Reasons Why Your Child Laughs When Being Disciplined (or other unexpected responses)

In this last  of a 3 part series on discipline, we are answering a mom's question about why her child laughs when she disciplines him. 

If you missed them, Check out part one on the Differences Between Punishment and Discipline.

Check out part 2 on Tips for More Effective Discipline. 

Want a cheat sheet on Strategies for More Effective Discipline ?  Get your cheat sheet here

You can watch the Part 3 Video Version on the Dream Baby Broadcast YouTube channel below

Why do our children laugh, or cry hysterically, or run and hide or try to distract us or many other things that seem out of place when we discipline our children? 

Are they trying to be disrespectful? Are they trying to get back at us? or make us mad? 

Probably not. 

But, when they don't respond the way that we expect, it can really push our buttons and cause us to lose our cool, if we aren't prepared for this. 

So, let's talk about some of the reasons why kids don't do what we expect. 

First of all, how do we think they SHOULD respond? Do children have to cry for us to feel that our discipline has been effective? Do they have to feel bad about themselves? We want them to feel remorseful for their behavior, but sometimes it doesn't LOOK like they are. 

Remember the goal of discipline is to teach our children. So, whatever their response is, what we want is for them to learn the appropriate expectations. The behavior change is what we are looking for, not necessarily how they react to us while we are teaching them. 

What are some of the reasons why they might behave differently than we expect?

Parent behavior seems out of character

What does this mean?

If you have lost your cool and you are angry with your child, your child may be surprised by how you are acting. He may even think that you are being funny. If you are out of control of your own behavior, you may yell or scream or otherwise act in a way that is out of character for you, and your child may not understand that you are serious, or angry with him. 

In this situation, you child might laugh. 

Have you ever seen someone get irate in a public place. Sometimes they look ridiculous. Even though they are really angry, they often find people are laughing at them. 

The same can happen with your kids. They don't understand that is not appropriate. 


You are nagging

When parents repeat themselves over and over trying to get their children to do something, children will tune out your voice. They learn to only respond when you have lost it. 

We train them that they don't have to move until we are yelling, or screaming or we raise our voice or some other behavior that signifies to them that "this time I am serious". 

Most kids know exactly how many times they can ignore us before we "really mean it". We train them to ignore us when we don't make the words we say actually mean anything. 

I did this with my boys. I was always running late. So, when I told them to get in the car, they knew that I REALLY wasn't ready, because I always had to get that last thing, or finish up something or I forgot something.

They got tired of sitting in the car waiting for me. So, they just didn't! I would repeatedly say "get in the car" but until I was really getting in the car, they didn't listen.

I would get really mad and feel like no one ever listened to me, but I trained them that my words "It is time to go" meant nothing. 

Maybe this happens to you too?

Maybe you tell them to pick up their toys or turn off the video game, over and over. But they ignore you, because you will usually keep asking until you eventually yell, or turn off the game or do something that lets them know NOW SHE IS SERIOUS. 

Putting some consequences into place and establishing rules helps you not to have to nag your kids to do what you want. 


Your child has a self protection response

Many children will act like they don't care when they are getting into trouble. They might even say those very words. Parents tell me, "It doesn't matter what I do or take away, my child just doesn't care". I assure you that they do. But, some kids say that because they are protecting their self esteem. They don't want anyone to see that they are ashamed or embarrassed or hurt. 

You will see this in kids who get in trouble a lot. Preschoolers who haven't learned to settle down yet in school. Kids with ADHD who are impulsive and don't even know what they did wrong. 

By acting like you don't care or laughing, they can act like it doesn't hurt them. 

These children need to feel some success and have some help in improving their behavior. 


Children have decreased social skills. 

Children who don't read social cues very well often don't know when someone is unhappy with them. These children may not be very good at picking up facial expressions or changes in tone of voice.

Because of this they may say things that seem disrespectful or laugh inappropriately or interrupt you when you are trying to discipline them and change the subject. 

It is important to get their full attention when disciplining them. Make sure that they are not distracted by the things around them and they are making eye contact with you.  It will be helpful to state right away what they did or did not do and that you are not happy.  


Children feel insecure. 

Even young children can feel insecure and anxious when they are being reprimanded. Particularly if you seem angry. These children may  feel that your tone of voice or your anger means that you don't love them. They will show this by asking you repeatedly if you are mad, or apologizing repeatedly or hugging you while you are disciplining them or trying to get some sign of affection or even distracting you.

It is important to show your affection even if you are angry with your children. You may want to state it "I love you but I am not happy that you did _____". Or letting a child sit in your lap while you talk about their behavior might help.

Withholding your affection will be hurtful especially to these sensitive children and is not necessary for effective discipline 


Children's behavior can really push our buttons. Even though we know that they are little and just learning, sometimes their behavior can really drive us crazy.

And even more so when we are tired or overwhelmed or stressed.

You know that you are much more patient some times than others. When we are not in a good place ourselves emotionally, we can easily snap and over react to situations that ordinarily don't bother us.

This is human. But, it is not fair to children to take our stress out on them. 

So, here are some tips for taking care of yourself. 


Get help from your own community.

This may be your family or friends or an online support group. Ask for some perspective. Sometimes it helps to get other's opinions. Asking what others would do or if you are overreacting can be helpful.

(But, be careful. There are many forms of discipline. You need to do what feels right to you not be pressured into reacting based on the advice you get.) 

Check out our Dream Baby Mama Tribe  for a supportive community of moms just like you. 

Make self care a priority

You are less likely to over react if you are taking care of YOU. And just in case you need to hear this, you are not being selfish to take some time for your own rest, and fun and entertainment. You are a better mom when you make yourself a priority. 


Get professional help if you need it

Never discipline your child in the heat of the moment especially if you find you are not in control of your emotions.

If you ever feel that you want to hurt or harm your children or you find yourself losing control, WALK AWAY.

 Then, get some professional help. You can ask your pediatric provider to recommend some parenting resources or mental health resources for you. 


Take a parenting course

If you feel that you are having a lot more battles than seems normal or you feel that your discipline strategies are not working, take a parenting or discipline class.

This doesn't mean that you are failing, this means that you care enough about your children to figure out a way to make more peace in your home.

None of this is easy and the more strategies you have to work for you the better. 


Now you have a few reasons while your children may not act remorseful when you discipline them.

Remember to look for the change in behavior. They may not seem like they are listening or that your discipline is effective based on their reactions, but if they change their behavior, then you were effective.

If you feel that their response was inappropriate, address that at a later time. Help them to learn what is not appropriate and how to express their feelings. 


I would love to know if your child has any of these responses to your discipline and what you have done. Did you find this information helpful in explaining what was happening? What kind of changes will you make in your home?

Come on over to our community and let's talk about it. 

And don't forget to download your Strategies for More Effective Discipline   here 






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