Discipline & Guidance
When Your Child Says, "I Don't Care"
At some point most parents have heard their child use the phrase, “I don’t care.” It may be in reference to school performance or a reaction to a behavior consequence. Children use these words to make excuses and also to push parents away. It allows them to feel a sense of power and control and appear to be totally unmotivated. Truthfully, you can’t make your child care. However, there are several techniques you can use to move your child towards a more positive attitude.
- Discover what your child likes: He may tell you he doesn’t care about anything, that nothing matters. Don’t believe it. Look closely at his actions. Does he like video games, television, computer time, his cell phone, or perhaps spending time with friends? All of these things can be used as incentives.
- Remove the ‘goodies’ from his room: Children who are unmotivated may seek refuge from their responsibilities in their rooms. Don’t provide an inviting place for him to escape. Expensive ‘extras’ are privileges to be earned not rights. However, if you have a child who is totally withdrawn and doesn’t care about anything no matter what you do, he may be suffering from depression. Take these signs seriously and seek professional help.
- Use Structure: Tell your child clearly what is expected of him and when. Set chore times and give deadlines. Try, “If you finish your chores before dinner then you may do whatever you like until bedtime.” If he refuses to comply, let him know that he will do nothing else until they are completed. This will only be effective if you are consistent and follow through.
- Every day is a new day: Life for unmotivated children should be one day at a time. Make sure everything is earned anew each day when they take care of their responsibilities.
- “I care”: Let your children know that even though they don’t care, you do. How they behave, how well they perform in school, and their future success matters to you. You may not be able to force your child to do well, but you can demonstrate your love by holding them accountable.
- Be specific about any progress you see: If your child improves his behavior let him know exactly what it is you would like to see more of. “You worked hard to improve your math grade. I am glad that you will be going to the ballgame Friday.”
- Keep looking forward: Let your children know that you believe in them and their abilities. Make good predictions about their future. They will often be motivated to achieve the very things you predict. Encourage them to dream about the type of life they would like to have in the future. Where they lack the initiative, it is your job to guide them as to the steps they should take to fulfill their dreams.