Book Excerpt: Identify Desirable Rewards and Incentives

Goals and a step-by-step action plan work together to clear the way for a client to act. Yet, for motivation to be sustained beyond a discussion in a coaching session or over a period of weeks or months, youth with ADHD often need more than goals and a plan—they also need a reward system for achieving those goals. This is a basic fact of human nature: To have the motivation to do something differently, a person needs to find something positive in achieving it. Another way of stating this is to say that individuals engage in new behavior when they anticipate a reward for that behavior. That reward can be external, such as money, a vacation, a trip to one’s favorite coffee shop, or a new “toy,” or it can be internal, such as feelings of pride, integrity, and/or acceptance garnered from praise from others or from self-satisfaction with a job well done.

Incentives or rewards can be designed to help the young person find the energy, wherewithal, and determination to work toward their goals. What will the young person receive in return for achieving a goal? The range of rewards my clients explore is incredibly wide, from cash to sports equipment, books, and electronics to activities like a trip to the movies with friends, going out to dinner with mom or dad, or a trip to the paintball course. Sometimes the reward is the accomplishment itself, but that approach takes time, a certain level of maturity, and better overall self-esteem on the part of the client.