Laughing/smirking when being told off. How to approach?

(20 Posts)
tulpe Tue 06-Oct-09 11:52:52

My first ever post on this particular thread.....I really hope MNers have some sage advice to offer on this issue

My DS2 is 5. He is a very sweet and gentle boy. Shows consideration for others and is well-behaved at school and (for the most part) at home too........... This is relevant because I want you to understand that despite the problem we have, he isn't a cocky little sod who doesn't listen to grown ups

We have an issue to his response to being told off. Basically, whenever we tell him off he laughs, smiles, has to pull at his face to try and straighten out his smile.

Now, I fully remember how excruciating it can be to try to keep a straight face at times when you are told off as a child. However, it happens every time - not just when he has done something "mischievous" rather than properly naughty - for example, cycling off without me when I have specifically asked him to wait.

We have tried to ignore it, tried discussing it with him. There are times when it is so completely inappropriate and it drives me up the wall, tbh and makes me more angry than whatever it is that I was telling him off for in the first place.

iwascyteenagewerewolf Tue 06-Oct-09 11:54:44

<<lurks>> as I know that this will be one of the things that will drive me the most insane when DS is old enough to do it.

GwarchodwrPlant Tue 06-Oct-09 11:55:13

I can understand your frustration but it may be a nervous smile and he cannot hep it. The best thing to do is try your hardest to pretend it isn't happening and don't let it get you worked up. The more you draw attention to it the worst it may become for him.

Tortington Tue 06-Oct-09 11:56:26

perhaps a conversation that goes " smirking and laughing when i am cross with you is not what you are supposed to do - and we have discussed this before. So i am going to give you a punishment for the smirking and laughing"

what the appropriate punishment would be - i don't know - but not something too severe or that drags on for ages.

maybe an hour earlier bedtime or something

Othersideofthechannel Tue 06-Oct-09 12:02:46

That makes me furious too but I think it is a nervous reaction.

I try to ignore it (so hard!)

tulpe Tue 06-Oct-09 12:05:29

wow - that was quick!

Gwarchodwrplant - you're right: it is more nervous reaction rather than a "who cares?" attitude.

Custardo - like your idea for conversation and outcome. Think I will give this a try next time and will discuss beforehand with DH as to what we think appropriate punishment might be. Agree it should be short and mild.

The thing is, I find it annoying but my worry is that he will do it to the wrong person and end up being given a more severe punishment than he deserves

reikizen Tue 06-Oct-09 12:06:33

Oh god, me too. It sends me into an absolute rage but the awful thing is I remember doing the exact same thing so you think I would be more tolerant wouldn't you! In my more rational moments I would echo the advice above and assume it is a nervous response and either ignore it or as custardo says, some punishment whilst making it clear why. But normally I turn purple with rage and rant and scream. blush

hatwoman Tue 06-Oct-09 12:20:47

we have this too (and I can also remember doing it). I can't claim to having great success in dealing with it so I'm not sure on what authority I'm chipping in...but I would add to what's already said that it sometimes helps to underline what is expected of them when they're being told off (ie don;t just tell them what not to do iyswim). I expect them to listen - that means standing still, looking at me, not fidgeting with things, to acknowledge what I'm saying (so I'm always asking them if they heard, if they understood, and I get them to repeat back to me what it is that they're getting told off for and why) and, ultimately, I expect some contrition. there are times when trying to extract any of this is just a no-goer because they really really can't concentrate - in which case I send them away somewhere to think...and then do the telling off when they've calmed down and are at least a bit capable of listening. and like custardo I will sometimes punish (in our case it's 5 or 10pence off their saturday sweet money) specifically for bad responses to being told off (ie in addition to the original misdemeanour)

tethersend Tue 06-Oct-09 12:23:16

I deliver behaviour management training to other teachers, and this scenario is so common!

We do a roleplay exercise in pairs where one of the pair has to 'tell off' the other one at close range. Without exception, the one that is being told off smiles and laughs.

It is indeed a natural reaction, and is a sign of embarrassment.

If you are telling your DS off, and he is following instructions and receiving a punishment, then is his smiling really getting in the way of you disciplining him? Or does it just wind you up? Be honest!

I would recommend:

1. Ignore it. Difficult, but very effective. Don't take the smile as a sign that he thinks he has done no wrong- quite the opposite in fact. It shows he is embarrassed about being told off; this is good!

2. Use a calm, low tone of voice and avoid shouting, especially at close range

3. Don't demand eye contact (I'm not sure if you do this); he can hear you, it really isn't necessary for him to look you in the eye; it serves to make him feel even more uncomfortable and will make the smiling worse.

Acknowledge that it winds you up, but also acknowledge that you need to control your reaction to it, as you are the adult in the situation.

Tell him why what he has done is unacceptable, that he needs to apologise and leave it at that. He can apologise later when the smiling and the confrontation has stopped.

Good luck... It really is infuriating!

hatwoman Tue 06-Oct-09 12:27:16

thanks tethersend - really useful!

hatwoman Tue 06-Oct-09 12:30:17

can i ask a quick question...have you got any recommendations for dealing with it when the whole thing (the original wrong-doing and the giggly smirking) is a joint enterprise - in my case between 2 dds, aged 9 and 7? the smirking thing, for us, is much more likely to arise when they're in it together

LaurieFairyCake Tue 06-Oct-09 12:30:53

My 11 year old does this - smirky, sarcastic smile, eye rolling, tutting.

It drives me nuts inside. I have had to go for a drive to get away from it before now.

DH is a teacher so to him it's all secondary behaviour and must be ignored - consequences/punishment for the original offence only.

Acanthus Tue 06-Oct-09 12:35:20

Laurie that's interesting - can you explain more about the secondary behaviour idea?

tethersend Tue 06-Oct-09 12:37:58

Just take one of them into another room... or for a walk or upstairs or wherever.

Tell the other one to wait there then speak to them afterwards. Divide and conquer! They are also much more likely to drop each other in it when apart smile

I would never tell a child off with an audience, they will do whatever it takes to save face.

tethersend Tue 06-Oct-09 14:07:20

Sorry to jump in on the secondary behaviour thing- secondary behaviour refers to the behaviour subsequent to the original inappropriate behaviour: most commonly fidgeting, swearing, smiling etc.

Laurie's DH is correct IMO; these behaviours should be ignored, although you may want to address them with a conversation much later. To tell a child off for each subsequent behaviour means that the consequence for the original inappropriate behaviour is 'lost' amongst all the other reprimands, and can make the situation much worse.

ICANDOTHAT Tue 06-Oct-09 17:28:28

Ignore it ... it's nerves that make them laugh

tulpe Tue 06-Oct-09 17:55:57

Thank you Thank you!

Some fabulous advice here and which I will be printing off and showing to DH later

Tethersend: your assertion that the original inappropriate behaviour is lost amongst all other reprimands is so true in this instance.

Laurie and Reikizen: I really appreciate your honesty in sharing how you are dealing with such an infuriating situation. I have reacted in exactly the same way as both of you.

Thankfully, DS is definitely nervous rather than "sod you"/eye rolling. My fear though is that it will turn into this and I'm not sure I could handle that.

Thanks again, everyone. I really appreciate you taking the time to reply

franklymydear Tue 06-Oct-09 17:57:12

DS2 does this out of embarrassment - it's not humour - why get cross about it? Just accept tat's what happens to his experesiion he's not laughing at you is he?

CantThinkofFunnyName Tue 06-Oct-09 18:02:36

Tethersend - I wish you'd do your teacher training at my DS school! He is now 10 and still has the infuriating habit of smirking a little when being told off. I know it is out of embarrassment, because he flushes too. But I was furious a couple of years ago when his teacher spoke to me at a parents evening and commented "and he has this bloody smirk all over his face when I tell him off. I just want to put him through the wall!"

Needless to say I complained to the head teacher, furious that a professional could speak about an 8/9 year old boy in that manner. The head teacher actually defended the teacher and said that it was infuriating that my son smirked when being told off.

Reading this thread now, I realise just how common it is - surely as professionals mixing with primary school kids all day every day - they should have realised this too??!!! Lord, I'm all worked up again just thinking about it and this was 2 years ago!

shaleycarter123 Fri 27-May-16 22:35:04

My 3 year old is exactly the same apart from its a I can do what I want kind of smile he finds it hilarious when he hurts someone or breaks someone elses things I'm at a complete loss of what to do to be honest any advice would be greatly appreciated

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