired behavior, and behaviorism is using the reward after the behavior, which is considered reinforcement," she explained.

How can parents use rewards more effectively? Here's what Edlynn suggests:

  • Tailor the reward to the problem. Pinpoint the specific behavior you want to change. Perhaps your child routinely ignores their homework or struggles to understand certain concepts on their math assignments. If it's a problem they face regularly, the reward might be small and recurring (like stickers, which work well for young kids); complex problems may earn a larger single reward.
  • Consider breaking the reward down. Every kid is different, so the reasons they're struggling in school will vary. If your child procrastinates, you might give them small rewards for each step of a large project they complete. This helps them focus on each aspect of their task rather than get overwhelmed by the size of it as they worry about the evaluation or grade they might receive.
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