Let's rethink negative consequences!

It’s almost time for us to return to our schools, to our students, and to our therapy! That’s why I decide now is the time for this post. As we all know, kids have behaviors! Some behaviors are positive, some behaviors are negative, some are for avoidance, some are for attention, and some are for escape. 

Let me start by saying, this post is NOT about how to deal with behavior! This post is NOT about types of behavior! I thought long and hard about how I wanted to address this! I didn’t want to offend anyone or step on toes but, I decided I needed to say this! You don’t have to agree with me but, please respect my opinion!

Over many years in the schools, I’ve heard it over and over again! I’ve heard it from SLPs. I’ve heard it from graduate students. I’ve heard it from teachers. I’ve heard it from administrators. I’ve heard it from parents. I’ve even said it myself when I was at my wits end. What have I heard, you ask? I’ve heard....speech, language, and other educational skills being used as a negative consequence! Have you heard it?

“If you don’t stop ____ you are going do nothing but say your speech sounds!”

‘If you don’t stop ____ you are going to your desk and doing worksheets!”

“If you don’t stop.....”

What do all of those sentences have in common? Do you see it? Every sentence uses a positive thing (practicing speech sounds, practicing language skills, practicing classroom skills, etc.) as a negative consequence to behavior! 

We want our kids to practice these skills! We want our kids to make progress on these skills! We want our kids to enjoy working on these skills! A natural positive consequence of practicing is making progress! If we are using these skills as a negative consequence to behavior aren’t we contradicting ourselves? 

Am I saying there shouldn’t be consequences to behavior? Absolutely not! There are consequences to everything we do! What I am saying is that we need to become acutely aware of the way we are wording consequences. What is the real consequence?! The consequence may be “You will lose a turn.” If the child loses a turn it doesn’t necessarily mean he gets out of his skills practice, it just means he lost his turn! Instead of “If you cheat, you will not get to do anything but say your speech words.” couldn’t we say “If you cheat, you will lose your turn.” It’s the same thing...but, the negative consequence is actually a negative consequence instead of something that should be viewed as a positive. 

Have you heard it before? Have you been guilty of saying it yourself? It’s ok...but, from now on...think about the consequences! Make sure the negative consequences are truly negative consequences. Make sure the kids know that practicing and making progress is POSITIVE!

See you soon, 


  1. Great post! Thank you for sharing!
    Karen (The Pedi Speechie)

  2. Great post!
    Erin (The Speech Attic)

  3. Very true! I also have teachers who use taking speech therapy away as a "punishment," ("unless you do your work, you won't be able to go to speech!") Not only is it inappropriate, it's illegal!

    1. Thanks Annie! Exactly! It makes me so sad! It does absolutely nothing to help the image of speech/language services in the schools! It also does absolutely nothing to HELP OUR KIDS!