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.



Why a white daisy?

Apparently, when people  are asked to draw a flower, the first one that comes to mind for a majority of people is the daisy shape.   This single flower (just the flower part without the stem or any leaves and on a solid black background) was show to study participants after being shown a high-arousal negative image. Examples of high-arousal negative images include awful things like violence, injuries and car crashes.  Two trials were conducted:  in the first subjects were shown a high arousal image and then either a) the flower image b) a mosaic of fragments of the flower image or c) a visual fixation point.  In the second trial, the high arousal image was followed by either a) the flower image, b) a chair (deemed a neutral image) or c) a blue sky with clouds (deemed a positive non-floral image).   Systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were taken throughout the experiments.  

As expected, mean blood pressure was lower when participants viewed the flower versus the fixation point or the mosaic flower,  but what was unexpected is that the flower image actually reduced mean blood pressure to a level lower than the baseline.  Both the flower image and the blue sky had a similar positive impact in changing mood from negative to positive (with the blue sky having the most overall impact).  However, only the flower (not the sky) caused a reduction in mean blood pressure.  It was determined that viewing a simple flower image could in fact change a negative mood into a more positive one and also decrease blood pressure. 

The power of the single flower image was then studied in regards to salivary cortisol levels.  During this study, the high-arousal images were once again paired with the flower image, the flower fragment mosaic or the fixation point.  Once again, only the flower image was shown to significantly decrease stress during the recovery phase. One final examination looked at fMRI images of the brain during these conditions.  Through this imagery it was discovered that the flower image was effective in decreasing the amygdala-hippocampus activation that occurred after viewing the high arousal images. Researchers speculated that the flower image was a distraction tool that was helped prevent the recall of the stressful images.  

The brief viewing of this single flower image was shown to be effective at reducing negative emotions and created better functioning of both the cardiovascular and endocrine systems! Having such a simple tool available to help reduce stress and regulate unpleasant emotions and is one possible tool for interrupting ruminating thoughts or unpleasant flashbacks.  

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 info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

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 info@jentaylorplaytherapy.com

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