Motivation and the Holidays

Over the next two weeks, I will be sharing excerpts on motivation from Empowering Youth With ADHD. I chose to focus on motivation in this month of holiday giving. Many parents plan in advance (which is great), promising goodies and gifts for the holidays with the expectation of good grades, good behavior or tidy bedrooms. As shared in the story below, delayed gratification is not always a good motivator for young people with ADHD. Years ago, I had a client who was offered the reward/ carrot of a new car if he stuck to a plan to do his homework, study harder and improve his grades to honor roll status. The parents made the offer because of their son’s interest in having his own car and his excitement at the prospect during conversations at the start of the school year. The school counselor thought this was a great idea! What young man would NOT want a new car at the end of the year, just in time for summer break? Well, as the coach, I had concerns. I had been coaching only a short while, but I wondered if a car, to be “awarded” nine months later, would be sufficient to motivate my new client to stick to the plan and meet the expectations of his parents and the school counselor. I had learned in my studies of ADHD, the brain and behavior management that delayed gratification was not a good strategy for teens with ADHD and oftentimes not great for any teen. Sadly, my concerns were well-founded. By the end of the first semester, my client was NOT making progress and admitted that the car seemed light-years away. We needed to reassess the reward and the coaching goals to include short-term action steps and incremental incentives toward the ultimate goal at year’s end.