All Articles Know

When Kids Don’t Care About Their Consequences

Laura Kuehn, LCSW
Written by Laura Kuehn, LCSW

There is nothing more concerning (or infuriating) than when our children don’t care about the consequence we give them. There are a few different reasons why children might act this way. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to get to the bottom of it all.

The very first thing we need to do is ask ourselves:

1. Is it a punishment or a consequence?

What’s the difference, you ask? Maybe not much as far as semantics are concerned, but we need to take a moment and distinquish between the two to help us figure out why kids might not care about their consequences. Here are some differences:

Consequences seek to train.

Punishments seek to get back.

Consequences have a purpose.

Punishments make us (the parents) feel “even.”

Consequences help a child work toward something.

Punishments help a child work OFF something.

Consequences address the heart and future behavior.

Punishments address past behavior.

2. Is the consequence too lenient?

Maybe they don’t care because your consequence really isn’t a consequence at all. Threats are not consequences. Saying, “Keep it up and we’ll leave” isn’t a consequence. It is the threat of a consequence. Follow through is key.

3. Is the punishment too harsh?

Out of anger we tend to dole out extreme punishments. Six weeks of no X-Box is a lifetime for your kids. There is a point of diminishing returns in parenting and economics. If you stretch it out too far, your intervention will lose its desired impact. And furthermore, if you hand out punishments like this, your children are not being trained in the process – they are just buying time until they get their beloved game back.

4. Does the consequence have an objective?

What is the purpose of the consequence? Is it tied to the misbehavior or problem? What am I trying to teach my child with this consequence? Asking yourself these questions will help you determine if the consequence has a purpose or if you are just trying to “get back” at them for what they did.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say your child has developed a pattern of speaking disrespectfully to you in response to an instruction. A punishment would be, “That’s it! I am tired of you speaking to me like that when I ask you to do something. Say good bye to your cell phone for two weeks!”

A consequence would be: “You may not speak to me like that. This is becoming a consistent problem. I am taking your cell phone away. You can have it back when you have spoken respectfully to me for 7 days in a row.”

5. Is my child too angry to care?

If tempers are running high and you have just doled out a consequence, you might get an “I don’t care!” in response. Don’t let that deter you (or add to it in an attempt to make them care). The anger will pass. Just stick with the consequence (making sure it is a consequence and not a punishment) and make sure that anger doesn’t rub off on you.

6. Is the consequence in their “currency”?

It comes as no surprise that kids are different. One child may love video games; another could care less about them. You have to make sure that the consequence you set forth is working for you and not against you. If you hastily apply consequences, take a moment to think about what you are doing and who you are dealing with.

7. Are they just covering up the fact that they care . . . a lot?

Some kids act like they don’t care, but underneath they really do. Remember, if they act like they don’t care, it really isn’t your problem. If you have set up a consequence rather than a punishment as the result of the misbehavior, they will eventually have to get with the program in order to work towards what they are missing out on. If you have carefully selected your consequence, they will get on board. It will only be a matter of time.

[Photo credit: talesin from]

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed therapist who offers parent counseling services to families in Connecticut. She loves to equip and encourage parents of kids of all ages. CfP is the place she combines some of her favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She is happily married to a wonderfully supportive husband and is the mother of two delightfully inspiring teens.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.