Last Updated on June 9, 2021.
Have you ever caught your child laughing when disciplined? It’s one of the most frustrating things a parent can experience! Here’s why kids behave this way (and it’s probably not the reason you think), and how you should handle it.
One morning last week, this was the scene in my house…
“Bee, please stop throwing that ball in the house. You’re going to break something.”
“Hey, don’t throw that ball in the house again, or I’ll take it for the rest of the day.”
“That’s it. No more playing with this ball today”
… and she LAUGHS.
It’s a scene that plays out in every house with little kids. You want to scream “It’s not funny!” Your blood is boiling, because you offered a warning, laid out a consequence, and now your child is laughing while being disciplined.
So why do they do it? Is it out of spite? Are they trying to upset you? Are you raising a sociopath? Probably none of these things. It’s probably a more innocent reason than you’re imagining.
Why Kids Laugh When They Cause Trouble
There are two primary reasons why your child might laugh when disciplined. These are not the only reasons, but are the most likely. And understanding these reasons will help you respond to your kids in the most appropriate way.
Immature Social Skills
Your child’s social and emotional brain development is not complete until they are about 25 years old. Yep, you read that right – well into adulthood. So your child’s response may be the result of their immature brain because the parts of the brain that are responsible for appropriate responses and good judgement are the last to mature.
Deflecting Big Emotions
If your child is feeling anxious, nervous, confused, or insecure, they may deflect these big feelings with laughter. They know that laughter makes them feel good, and these other big feelings are scary, so they naturally diffuse the situation with a comfortable response. Sometimes this is crying and whining. Or it could be pouting and yelling. But for some kids the most comfortable response is laughter. This is especially true if your toddler laughs when disciplined.
What You Should Do About Laughter During Discipline
This behavior can be triggering for parents. It sure feels like they are being deliberately defiant. And it feels like you’ve lost this power struggle. But you can pull out ahead. Use these 4 steps to address your child laughing when disciplined.
Step 1: Ignore It
When your child responds inappropriately to discipline, you should ignore their behavior. Attention, even negative attention, toward their behavior will only reinforce it. Laughter, taunting, sticking out their tongue, and covering their ears (as if they can’t hear you) are all behaviors that should be ignored.
If you’ve laid out a consequence, like in the example above, you should follow through with it.I definitely did take the ball from my daughter. If you haven’t set a consequence for the behavior, though, don’t choose an arbitrary punishment at this point. Instead, move on and revisit this later.
If you need a little help with consequences, here’s our complete guide to effective consequences, including a free workbook to help you create custom consequences for your kids that actually work.
Step 2: Walk Away
Whatever you do, don’t continue to engage in negative banter back and forth. Your emotions are probably escalated and it’s extremely difficult to make the right discipline choices when we’re in that heightened state. So step away, move to a different room, or take a short break outside to regain your composure.
Step 3: Revisit Later
Once things have cooled off, you should definitely revisit the events. This might happen an hour afterward, or it could be much later in the day. I’ve personally found that my girls are most receptive to constructive feedback on bad behavior just before bedtime. Try out different strategies to see what works best for you and your kids.
When you have this discussion, keep it calm. Retell the story from your perspective, and ask your child for their thoughts. Maybe there are pieces of the situation that you did not see. Or maybe your perspectives are just different. And that’s ok!
Step 4: Make it Right
Wrap up your conversation with a discussion on how to make it right. Is an apology in order? Does your child need to clean up a mess or replace a broken item? What new house rules are appropriate? Include your child in these decisions and you’re much more likely to get buy-in and compliance in the future!
Did you skip ahead? No problem!
Does your child laugh when disciplined? Here’s why it happens:
- Kids tend to deflect big emotions with laughter
- Slow child brain development can trigger immature responses
And here are 4 steps you can take to tackle this unwanted behavior:
- Ignore It
- Walk Away
- Revisit the Situation
- Make it Right
What You Should Do Next…
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