Consequences: Change Your Words To Change Behavior (Part 2)

Want to learn how to impose consequences without  being “the Bad Guy”? Here’s another simple language tweak that can have a big impact on behavior.

We already talked about the simple language tweak to Eliminate Bribes by using three simple words to encourage responsibility and promote compliance with rules.

But what if that technique doesn’t work for you. What if “ as soon as” is never. Your child does not finish their homework, they do not eat their vegetables, they do not clean their room.

So, your child has misbehaved. They have broken a rule and pushed a limit too far. Now, it’s time to impose a consequence. There are generally three types of parents when it comes to consequences:

Parenting Styles & Consequences

  1. The Permissive Parents: These parents feel guilty about imposing consequences. They don’t want their children to be mad at them. They might be distracted or tired and just don’t follow through. One way or another, consequences are hard to impose for these parents.
  2. The Strict or Harsh Parents: These parents don’t mind being the bad guy. They can respond with harsh punishment or expect complete compliance or obedience. When they don’t get it, they act quickly.
  3. The Informed Parents: These parents know that children need limits to feel safe. They impose consequences when needed and do so in a developmentally appropriate and calm manner.

Which type of parent are you?

Don’t feel judged if you fall into one of the first two categories. You can become an Informed parent by imposing consequences using a slightly improved vocabulary about consequences.

Well, here’s your next language tweak:




which is followed by the consequence.

Imposing Consequences Becomes Easy

So, when homework is not finished. You would say,

“Suzie, YOU CHOSE not to finish your homework today, so now YOU have DECIDED not to watch TV tonight.”

(I know, a lot of you are thinking that not finishing homework is not an option, but we can save that discussion for another time).

When the room is not clean, you would say,

“Marcus, YOU CHOSE not to clean your room this week, so now YOU have DECIDED not to go to the party on Saturday.”

How This Teaches Responsibilty

When kids come to my office, they complain about consequences . The conversation goes something like this:

Child:             My mom took away my phone for the week. She’s so mean!

Me:                 You’re so disappointed . What made her take your phone?

Child:             She was mad because I didn’t clean my room.

Me:                 OOOH.. So YOU DECIDED not to have your phone this week.

Child:             Huh? Or No, she took it.

Me:                 But you knew that you needed to clean your room.

Child:             Yes

Me:                 So, you CHOSE not to clean your room.

Child:             I guess so.

Me:                 So, YOU DECIDED not to have your phone.

And here’s the winning catch phrase:


Imposing Consequences Gets Easy

So, permissive parents will love this model because you are TRULY not the bad guy. It is relatively easy to follow through on and “AS SOON AS” comes back into play.

As soon as you clean your room, you can have your phone back.

Strict Parents, this will not feel all that different. The only difference is that your kids will not be quite so angry with you. You can still expect compliance and you can still enforce limits, but your children will benefit from the lesson of accountability.

Now, once that tasks has been completed, here are my top ten alternatives to “Good Job!” and why that phrase is not always as helpful as you think.



About the Author Jen Taylor

Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at

  • […] This system works because children like to do what they CAN DO.  If they know that something is always allowed, they become more likely to just choose that thing in the first place.  This makes your job easier over time.  If they don’t comply? Read more about how to impose consequences without feeling like the bad guy. […]

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