How to discipline a child who doesn’t care

By Anita Yee   — August 13, 2016
  • Be consistent in your approach
    1 / 5 Be consistent in your approach

    When you were a young child, you stopped in your tracks the minute your parents so much as looked disapprovingly at you.

    Yet your own five-year old seems totally immune to punishments, and she seems to ignore all the consequences of her behaviour.

    Now is the time to stand back and carefully consider the way you use punishments as part of your discipline.

    Punishments are effective only when they are applied consistently.

    Decide on the rules for your child’s behaviour and stick to them no matter what she does.

    Consider what you expect of her in terms of her behaviour towards other children and adults.

    Explain these expectations to her, point out that she mustn’t cross the lines you have set, and stick to your decision.

    Don’t give in to her, even if she insists the rules aren’t fair, or if she throws a tantrum in protest.

    Tell her clearly what will happen if she misbehaves. If she breaks the rules, punish her as said.

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  • Don't make empty threats
    2 / 5 Don't make empty threats

    Make sure that the punishment is applied immediately after the misbehaviour. It’s the only way she’ll learn the connection between her action and your response.

    For example, there is no point in waiting till the end of the day to punish her for something she did that morning, because she may have forgotten all about it by then.

    Likewise, don’t make empty threats. If you warn your child that such-and-such will happen if she misbehaves, follow through with it.

    Any punishment that is not carried out teaches your child that you don’t mean what you say, so she won’t attach any importance to your warnings.

    That’s another reason why you should only use sensible punishments that are realistic, fair and enforceable.

    Extreme punishments are rarely effective.


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  • Explain to your child why you had to punish her
    3 / 5 Explain to your child why you had to punish her

    Once the incident is over, have a quiet chat with her about her behaviour.

    Tell her that you are upset you had to punish her because of her misbehaviour, and that you hope she will behave more appropriately from now on.

    Remind her that you’ll always punish her when she acts that way, no matter how often. This encourages her to understand that her behaviour always has consequences.


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  • Develop a balanced disciplinary strategy
    4 / 5 Develop a balanced disciplinary strategy

    Punishment is less effective when that’s the only disciplinary strategy used.

    You’ll achieve more success if you use punishments as part of a positive discipline that focuses more on rewarding your child’s good behaviour and less on punishing her misbehaviour.

    If you find that you give out more punishments than rewards to your five-year-old, turn the balance round in the other direction.

    An excess of punishments creates a negative downward spiral that makes everyone miserable.

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  • Focus on positive behaviour and set attainable goals
    5 / 5 Focus on positive behaviour and set attainable goals

    It is easy to become negative and naggy towards your child.

    Think about the number of times you have reprimanded her today  perhaps you could have ignored some of these instances or perhaps made less negative remarks.

    And when you see moments of good behaviour – for example, when she plays quietly with her toys in her room  make a big fuss of her. 

    Let her know how pleased you are with her good behaviour.

    This helps both you and her realise there are good moments, too, and that she isn’t always out of control.

    Don’t expect too much too soon  you face a difficult problem with your unresponsive child.

    Set yourself attainable goals instead of creating unrealistic expectations. So look for small and gradual improvements in her behaviour over time.


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