If we want to raise capable and unentitled kids rewards are just undermining that. -Amy McCready

114: Why Consequences (or Rewards) Aren’t the Goal of Discipline

I am a better person, a better parent, every single time I listen to Amy McCready’s coaching.

There’s a good reason she is a TODAY Show parenting expert, my goodness – the way she explains why consequences aren’t the answer, how rewards set our kids up for massive problems (blew my mind!!) and gives us practical toolbox phrases we can just start using today, it’s truly enriching.

Even if you’ve heard Amy speak before, I worked hard to ask new questions that definitely made me think!

  • WHY looking for consequences is a losing proposition and what we can do instead
  • What the research says about the negative consequences for child and family with reward systems
  • How to create more opportunities for power struggles (guessing you’re wanting to antidote that that one! She shares that too) 😉

“Mooooom, I’m hungry!!”

How many times do your kids ask for snacks each day? Wouldn’t it be a relief if they were empowered to prepared their own snacks, instead of coming to you and whining about how hungry they are?

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  • Praise labeling, and why it’s all too easy to fall into the trap
  • One phrase that gives kids ownership of their behavior
  • The benefits of teaching kids to cook, from a positive parenting perspective
  • What “pendulum parenting” is (and my confession)
  • The 3 words you need to start using today…mostly in your own head

How do I know I was a better parent after this interview?

I focused on considering what was happening at the root of my 6yo’s behavior at family prayer time, and when I tucked him in, I was able to have a fun conversation and pull him out of his funk.

I used the one phrase that gives kids ownership of their behavior.

He grinned.

Then he remembered that he had forgotten he was cranky and started kicking around and fussing again.

I asked him if that one phrase applied then, and he hid his face in his hands.

Halfway down the stairs, I hear, “Mom?”

I return to his room and see open arms: “I’m really sorry,” he says, and I get the best hug ever.

I told him it’s really difficult to apologize, and it takes great character.

“Does that mean I have great character?” he asked excitedly.

He’s still 6. But he’s learning a lot.

And so am I.

Learn with me?

Can’t see the video? Get these positive parenting tips on YouTube here!

No time for the video? Here are the notes!

Positive Parenting Video Time Stamps

  • 0:14: I’m honored to host Amy McCready today on the Healthy Parenting Connector. We’re going to talk about how discipline isn’t about consequences or rewards! You may be wondering “What’s left?”
  • 1:50: Amy has successfully launched her two kids into the world, but where did she start in her parenting journey and how did she become a parenting educator? She really struggled to manage her young kids without nagging, punishing, and losing control.

I always had this fear that my kids would look back and remember me as the mean yelling mom who was always frustrated and angry and I didn't want to be that person. -Amy McCready

  • 3:48: Amy says that she used to get hoarse from yelling when her kids were little. She talks a bit about how she felt about her parenting. If you’re struggling you may resonate with her sense of discouragement.
  • 4:58: Amy’s parenting system has no consequences and no rewards, how is that possible? No treats for eating your veggies, no paying for grades, no spanking or time outs. What is left?
  • 5:30: In her member Facebook group Amy asked people to please stop asking for consequence ideas. What does she recommend instead?

What is Positive Parenting?

  • 6:06: The philosophy of positive parenting is that we aren’t going to punish kids for messing up in the past, we’re going to work on solutions to help them be successful in the future. This includes changing their environment or changing their skillset.

If we jump to consequences right away, we miss out on so many opportunities. -Amy McCready

  • 6:43: Consequences can be an element of positive parenting, but it’s only one tool and shouldn’t be the default. A consequence won’t help you figure out the root cause of a behavior, or see that your child needs to be taught a new skill or have a different routine.

All behavior is trying to tell us something. -Amy McCready

  • 8:10: Problem-solving the behavior can fix the behavior for the future. Consequences may help at the moment, but not help future growth and development.

What we do is long-game parenting. We’re not just solving the situation in the moment, but also preparing the child to be successful down the road. -Amy McCready

  • 9:19: Punishment is looking backward and discipline is looking forwards. Listen in here for a more detailed explanation about the difference.

Paleovalley Meat Sticks

It can be hard to find healthy snacks that you can take with you on the go. When I want the convenience of a jerky stick, but want a healthy, protein-packed snack option, I grab Paleovalley meat sticks. Paleovalley ingredients have these high standards that you can feel good about:

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  • Naturally fermented and contain gut-friendly probiotics!

*With the exception of Teriyaki, which contains 2 grams of sugar from Organic Honey.

These beef sticks and turkey sticks taste delicious! My favorite is the Jalapeño but my kids love Summer Sausage.

Use this link to get 15% off your order at Paleovalley. Read my Paleovalley Review to learn more!

How do I get Good Behavior Without Rewards?

  •  10:05: What about rewards? That sounds positive. Amy advocates against rewards for good behavior, even little sticker charts. She explains why this backfires. You probably see adults (maybe even yourself) exhibiting this rewards focused mindset all the time. This is a huge paradigm shift!
  • 12:15: There’s plenty of research that shows that internal motivation diminishes the more internal rewards are used. Many times parents resort to rewards because they don’t know what else to do.
  • 13:37: If rewards increase the perception of how hard something is and make the child feel less capable that’s creating a gap that leads to stress and discouragement.
  • 14:34: Amy and I see eye to eye on platitudes like “good job!” and she does a really good job (ha!) explaining how parents can change their language from praise to encouragement. Amy gives several examples to help you see the nuanced difference.

There is a distinct difference between praise and encouragement. -Amy McCready

  • 18:01: When encouraging our kids we want to try to keep the word “I” out of it. Instead of always saying “I’m so proud of you.” what if you tried “You must be so proud of yourself.” It shifts the motivation internally, rather than encouraging the child to seek external approval. Try this out and watch your kids’ reaction!
  • 19:51: Many of you have more than one child, so we discuss how this plays out among siblings. If one child is seen as the “smart one” then the other kids necessarily feel less smart. Not everyone will be a straight-A student, but when we focus on the hard work…that’s something all the kids can be a part of. They can feel proud regardless of their grades if they tried their best.
  • 21:23: Sometimes it feels like a kid is asking for praise, but they just want to connect with you. I share a story with my kindergartener that gives an example of this.
  • 22:21: What’s’ the big deal though? Why is it such a problem to use praise? Let’s look at the long-term implications.

Avoiding Power Struggles at Dinner Time

  • 23:57: Amy and I have worked together for years and what we teach here at Kids Cook Real Food merges so well with her strategies. She shares some of the benefits she sees from kids working in the kitchen.

The kitchen is one of the best places to foster all the things we’re trying to accomplish as positive parents. -Amy McCready

  • 25:40: Amy and I intersect on many picky eater solutions, but Amy has some tips I’d love for you guys to hear! If you have any power struggles around dinner this part is a must listen!

The more I’m invested in what and how much my kids eat, the worse mealtime is. -Amy McCready

Offering choices throughout the dinner experience helps kids be more likely to eat the meal. -Amy McCready

  • 29:23: One of the biggest shifts in positive parenting is that as parents we think we know better and want to control all the power, but we need to start giving our kids more power and control over their own world. (In age-appropriate ways of course!) This eliminated power struggles, back talk, and battles.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

  • 30:16: We talk about some common mistakes parents make and how to avoid them.
  • 30:43: Many parents don’t realize how much their child’s misbehavior is triggered by the parent’s behavior. We think we need to fix the kids, but maybe you need to fix yourself first.

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  • Kōkua Suncare with tons of antioxidants and my kids’ favorite scent and application (use the code KS for 15% off from Kōkua’s online store!)
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  • Raw Elements for so many reasons, including their tinted stick for adult faces (all styles, use KS10 for 10% off!)
  • Maelove, which I call the best “transition” sunscreen when moving away from chemical ‘screens
  • Others that make the top-recommended cut: Badger, ThinkBaby, Adorable Baby, Kabana

If you’re worried about the white cast on your skin from zinc oxide sunscreen, check out my video on how to apply mineral sunscreen correctly to minimize it.

  • 31:56: Another problem is pendulum parenting. We start with a set of rules but aren’t consistent and don’t follow up until it gets looser and looser and unravels. Then suddenly we’re swinging to the other side and getting really strict again. This is frustrating for parents and produces whiplash in kids.

Kids need firmness and kindness. You can have both with the right set of parenting tools. -Amy McCready

  • 33:59: Amy offers a free web class for parents to get more of a feel for her 7-Step Parenting Success System. I highly recommend you check out when she’s running the class next and sign up. At the end of the class, you will walk away with tools you can use right away!
  • 37:19: We love to leave you with a message of hope after each interview.

Whatever season you’re in always feels so challenging, but three words can reframe those challenges…”I get to…” -Amy McCready

Resources We Mention for Positive Parenting

Amy McCreadyAmy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the creator of the 7-Step Parenting Success System. She is the author of two best-selling parenting books: If I Have to Tell You ONE MORE TIME and The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic. Amy is a regular TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey, The Doctors & others. Her greatest joy is helping moms and dads become the parents they’ve always wanted to be.
I’m an affiliate for Amy’s course, but that doesn’t change your price!

parenting with no rewards or consequences

What You Should Do Next:

1. Subscribe to The Healthy Parenting Connector

Katie Kimball

I interview experts about kids’ health every week – stay in the loop with a quick Saturday morning email:



2. Try a Free Preview of my Cooking Class for Kids

Our members’ favorite lesson is always our 10-minute knife skills and safety class, teaching techniques with unique & memorable phrases from butter knives to chef’s knives (ages 2-teen). Take a peek here and try it out with your kids.

3. Enroll in the Online Cooking Course for Kids:

Enroll now in the Wall Street Journal’s #1 recommended online cooking class for kids (also rated 5 stars on Facebook). See what fits your family best HERE.

About Katie Kimball

Katie Kimball, CSME, creator of Kids Cook Real Food and CEO of Kitchen Stewardship, LLC, is passionate about connecting families around healthy food. As a trusted educator and author of 8 real food cookbooks, she’s been featured on media outlets like ABC, NBC and First for Women magazine and contributes periodically on the FOX Network.

Since 2009, busy moms have looked to Katie as a trusted authority and advocate for children’s health, and she often partners with health experts and medical practitioners to stay on the cutting edge. In 2016 she created the Wall Street Journal recommended best online kids cooking course, Kids Cook Real Food, helping thousands of families around the world learn to cook. She is actively masterminding the Kids’ Meal Revolution, with a goal of every child learning to cook.

A mom of 4 kids from Michigan, she is also a Certified Stress Mastery Educator, member of the American Institute of Stress and trained speaker through Bo Eason’s Personal Story Power.

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