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Handling children unmoved by consequences
November 4, 2013, 12:14 pm

When your child says, “I don't care” or seems unaffected when you give him a consequence, what he’s really saying is, “You can't hurt me.” Parents shouldn’t worry too much when their child appears not to be influenced by consequences. Instead, they should focus on what they want their child to learn from these consequences. Here are a few suggestions.

Use consequences that have meaning: It’s almost never effective to give your child a consequence in the heat of an argument. Often, parents will be either too harsh or too lenient, because nothing appropriate comes to mind immediately. Parents should sit down and write a ‘Consequences List’. When compiling this list, keep in mind that you want the consequence to be unpleasant, because you want your child to feel uncomfortable. Also important to think about what you want your child to learn — and this lesson should be attached to the consequence.

Don’t try to appeal to his emotions with speeches: Remember, your job is not to appeal to your child’s emotions with a speech, because all he will hear is, “blah, blah, blah.” Your job is to instill proper behavior and get him to follow it.

Make consequences black and white:  When you give a consequence, the simpler you keep things, the better. Again, you don't want to get into legalese or long speeches. What you want to do is lay out your consequences for your child’s inappropriate behavior very clearly. It is often helpful if he knows ahead of time what will happen when he acts out. And whenever you're going to introduce an idea to your child that may be unsettling, anxiety-provoking, or frustrating to him, wait until a calm moment and then lay out the consequences simply and clearly.

Have problem-solving conversations: It is vitally important to have problem-solving conversations with your child after an incident has occurred. When things are going well, you can start conversations that tackle the cause of his misbehavior with solutions. Get your child to think about alternative solutions other than yelling, name-calling, or acting out. Look at it this way: we all get frustrated, we all get angry, and we all get anxious. But everyone has to learn to deal with those feelings appropriately — and a problem-solving conversation is the most effective way to talk with your child about change.

Don’t accept every invitation to argue with your child: Understand that they want you to get upset so they can drag you into a fight. Your child also wants to show you that he's not hurt by the consequence you’ve given him. It is annoying and frustrating. Kids will try to push your buttons by saying, “Who cares; whatever.” Don't get sucked into a power struggle, and don't try to destroy your child’s pride by demeaning him, either.

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