Using Behavior Momentum to Increase Motivation

by | Apr 19, 2021 | ABA

If you’re having a difficult time getting your child to do what you really want, or to do something that would take a lot of effort, you can use behavior momentum to increase their motivation! Behavior momentum is basically having your child complete several easy tasks you know they can complete independently, (this can and should include preferred activities) and then introducing or giving the harder task or instruction. By completing easier or preferred tasks first your child gains a sense of accomplishment from the very first instruction. This leads to an increase in motivation.

Here are some tips for implementing behavior momentum:

  1. When giving instructions, use clear language stated as a demand rather than a question.
    • For example, say “Pick up the blocks” rather than “Can you pick up the blocks?” This eliminates the opportunity for your child to say no.
  2. Be sure to start by giving three to five instructions, in quick succession, that you know your child already knows. This can be as simple as “touch your nose” or “give me a high 5”
  3. Give some type of praise for each instruction you give.

Try something like this:

  • “Timmy, give me a high 5!”
  • “Yeah! Tickles!” (give your child tickles if they enjoy that)
  • “Great! Touch your nose!”
  • “You’re the best! Stomp your feet!”
  • “Awesome job! Pick up these blocks!”
  • In this example, the easy task that starts the momentum is giving a high 5, and the end goal is picking up the blocks.

Start with the easier tasks that your child is familiar with, and quickly move up to harder or more complex tasks. When children receive praise in between completing steps, the momentum is more likely to keep them going and wanting to keep receiving praise by doing what is asked of them.


Kalyn Harvat, RBT