Q. What is your opinion on the practice of giving children monetary rewards for good grades?

Perhaps there is incentive value for the only child or for well-matched siblings, but when one child in the family is a much better student it seems that this child becomes conceited and boastful while the others get resentful. And yet, once begun, all the children want it continued. What should be done?

A. It is much better if this practice is never started. If it is started, it should be stopped.

No one is more aware of justice than a child, and yet no system invites injustice more. When parents give their children money for good marks, they have to assume that each teacher explains the lessons as well as the next; that all the teachers grade exactly alike; that each grade is as hard--or as easy--as the others; that each of the children is as healthy as the other for the whole marking period; that they all respond to teachers and lessons equally well, and that they all have the same I.Q.'s, and energy levels.

Children aren't like that; their beauty is in their individuality. The child who may deserve the money most may be the one who gets C's and a single B, for he may have had to work much harder for his marks than the one who got all A's. To pass him by would be unfair. And it would be unfair not to honor the A student for his high marks.

It isn't even wise to reward an only child for good marks. Children are supposed to be in school to discover the joy of learning, not the gold or the glory it brings.

The whole system of rewards sets up a parent-child conflict, just as punishments do. In any relationship one person subtly lets the other know what bothers him most and this becomes the weapon of choice. This is what's used in those inevitable times when tensions turn into war games.

When a parent tells a child that grades in school are so important that money will be paid for good ones, it also says that the child can use grades to get his way. This is why the ante gets upped with rewards and punishments. The parent will have to pay more (or punish more) to get the same results, until finally no amount may be enough.

It's much, much easier, and kinder and more fair to let children live by the natural consequences of their acts--the chances they miss; the promotions they don't get; the friends they don't make. When a parent adds consequences, the child begins to shift the blame to the parent and never learns to pay for his mistakes.

A parent does impose some consequences, of course, but not as a punishment. The child who does poorly in school, and who the teacher says has a "poor attitude" or "isn't achieving at his real level" clearly needs more time to study, more books to read, less television and fewer records.

He also needs--and should have--more encouragement of a more significant kind. This may mean an unexpected present for bringing up a grade or doing well for an unpopular teacher but it also is the kind that parents give when they talk to their child as an equal rather than an authority.

They do it when they tell about the great book they just read and what it was about and when they take a child on a nature hike to help pick out the animal tracks in the woods and find the rarest wildflowers.

Even when school is boring or ill-taught or unfair (and it often is), it will be more interesting when the child has this sort of encourgement and enrichment. It's the sort that money can't buy.

If parents make learning exciting, without restriction or enforcement, the child's natural curiosity will flower for the rest of his life. And that, after all, is what learning is all about.

Questions may be sent to Parents' Almanac, Style Plus, The Washington Post. Worth Noting

A preschool worth considering: the year-old research program run by the Project for the Study of Young Children at George Mason University. Staff members work PARENTS' ALMANAC: Rewarding Good Grades By Marguerite Kelly

Q. What is your opinion on the practice of giving children monetary rewards for good grades?

Perhaps there is incentive value for the only child or for well-matched siblings, but when one child in the family is a much better student it seems that this child becomes conceited and boastful while the others get resentful. And yet, once begun, all the children want it continued. What should be done?

A. It is much better if this practice is never started. If it is started, it should be stopped.

No one is more aware of justice than a child, and yet no system invites injustice more. When parents give their children money for good marks, they have to assume that each teacher explains the lessons as well as the next; that all the teachers grade exactly alike; that each grade is as hard--or as easy--as the others; that each of the children is as healthy as the other for the whole marking period; that they all respond to teachers and lessons equally well, and that they all have the same I.Q.'s, and energy levels.

Children aren't like that; their beauty is in their individuality. The child who may deserve the money most may be the one who gets C's and a single B, for he may have had to work much harder for his marks than the one who got all A's. To pass him by would be unfair. And it would be unfair not to honor the A student for his high marks.

It isn't even wise to reward an only child for good marks. Children are supposed to be in school to discover the joy of learning, not the gold or the glory it brings.

The whole system of rewards sets up a parent-child conflict, just as punishments do. In any relationship one person subtly lets the other know what bothers him most and this becomes the weapon of choice. This is what's used in those inevitable times when tensions turn into war games.

When a parent tells a child that grades in school are so important that money will be paid for good ones, it also says that the child can use grades to get his way. This is why the ante gets upped with rewards and punishments. The parent will have to pay more (or punish more) to get the same results, until finally no amount may be enough.

It's much, much easier, and kinder and more fair to let children live by the natural consequences of their acts--the chances they miss; the promotions they don't get; the friends they don't make. When a parent adds consequences, the child begins to shift the blame to the parent and never learns to pay for his mistakes.

A parent does impose some consequences, of course, but not as a punishment. The child who does poorly in school, and who the teacher says has a "poor attitude" or "isn't achieving at his real level" clearly needs more time to study, more books to read, less television and fewer records.

He also needs--and should have--more encouragement of a more significant kind. This may mean an unexpected present for bringing up a grade or doing well for an unpopular teacher but it also is the kind that parents give when they talk to their child as an equal rather than an authority.

They do it when they tell about the great book they just read and what it was about and when they take a child on a nature hike to help pick out the animal tracks in the woods and find the rarest wildflowers.

Even when school is boring or ill-taught or unfair (and it often is), it will be more interesting when the child has this sort of encourgement and enrichment. It's the sort that money can't buy.

If parents make learning exciting, without restriction or enforcement, the child's natural curiosity will flower for the rest of his life. And that, after all, is what learning is all about.

Questions may be sent to Parents' Almanac, Style Plus, The Washington Post. Worth Noting

A preschool worth considering: the year-old research program run by the Project for the Study of Young Children at George Mason University. Staff members work with parents to assess their child and then develop an individual curriculum to encourage social, physical, mental and emotional aspects of thinking.

The research facility, cosponsored by the Fairfax County Public Schools, is staffed by early childhood specialists, housed at the John C. Wood Elementary School, 3730 Old Lee Hwy., and has a total of 40 children in its morning and afternoon programs. Tuition is $1,170 a year for the 9-month program, with some scholarships available. For more information: 691-1007. with parents to assess their child and then develop an individual curriculum to encourage social, physical, mental and emotional aspects of thinking.

The research facility, cosponsored by the Fairfax County Public Schools, is staffed by early childhood specialists, housed at the John C. Wood Elementary School, 3730 Old Lee Hwy., and has a total of 40 children in its morning and afternoon programs. Tuition is $1,170 a year for the 9-month program, with some scholarships available. For more information: 691-1007.