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I'm actually imagining the experience of children having to transition from their own activity to something their parents need them to do, but comparing that experience to something like a crew having to change the direction of a ship in short order. The main effort is starting the change; then the change is caught up in the momentum.

"Parents promise ice cream to help children------------" [so they can move on to the next thing on the agenda.]

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  • There seem to be too many things going on here. Depending on verb or noun, you could use motive, motivation, or incentive. But I can't think of a set phrase that would mean "something their parents need to them to do," or something that would mean it in terms of building up momentum. (Bootstrap, shoehorn, leverage, ease into, or transition into?) I would just go with a verb or noun and then construct your own phrase. – Jason Bassford May 10 '20 at 16:48
  • With children it can be matter of diverting them from one thing to another. – Weather Vane May 10 '20 at 16:53
  • Redirect their momentum. – A Rogue Ant. May 10 '20 at 17:00
  • How about impel? – Decapitated Soul May 11 '20 at 17:54
  • Given the "momentum" connection, I'm thinking about overcoming inertia. – Steve Lovell May 14 '20 at 20:23
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How about the idiom get into gear? From M-W:

get into gear: to start working or doing something in a more energetic and effective way; to cause (something) to start working or becoming successful

Your example:

Parents promise ice cream to help children get into gear so they can move on to the next thing on the agenda.

Get into gear suggests not only motion but momentum.

I also considered light a fire under someone but decided it was not only a poor fit but a dangerous way to get children to move more quickly. :-)

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"Parents promise ice cream to motivate their children."

Remarks: To do what the parents have asked. In the next sentence, you can describe what you hope that is. (Unless treats are repeated regularly, motivation will fade.)

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Get the ball rolling

Without rewriting too much, based on your phrase for incentivized motivation, "Parents can promise ice cream to get the ball rolling on the next task." Get the ball rolling and it will keep going.

It sounds like carrot ice cream, which can lead to stickiness.

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