Parents and Coaches, listen here.

All parents and coaches battle with the same dilemma at some point in their lives: how to get their children/players to adopt desired behaviours. And often, how to get them to display that behaviour in the very moment they are in.

Susan Garrett, master dog trainer and World Champion agility competitor, has made a living doing just that. Her advice: for best results, always make the people you are educating make a choice when you are trying to groove behaviour. Example: your kids are watching TV and it’s time to eat, you call them to the table and allow them to make a choice. Come to dinner or ignore the call and stay in front of the television. Rather than threatening to remove something if they do not obey or offering a reward for their obedience, allow them to make the choice. If the call to dinner is not met, remove the distraction that they are valuing over the desired choice. The amount of time you remove this distraction for is up to you.

As Carol Dweck explains in her book Mindset, there is a difference between if-then scenarios and now-that scenarios. In an if-then scenario (i.e. ‘If you don’t come eat then I will take the TV away from you’) the desired behaviour is often adopted to avoid punishment or for the promised reward, not because they value the behaviour you wish for them to adopt. If you want to punish the absence of a desired behaviour (not attending dinner when called) or reward a behaviour, do it after the action has transpired, without warning so the subject has the ability to make their decision absent of reward or punishment. This is known as a now-that scenario (i.e. ‘now that you have come to dinner we are going to let you watch an extra 10 minutes of TV tonight’). Dweck also advises that reward and punishment do not follow every choice or it becomes too predictable.


Dweck, C. (2007). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Random House.

Ferriss, T. , & Garrett, S. (2016, Nov 14). Susan Garrett – master dog (and human) trainer. The Tim Ferriss Show. Podcast retrieved from http://fourhourworkweek.com/2016/11/14/susan-garrett/