7 Ideas For Rewarding Your Middle-Schooler’s Hard Work #BigFatNotebooks


While it’s still very difficult for me to process most days, my daughter is a full-blown tween middle-schooler with all the goods and bads that go along with that. She’s experiencing a whole new world, with new friends to mix with the old, a whole new schedule filled with changing classes and new teachers for each, lockers to head to in between those classes, and all types of after-school clubs and activities unheard of in elementary school! She has a packed schedule with a workload that still can feel a little but overwhelming.


While I am trying my darnedest to help her get acclimated to her new school life, it can be difficult getting her to really concentrate on her schoolwork and studies. Clubs, friends, goofing on always seem to be a priority (I get it, she’s a kid), yet I’m always reminding her that school is her #1, her one and only job. I want her to excel so she learns, she achieves, she feels good, and she succeeds. She should be whatever she wants to be, but she’s going to do it after working her little butt of each and every day in school and after school! Good things come to those who work hard for it, and she will be a believer!


As much as I would love to just be able to wave a magic wand and have Natalie hunker down and take her studies completely and 100% seriously, I think we all know that it just doesn’t work that way with some kids. There are some kids that love to learn and achieve just for the sake of learning and achieving. There are some kids that need a little incentive, a little push! Natalie is most certainly one of the latter, LOL!! So how does that work??? Well, I think of ways to reward her for her hard work and good grades. It can be tough and it’s a constantly moving target, so just be aware of what is really interesting and coveted by your middle-schooler, then use it to your advantage! Hey, even us grown-ups like to be rewarded for a job well-done, don’t we? So, here are 7 ways to reward kids for good grades:


  1. More Freedom
    • This is huge for Natalie as she’s really coming into her own and looking to be more of a big girl. The big carrot for her now is to be able to walk into town from school alone with her girlfriends and hang at the local ice cream shop for about an hour all alone. It’s super important and something she really wants to do. Make it a reward and not a right!
  2. More Screen Time
    • Yes, I know, the kids are like little robots sitting in front of their screens. Bill and I hate it so much, but it’s a part of life today. Her friends are all online texting, emailing, and playing games and with apps. We limit her use, but we don’t want her to be excluded from the group. Throw them a few more minutes a night for a little while as an incentive.
  3. More Hang Time
    • My kids never have enough time with their friends. They ask for playdates when they are on playdates. It’s insane, but I guess it’s nice that they love their friends and have such a great time. This is something we also try to make sure if a bonus for hard work. They can’t play all day every day, but when Natalie does well, the social calendar fills up just a little bit.13566947_10154307478764520_2027832158117596402_n
  4. Say It With Sweets
    • Yes, I know, another horror! Natalie loves, loves, loves sweets. We control it as much as we can. But let’s be honest, she’s a kid and kid’s love sweets. Ice cream, cookies, candy, and chocolate. It seems to be everywhere, but it’s something we try to make really special. Don’t let your kids have dessert every day! Make them earn it!! It’ll taste that much sweeter, too, won’t it?
  5. Bake Something and Video It
    • Yes, my daughter is a budding blogger. Sniff, sniff..I’m so proud. Natalie is a theater kid and a singer and she loves to ham it up, too! She also loves to cook and to bake. This is not something I allow all the time, I just can’t. So when the work is done and the grades are good, sometimes I fire up the oven and do some baking with her leading the show. We fire up the video camera, too, with Natalie taking the lead and mom taking part in her show. She loves it and it really makes her feel special. It’s pretty darn fun for me, too!
  6. Natalie-Only Time
    • With three kids and a crazy work life, sometimes things can slip. That’s life. Something Natalie loves is having mother-daughter day or daddy-daughter time. She really enjoys being the center of attention and not having to deal with her stinky brothers for a little while. Hey, I’m not complaining. It’s the best!
  7. Praise
    • Yes, it’s as simple as that. Praise her for her hard work and she lights up like a Christmas tree. She soaks it in and smiles widely it. It’s a great feeling for anyone to be complimented, but I guess when it comes from your parents and it’s about something that really does take a lot of hard work and doesn’t come all that naturally, it’s a really big deal. That’s a good thing, that she values my praise and it’s a good thing that a simple thing like that can be accepted as a great reward!

There are many, many more things you can do. It all depends on you and your child. Seriously, what do they love? Well, give that to them, or give more of it to them than they normally get or see. It’s so simple, just do your best to stick with it. Don’t make the rewards commonplace and expected.


One way I’ve found great success with in trying to get Natalie to put in that hard work and get those good grades is with the BIG FAT NOTEBOOK series. This incredible book series is built on a simple and irresistible conceit—borrowing the notes from the smartest kid in class. There are five books in all, and each is the only book you need for each main subject taught in middle school: Math, Science, American History, English Language Arts, and World History. Inside the reader will find every subject’s key concepts, easily digested and summarized: Critical ideas highlighted in neon colors. Definitions explained. Doodles that illuminate tricky concepts in marker. Mnemonics for memorable shortcuts. And quizzes to recap it all. They are super amazing and both Natalie and I really love them. I wrote a bit more about each book right here.


In case you were worried, wondering, or doing both at the same time, the BIG FAT NOTEBOOKS meet Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and state history standards, and are vetted by National and State Teacher of the Year Award–winning teachers.

You can get in on the action and purchase #BigFatNotebooks at AmazonBarnes & NobleIndiebound, and at Workman.


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This blog post and all social shares are sponsored by Workman Publishing.

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