I am a new homeschooling mom. Before I started homeschooling, I was so excited to begin this new adventure. I imagined that my children would naturally enjoy being taught at home by me, knowing that I love them more than any other teacher ever could. I imagined that because they know my love for them, they would be naturally motivated by their own love back for me to do their schoolwork when told. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that my children are lacking in the natural motivation department. Being motivated by love is not enough to stir them to want to get their work done either timely or without complaining. Is it wrong for me to give incentives (like prizes) to my children to help motivate them to get their work done and to do it without complaining?
I Corinthians 10:31 tells us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Therefore, the simple answer to your question is that if giving incentives to your children to help motivate them to get their work done and without complaining glorifies God, then no, it is not wrong to do so.
Let’s face it, even we adult children of God are not always naturally motivated by love to do what our heavenly Father tells us to do. Sure, it would be awesome if we honored God all the time simply out of the pure joy and love and thankfulness of being His children. If we are honest with ourselves, though, we know that is not always the case. I think it is because God knows our weakness in this area that He offers to us some incentives to help motivate us to keep on keeping on. I also think that it is through using those incentives that God is training us up in the way we should go, so that when we are old (in the faith), we shall not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).
The incentives that God gives to His children are the promise of blessing instead of curse, the promise of being told we have done well and are His good and faithful servants, the promise of crowns to those who have run the race of faith, and so on. Therefore, if God freely promises incentives to His children to help train us up in the way we should go, then I do not believe it is wrong for homeschool parents to give incentives to our children to help train them up in the way they should go. As we mature through the training process of our faith, we become more and more motivated to honor God simply because of our love of and respect for God. So, too, as our children become more mature, they will most likely begin to rely less on incentives and more on a love of (or at least a respect of) learning and a love and respect of you as the teacher/parent.
So then, the question becomes, what kinds of incentives most glorify God? Personally, I suggest using incentives like tickets that can be traded for coupons for special “dates” with Mom and/or Dad (like a trip to the park with Mom and/or Dad); or tickets that can be traded for supplies that encourage the child’s particular gifts (e.g., if the child enjoys carpentry, perhaps a certain number of tickets earned can be traded in for a new carpentry tool, or an art supply for children who enjoy art, or a small Lego set for children who love to build, etc.); or tickets that can be traded for books; and so on.