Helping a Child Go From Avoidance To Action, with Dr. Sharon Saline

Do you get exhausted trying to get your child started on a task, especially non-preferred ones? Learn why bright and quirky kids often struggle to get started and what you can do to empower and motivate them into action.


To learn more about Dr. Saline's work, visit

Now we'd love to hear from you. What's bubbling up for you after hearing this vlog? Let us know in the comments section below!



  1. Ilyse on November 6, 2020 at 11:07 am

    Are there data stating that intrinsic motivation doesn’t kick in until late teens, early 20s? The carrot metaphor is very off-putting to parents who don’t want to be training or bribing their children. It feels very manipulative to take control of a teen’s favorite thing and only let them have it after they do what we want then to do. Why can’t we discuss with the teen the importance of contributing to the household and learning these skills, and work with them to come up with ideas for motivation? I know my son does like to look forward to getting back to what he wants to do, but would hate if I was telling him he only could if he does what I demand first.

    • Lauren Hutchinson on November 6, 2020 at 10:29 pm

      Ilyse, my experience is that my teen has lots of intrinsic motivation for what he cares about, so I think it’s possible! For his non-preferred tasks, I have used a variety of motivation strategies over time, and the transactional “you do this, you get that” is my least favorite, but it has served to help build positive habits at times. I have also had success with variations of that which include collaboration with my son. I thought Debbie’s point was important that it is a life skill in self-motivation to pair what you don’t want to do with a reward you choose for yourself. I think ultimately each of us figures out the right blend of extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation, and respectful collaboration that fits our families and helps our kids develop a sense of responsibility.
      -Lauren with the B&Q Team

  2. Anna on November 6, 2020 at 12:36 pm

    I agree with the above poster and I will add, at least for my kid, he just gets mad at me for making that guideline, stomps off and doesn’t do it. There is so much emphasis now from parenting experts being put on connection- and I agree with the concept and want it to work practically- but when I use carrot motivation, it seems to take away from that connection. Do I just consider that the temporary cost?

    • Lauren Hutchinson on November 6, 2020 at 10:42 pm

      Anna, I have totally had that backfire on me too! When this has worked best for me was when my son had an active role in establishing the “how” and the “when”, even if I initiated the “what” of what needed to be done. I think the collaboration is the connection that is so needed! I have also found that being respectfully direct with my son, e.g. “This is a non-negotiable request, but I want to help you figure out how you can get this done,” has earned me relationship credit too. When he’s doing one of his undesired tasks, like emptying the dishwasher or scooping the dog poop, occasionally I will quietly pop in and help him do these things for a minute or two to show my support.
      -Lauren with the B&Q Team

  3. Robin on November 6, 2020 at 2:37 pm

    Following the two previous comments, what do you do if that incentive doesn’t work? For example if video games is the incentive to do one task that takes 15 minutes. My child is so upset about my “trying to control “ him that he chooses to do nothing and not have the video games for weeks or more. I see this resulting in a huge power struggle which I am trying to avoid.

    • Lauren Hutchinson on November 6, 2020 at 11:03 pm

      Robin, agreed, it’s so important to diffuse the power struggle! Giving choice is definitely one way, but also wording my requests as non-demand-like as I can, e.g. “You can have screen time after you empty the dishwasher” often works too. I know once screen time starts, the chances of getting the non-preferred task done diminishes!
      -Lauren with the B&Q Team

  4. Raina on November 6, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    I don’t think there is necessarily a right or a wrong in this matter. I think connection is always number one and trying to problem solve solutions with your child like Dr Ross Greene’s approach is always helpful. Also….teaching your child to set goals,break things into smaller chunks,take breaks, and find ways to reward themselves can be very useful. But I think you can involve the child in this conversation and offer for them come up with a system for themselves with things they might like to earn. Also if work is just not getting done repeatedly with numerous tries to try to engage a child…in the end it really isn’t a reward so much as it just makes sense that you don’t get to do things that you want to do if you don’t first do the things that you need to do.

  5. Helen EGG on November 6, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    I agree with all of the above comments. For bright and gifted kids who are autodidactic and intrinsically-motivated to learn, external motivators/incentives/prizes or any kind of behaviourist approach does not work in the long term, and serves to accomplish the opposite – reduce intrinsic motivation, reduce personal satisfaction, and increase the need to “up the ante” on incentives as time goes on. Alfie Kohn writes about this in “Punished by Rewards,” and it is a worthwhile read. I find that the best way to challenge bright and quirky kids is to 1) actively build connection, trust, respect and collaboration in the adult-child relationship (Ross Greene’s CPS framework provides an excellent set of strategies for collaborative problem-solving), 2) engage learners in things that interest them and support inquiry-based learning rather than adult-directed tasks that are often less meaningful “busywork,” and 3) teach bright kids to ask questions and challenge existing assumptions, which they often do naturally anyway. And I would absolutely steer clear from any kind of carrot-dangling, or reward system, or behavioural contract. Those tend to amplify anxiety in kids who crave autonomy and self-directed learning, at least in my experience as a former gifted child, a current Special Education teacher/consultant, an admin in the Canadian PDA Facebook group, and the mom of a neurodiverse gifted learner.

  6. Jane on November 6, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    I’m not a big carrot person either as I’m just too busy to be constantly micromanaging my child’s life or negotiating a price for every task. As adults, there are somethings we do for incentives ( job/paycheck), some things we need to do because if we don’t, the consequences would not be pleasant (do housework, cleaning litter boxes) and others because they feel good intrinsically (helping a neighbor, learning something new of our choosing). For my family there are some things that are non negotiable (ie basic household chores) some things that are left up to natural consequences (only dirty clothes to wear or poor grades) and some things that my child can “work for” if he chooses (new camera or video game). My 2E kid resists manipulation like the posters above so the simplistic carrot method doesn’t really work; he just will do without and find some other way to avoid doing the non preferred task and often when we’ve negotiated terms for completion of tasks he still doesn’t complete and fore goes the incentive. I want to be his parent not his boss

  7. Diane on November 8, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    Writing the carrot off as manipulative would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I do find this to be a valuable ‘tool’, for myself and for my kids. In my own experience, its success has ENTIRELY depended on how it was framed. “If x then y or else z” = total backfire! And if I’m presenting it in more or less those term then I’m not in the right frame of mind either. But if I’m explaining that I want to help my son (get the homework done that he knows he needs to do, wants to be done with, but really can’t find the motivation to start) and that it’s important to me that I teach him methods to help himself in such times AND SO I want to use screen time as a motivator… then I still get some grumbling and mumbling but we find a way to make it work for both of us (and I totally accept baby steps). Its groundhog day here often but he’s 13 now and can see how this has helped him get stuff done. One step at a time…

    This was only a snippet of a longer conversation and I’ve heard Dr Saline discuss this elsewhere too, the description above was more shorthand. I’d encourage other commenters to mull over this one, in the right context it is certainly a beneficial way to help form habits that get everyone where they want to be! <3

  8. Allyson on November 9, 2020 at 3:22 am

    We are struggling with remote learning. If I ask my 2E what he “wants to be doing” he will say watch YouTube videos, or surf the internet. Ok, so there’s my carrot! Here’s the problem- all his schooling is online, if I block YouTube, the videos from teachers don’t work. What do I do to motivate him? I can’t tell him no screens because he has to be on the screens for school and he can just flip open another window.

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