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School Overview

Positive Rewards and Consequences

woman hugging girl

Have you had moments of desperation?

Do you sometimes attempt to control or force?

Welcome to the club!

We all know intuitively that threatening or forcing children into doing what is right is not the best parenting practice, but it is actually quite common.

Let's take two steps together:

  1. Take a look at why we slip into threatening and guilting in the first place.
  2. Look for that middle ground where we lead our children to choose right and good on their own by focusing on being positive.

Using Threats and Guilt

Using threats and guilt in parenting may have more to do with the parents than the children. Are you in a hurry? Tired? Frustrated? Negative reactions are a lot about the reactor.

Embarrassed by our child's behavior (perhaps evidence of our supposed failure)--we may use threats and guilt for reasons other than correcting behavior.

Remembering Our Own Parents' Guilt Trips

Did we just invent these tactics? As much as we admire and love our own parents, it's possible we were raised with threats or guilt, and we simply reflect that now in our own parenting.

Do you have any memories of one of your parents saying something like this: "You can go ahead and wear that, honey, but you're hurting me deeply?" 

We might be slipping back into worn-out patterns, and we can choose things that work better.

We don't have to stay stuck in cycles of guilting or threatening our children into choosing what's right, right? Right!

"You wouldn't do that if you really loved me?"

"Didn't I teach you better than that?"

"Stop it right now or you're grounded!"

man carrying boy on shoulders

The opposite of noticing and praising good behavior is what Blanchard calls "Leave alone, Zap!" We ignore the good behavior but jump into action when we see something "bad." This can inadvertently teach children that bad things earn them wanted attention, while good things do not.

boy walking while holding hands of man and woman

Increasing the positive

You'll see an increase in positive behavior in your children as you increase your own positive outlook on their behavior. The saying "Respect begets respect" holds true in many areas of parenting. If we dial down the threats and guilt and turn up the positive consequences, our children will feel better about themselves and their abilities. They'll feel better about us and our parenting as well.


Marchant, M. & Young, R. (2005). 3 B's of effective parenting: Be proactive, be positive, and be consistent. Marriage and Families, (Winter), 18-25.