What To Do When Your Child Says, “I DON’T CARE!”

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What to do when your child says, I DON’T CARE!

There are 6 reasons why your child might be saying, “I don’t care.”  Today, I will give you those 6 reasons and what you can do to counteract the ‘I don’t care’ to be a more impactful parent! Let’s get started!

“I don’t care” reason 1: The first reason your child might be saying that they don’t care is simply to push your buttons and start an argument. You got them mad, and now they want to get you mad too.  This typically comes from kids with an argumentative personality. The reasoning is as simple as they just don’t want you to win.  What to do: Respond calmly.  Validate their feelings.  Hold your ground. I would say something like, “It is ok that you don’t care.  I am not giving you this punishment because I want you to be miserable.  I am giving you this punishment/task because you need to take responsibility for your actions.” Or “I’m not asking you to clean your room because I want you to be miserable.  I am asking you to clean your room because I need you to be responsible and pull your own weight. You are a growing adult, and I know you want me to treat you like an adult, but it’s difficult for me when you say you don’t care and your room looks like a toddler was playing in here.”

“I don’t care” reason 2: Your child might tell you, “I don’t care,” because they want you to believe that they don’t care so that you’ll retract the consequence you gave them. This is a clever tactic for not getting punished or for lessening their punishment.  What to do: Call their bluff. I would say something like, “Oh good.  I thought this would be an argument, but if you don’t care, you’ll take this consequence with no problems.  Should I add more to the punishment to learn from this mistake because you don’t care? OR will this punishment be enough for you not to make those same choices again even though you don’t care?”

What To Do When Your Child Says, "I DON'T CARE!"


“I don’t care” reason 3: Your child might say that they don’t care because they feel powerless and defeated.  Feeling powerless is frustrating for children.  They are being told what to do and how to act all day, every day. When their life gets overwhelming, they can default to the ‘I don’t care’ mentality.

Another reason they may feel powerless is that they do not understand the connection between their behavior and punishment.  They might feel like they didn’t do anything wrong, and they are only getting in trouble because you are in a bad mood.  What to do: Find ways to give them some power back within their consequence. Still, stand your ground and hold the consequence accountable, but maybe you can give them some flexibility and choices too.  For example, if the punishment is to clean the dishes, allow them to complete the task on their own time as long as the dishes are clean before bedtime or before they can get on their Xbox.  It is also important to analyze the situation and look inward. Is your child right? Are they in trouble more because you’re irritable and have a short fuse today? Looking at the situation from your child’s perspective and apologizing for overreacting can be a powerful bonding tool and ultimately great role modeling for your child.  Lastly, some kids feel powerless when they are getting punishments too often.  They feel like they can’t do anything right. The family has gotten into a pattern of just implementing consequences and criticism too much.  To combat this, it will be important that you make a conscious effort to look for good things that your child does and start being an advocate for praise.  Praise, praise, and praise some more until you can get out of the negative Nancy rut.

“I don’t care” reason 4: Many kids say they don’t care because the parents have not given any opportunity for the child to correct their behavior; therefore, they accept defeat and helplessness. This happens a lot when parents don’t explain what they DO WANT TO SEE and just assume that the child knows how to behave better.  From the child’s point of view, they feel helpless because they don’t know how to act any other way.  You don’t know what you don’t know.  What to do: When you give punishment or a consequence, outline the behavior you want to see. Tell them and even show them through a demonstration what you need.  For example: If you ask your child to clean their room and they throw all their clothes inside the dressers to get them off the floor, but you find the wrinkled clothes and implement a punishment for not cleaning their room properly, then the child may feel defeated because in their eyes they cleaned their room and they are still getting punished.  Instead, you have to show your child the wrinkled clothes and teach them how to fold their laundry, and finally allow them to correct their behavior and retract the consequence you implemented.  Knowing your expectations is not what kids do well.  We have to explain it to them in painfully, boring detail. We have to teach them what we want them to do even if we think it should be a no-brainer response.

“I don’t care” reason 5: When the “I don’t care” becomes a teenager’s way to justify their behavior and get you off their back.  What to do: Don’t believe it.  Challenge it.  I would say something like, “I think you are saying that because you don’t want to do homework.  Let’s find out why you don’t want to do homework.  Is it difficult? Is it boring? Does it take away from your videogame time?  You may not care, but I do.” In essence, every time they say they don’t care, make the situation into a longer conversation exploring the “why” they don’t care.  This is likely to annoy your teen and discourage them from making such a lame excuse for their actions. You’ll have to be consistent for this technique to work. Still, it can be really effective because they will stop making the ‘I don’t care’ excuse. Together, you will be discovering the real feeling behind the attitude because of your discussions.  Either way, it is a win-win.

What To Do When Your Child Says, "I DON'T CARE!"


“I don’t care” reason 6: The last reason why your child might be telling you that they don’t care is that they are depressed.  What to do: Depression should be taken seriously, and this “I don’t care” you don’t want to ignore.  Is your child losing interest in other activities they used to care about? Is your child isolating themselves in their room?  Is your child starting to sleep too much or sleep too little?  Are your child’s grades slipping?  There are many signs of depression, and not caring is one of them.  If you feel like your child is depressed, be sure to find a mental health professional quickly or start talking to your family doctor about your concerns.

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