How to Discipline a Child Who Shows No Remorse: 7 Steps
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Explore the reasons why your child shows no remorse.

No child is perfect, and bad behavior can be expected from even the most well-behaved youngster on occasion. Preschoolers and toddlers are at the age where they push the limits in an attempt to learn their boundaries. Many children this age show remorse by hanging their heads in shame as their eyes fill with tears, or apologizing genuinely after unacceptable behavior. When your child seems to have no regrets or blatantly fakes sorrow when forced to apologize, it is a cause for concern. Quash those horrifying visions of your little minx turning into a psychopath as she grows older, though -- you can stop the behavior before it gets out of control.


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    Sit beside your little demon and state that you are curious how she felt when she reacted badly. For instance, if her older brother would not share the last piece of pie with her and she shoved the plate to the floor, explain that you understand she probably felt anger. Tell her firmly that she cannot act on these feelings by misbehaving.
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    Ask her how she thinks her brother felt when she trashed the piece of pie. Tell her, “Yes, Johnny was probably sad that he didn’t get to eat the last piece of pie, but throwing it down on the floor probably made him angry at you rather than making him want to share the next time.” This shows her how her reactions affect others.
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    Explain that there are better ways to deal with situations when she is upset or angry. She can use her words to say, “Please share with me; I’ll share with you next time.” If he says “No,” instruct her to be a big girl and accept that he got it first. Suggest that she can always talk to you about it if she feels Johnny is hogging the last piece unfairly.
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    Place your toddler or preschooler in timeout so that she can think about how her actions affected her brother. After the cooling-off period is over, ask her what she did wrong to ensure that she understands the crime. Once she fully understands, insist that she apologize to him.
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    Discipline the child in a way that relates to the crime. For instance, make her go without dessert the next time it is available. Do this within the same day to ensure that she remembers why she is receiving punishment. This allows your daughter to think about her behavior and realize that her actions resulted in unpleasant consequences for her as well.
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    Cuddle your daughter when someone upsets her but doesn't apologize. Explain that you realize she feels badly and those feelings are certainly understandable. Encourage her to remember these feelings when she doesn't feel like apologizing to someone when she upsets them. Say "If Johnny said he was sorry and really meant it, you would feel better and not be so mad at him, wouldn't you?" This is an effective way for her to learn empathy.
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    Read books to your child that talk about kids who are mean to others and the results of those actions. These books show how an apology doesn't necessarily make the situation "all better" but it does improve it. A couple of age-appropriate books that are helpful are "Little Sweet Potato" by Amy Beth Bloom and "Freda Stops A Bully" by Stuart J. Murphy. They talk about the benefits of treating others with respect and kindness.


  • A child who picks on the same person all the time without displaying remorse may have an underlying reason. For instance, the tyke may feel that an older sibling is your "favorite." Try to pinpoint the reason behind the poor behavior. Do this by talking to your tot calmly and without judgment.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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