What to Do When Your Child Doesn't Care About Consequences

Make sure your consequences are effective in changing your child's behavior.
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It’s frustrating when your child seems like he could care less about going to time-out or losing his electronics for the day. In fact, it can be downright infuriating when you try to give him a consequence and he laughs!

There are several possible reasons why your child might not care about the consequences you're handing out. If your child doesn't mind that he's in trouble, here are four questions you should be asking yourself.

1. Does He Really Not Care?

Sometimes kids will say, “I don’t care,” when a parent takes away his cellphone because he doesn’t want his parents to know that it upsets him. In reality, however, losing his phone privileges may actually bother him quite a bit.

Just because your child says he doesn’t care, doesn’t mean it’s true. He might be very much bothered by the consequence you’ve chosen and you should keep using despite his comments that he doesn’t care.

Ignore his comments that he doesn't care and check to see if his behavior changes. If he continues to violate the same rules, you may need to find a new consequence. But, you might find that your consequences will deter him from making the same mistake again, even though he claims your punishment doesn't affect him.

2. Are You Using the Right Type of Consequences?

You should carefully consider the type of consequences that you’re using to address misbehavior.

While taking away cellphone privileges may be an effective consequence for a cellphone violation, it may not work well if you’re trying to address a sibling rivalry issue.

Just like there are many different types of discipline, there are also several different kinds of consequences. While time-out may work best with one child, positive reinforcement might be the best way to prevent behavior problems with another child.

Tailor your discipline to your child's needs.

3. Is the Time Frame Appropriate?

The most effective consequences are given immediately following the behavior problem. So if it’s two weeks before you realize your 5-year-old colored on the walls in the spare bedroom, giving him a consequence isn’t likely to be as effective as if you’d given it to him right away.

The amount of time that you give the consequence is another factor to consider. If you place a 12-year-old in time out for 2 minutes, he likely won't mind too much. Taking away his electronics for six months isn't a good idea either.

Children who receive consequences that are too harsh don't care about about earning back their privileges. But consequences that are too light won't teach your child a life lesson. Create consequences that are time sensitive and specific to your child's maturity level.

4. What Consequences May Work Better?

Instead of judging the effectiveness of a consequence by your child’s reports, monitor his behavior for a short time.

If his behavior improves, the consequence may have been effective. If you aren’t seeing changes in  your child’s behavior, look for consequences that might work better.

Just remember, that sometimes, behavior problems get worse before they get better. If you start ignoring temper tantrums, for example, your child may scream louder. But that doesn't mean it's not working. In fact, that means you're efforts are quite effective.

Sometimes it requires some level of trial and error to find consequences that kids do care about. What consequences are effective for one child may not work for another. Be willing to experiment until you find the consequences that are most effective with your child.

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