School's Out for Summer

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Do you get a passing grade when it comes to how you celebrate your child’s academic success?

My years as a parent have taught me at least one thing: No two of us do this parenting thing the same way. What makes total sense for one family, may appear foolish and excessive to another. This certainly holds true when it comes to the “passing gift.” I was recently chatting with some fellow Moms about the end of another school year when the contentious topic was raised. It became clear that whether or not a gift is needed to acknowledge your child’s advance to another grade level is a topic about which people have very strong opinions.  Over and above how high school or kindergarten graduations can vary in size and scope, how we mark the passing of a grade or a good report card can also vary greatly.

There are those who feel doing well in school is a child’s obligation, their “work” if you will.  Passing is expected and warrants nothing more than a “good job.” Others feel the need to mark the occasion in a more celebratory fashion, treating each grade as a milestone befitting elaborate gifts and accolades.  What works for you, works for you. But – for what it’s worth – I thought I’d throw out a few of my own thoughts on the topic.


Two birds, one happy child.

I’ll admit it. I can be sneaky. Any passing gifts our children have ever received were usually things we were going to buy for them anyway. They are still young enough that we can get away with buying them a new bike for “passing” and they won’t question the fact that we had no other choice because their knees were hitting off the handle bars of last year’s model. It really is often more about the anticipation of the reward than the reward itself.


Listen to your gut (not just your wallet).

You don’t need a financial advisor to tell you how much is too much when it comes to what you choose to spend on your child as the school year ends. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. And not just because you may be overspending, but more so because you may be setting your child up for a lifetime of disappointment. When I see parents go over the top, I never question if they can afford it. That’s none of my business. But I always worry what kind of unrealistic expectations they may be setting up for their children. When the world does not go “over the top” for them each time they do well, will they feel deflated and – worse again - demotivated?


Here in the “real world.”

If you are from the “school is a child’s work” camp, you may have been inclined to let last week slip by like any other. But think about it. Doesn’t having your boss acknowledge a job well done make you feel motivated to work a little harder? And recognition doesn’t necessarily mean spending money. Taking the work analogy a little further, research has shown that monetary incentives typically don’t motivate people as much as demonstrations of heartfelt appreciation. Taking time to do something special like cooking a favourite meal, going out for ice cream or setting aside a little one on one with your child to reflect on the year’s highs and lows can be just as effective.

Let’s face it. Whether it’s to acknowledge passing or any other accomplishment – especially when it comes to our kids - time spent is much more valuable than money spent.


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