How to Punish a Child Who Doesn’t Care About Consequences

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When your child misbehaves and you give them a time-out, ground them or take away some privileges, you expect them to correlate the consequences with their misbehaving. It is also expected that those consequences will make them want to behave better in order to avoid punishment in the future. However, what happens if your child doesn’t care about the consequences? It is frustrating to be ignored in the middle of your discipline lesson; especially if your child repeats the bad behavior even after the punishment has been given. 

Whatever happens, you need to reevaluate the situation properly and carefully decide on your next step. So, in order to help you here is a simple guide on how to discipline a child who doesn’t care about consequences.

Does Your Child Really Not Care?

When you give them a time-out or take away their phones, a toddler might say “I don’t care”. This is often simply because your child doesn’t want you to know that that upsets them. In reality, losing the phone privileges or having to sit on the bed without moving can bother your child a great deal. What you need to do is simply observe; pay attention to your child’s comments when you try and discipline them. Pay close attention to their behavior as well – if the behavior changes after handing out a consequence, it’s a sign that the discipline strategy is working. 

However, if your child continues to break the same rules after issuing a disciplinary strategy, you may have to find another way to punish them. If you find what works, you will help your child make better choices in the future. So, after taking away privileges if your child says they don’t care, ignore them. This might be just a way to start a fight with you or to delay the consequences you issued, simply out of spite and will to upset you.

Use the Right Type of Consequences

When in the heat of an argument, a parent may act too harsh or too lenient, because nothing appropriate comes to mind at that moment. Instead of acting in the heat of the moment, you should sit down and make a list of consequences, and make sure they are unpleasant because you want your child to know what they’ve done and to feel uncomfortable. Also, think about the lesson you want to teach them, and that lesson should be attached to the consequence.  

If you’re dealing with a misbehaving teen, and their phone means a lot to them, don’t shy away from using it as leverage. On the other hand, if you’re dealing with a younger child, think in terms of banning games or taking away their favorite toy for 24 hours. In those 24 hours, their behavior might change, and they might even write an apology letter or apologize in person, but if they continue to misbehave, start the clock on the consequence for another 24 hours.

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Make the Consequences Black and White

When figuring out how to discipline a child who doesn’t care, the simpler you keep things the better. Don’t get into details and long speeches on why you are giving a consequence; rather, lay out your punishment for your child and simply make them know why that happened. 

This works even better if your child knows in advance what will happen if they misbehave. However, don’t tell them about the punishment and consequences while they are trying to argue with you. It is better to do this when everything is calm and settled and simply and clearly act on their previous bad behavior.

Think about the Time Frame

If it seems to you that your child doesn’t care about consequences you’re issuing, think about if you got the time frame right. Let’s say it took you two weeks to notice that your child drew on the walls and telling them that they are punished or sending them into a time-out is not going to work. They might say “I don’t care” and really mean it because they already thought that wasn’t bad behavior or they’ve forgotten about it. 

What also matters when learning how to punish a child who doesn’t care, is how long the consequence lasts. If your child misbehaved and you give them a time out of 2 minutes, they are not going to mind it. In fact, if they are in preteen age, such punishment might even seem like a privilege to them. Especially if you’re sending them to their room.

On the other hand, if you decide to take away their phone, tablet or computer privileges, taking them away for 6 months is also a bad idea. This will only make your child less motivated to behave properly. So, don’t issue too harsh of punishments if you want to properly learn how to discipline a child who doesn’t care about consequences. Think about the time frame and act when appropriate and be reasonable with the length of the issued consequence.

Engage Their Self-Interest

In order to help them better understand why they are being punished and why they should care, you need to find a way to appeal to your child’s self-interest. For example, if you’re dealing with a toddler or a younger child, you might want to ask them about what they’re going to do next time they think you are being unfair so they won’t get in trouble. 

However, if you’re dealing with a teenager, this might not work. They are usually very detached from other people’s emotions, especially their parents’, so you can ask them what they’re going to do next time in order to avoid trouble. Let them learn from their own mistakes and if they answer “correctly” to your question, you will see that they do in fact care or that they at least understand what happened.

Teaching your child how to behave properly is not an easy task; especially if they seem not to care. So, to make things easier for yourself and your child, you need to learn how to discipline a child who doesn’t care about consequences you’re issuing for their bad behavior. However, be patient, don’t act in the heat of a moment and make sure consequences make sense and everyone will be happy and bad behavior won’t occur that easily again.

Author: Jonathan M. Ward
Author: Jonathan M. Ward

Himself a father of two, John is obsessed with getting the most out of every children’s product on the market, finding value wherever it can be found. His years of study in developmental psychology coupled with his passion for parenting make him an invaluable asset to our team.

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