Imagine you want to promote a certain behaviour in your offspring, say, to keep their room tidy. So, you set the following rule, (foolishly) thinking it will get the result you want: if I cannot see the floor in your room, you're grounded (i.e., the punishment only triggers if the room gets so messy you cannot see the floor).
Obviously there's quite a bit of mess to be made without reaching that extreme, so, we want too say that the rule is too lax. However, the perspective I want to highlight is that the "trigger" or "conditions for activation" of the punishment (what has to happen for it to come into effect) is too restrictive: that many legitimate cases of untidy rooms need to be punished/covered by the rule, if we want to get a desired result. We want the rule to apply/address/remedy more cases than it currently does.
A sample sentence would be: "This punishment, while potentially useful, is burdened with an overly restrictive standard of activation/trigger condition: it fails to apply in many cases where we'd like it to do some work."
After re-reading, I'm wondering whether "trigger" alone works well here? If so, is it the best word?
(I'm setting aside the positive/negative incentive discussion, since it's tangential...)