cvelasco80 asks:

Why do my children (4yrs. & 6 yrs. old) laugh at me while being reprimanded?

While being reprimanded for bad behavior, both of my children start laughing at me, like it is a joke... or that I am a joke.  This infuriates me. Why are they doing this? How can this behavior be changed? I need help. I want to understand and correct this bad behavior.

Mad Mommy
In Topics: Preschool, Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago



Oct 2, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

First, let's look at the perception that this is "bad" behavior.  It may not be. It is more likely that it is a nervous reaction to being reprimanded for the behavior that was actually "bad." Children are very susceptible to being shamed and often react in a paradoxical way.  

Try understanding this behavior as just a reaction to being scolded and see what happens after you correct the original behavior.  You may get a better "correction" if you ignore the laughter and stay focused on the object lesson.

Bette J. Freedson, LICSW, LCSW, CGP
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Additional Answers (1)

dgraab , Parent writes:
Hi Cveslasco80,

When I first saw your question, it brought back memories of my childhood, as my younger brother and I used to also do this to our mother (who was in her early '20s at the time). We'd get in trouble for one thing or another, then she'd line us up on the couch to spank us with the belt or paddle (it was the 1970s and I don't think spanking was considered as 'child abuse' back then). We would laugh at her during the whole process -- including when she hit us (fighting back tears and even sometimes faking the laughter to make our point).

As an adult looking back, I believe we did this because we were embarrassed about getting in trouble, but also because we were trying to exert some power in the situation (that she couldn't hurt us even if she tried). At the time though, none of this crossed my mind, and, oddly enough, the more angry my mom got when we laughed at her, the better I felt about the situation. My butt hurt afterward, but emotionally the laughter was a coping mechanism and helped me feel better about the whole situation (to the point that my brother and I would often sneak off afterward and high five each other over keeping our cool and not 'crying like a baby'!).

The only time this behavior backfired though, was when my mom would cry from being so frustrated with us (that always hurt my feelings or brought on feelings of shame), or when mom would get dad to punish us instead (we didn't dare laugh at him: his belt was bigger and had sharp notches on it; his patience with our antics much shorter and sure to lead to grounding from TV or playtime with friends -- two things we highly valued and weren't willing to risk losing).  

As a mother, I haven't yet encountered this same issue with our daughter, but it is a fear of mine: how will I handle it? I'm glad you asked so that we can both benefit from the Expert answer, as well as from the input of other parents. Below are some additional resources I've been reviewing on this subject and that you may also find helpful.

Thanks for asking this question!

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