Why Your Child Laughs When You Scold Them

If your child laughs when you scold them, it can make you very angry. However, they may not be teasing you or trying to be disrespectful.
Why Your Child Laughs When You Scold Them
Sharon Capeluto

Written and verified by the psychologist Sharon Capeluto.

Last update: 15 February, 2023

In a perfect world, children quickly understand and accept the limits set by their parents. They listen attentively and modify their attitude after being asked for the first time. They also apologize and never do what they’re forbidden to do again. However, the truth is that the real world is quite different. In fact, perhaps your child even laughs when you scold them.

Rarely do children learn lessons the first time around. In addition, setting limits is one of the biggest challenges in parenting and is an issue that creates a lot of headaches for caregivers. Sometimes children even react in a way that’s unexpected and irritating for adults: They laugh. Not only do they not comply with what’s demanded of them, but they assume a mocking and even sarcastic attitude.

Why your child laughs when you scold them?

Disobedience and rebellion in children are very common. These are part of growing up and usually don’t represent a long-term concern, although at the time, it generates a lot of frustration and helplessness in adults.

“Rebelliousness seems to be a necessary condition of growing up”

The daily routine of raising a child is based on a kind of game between setting limits and reacting to them. No parent would choose defiant laughter on the part of children while disciplining them. So when this happens, the questions come flooding back: Are they doing this to annoy me?   What are they seeking by laughing out loud?   How is it possible for a child to take control of the situation away from me? Why do they do this?

Well, in this article, we’ll take a tour through possible reasons why your child laughs when you scold them.

A child who's laughing while his mother colds him.
Your child is likely to laugh mischievously as you discipline them because they need you to be firm and not hesitate to convey what they can and can’t do.

1. They’re testing you

Children need limits, even if we’re often led to believe that the last thing they want to hear is a no . Children need them to build and develop their personalities in a healthy way. They seem to do everything they can to shake adult authority by disobeying and ignoring warnings. However, the reality is that they want us to be consistent with the limits we set.

2. They laugh because they’re nervous

The laughter that children let out when you challenge them may have to do with nerves. In this case, we’re talking about a type of laughter that arises precisely in uncomfortable situations, where it’s not appropriate to joke. It’s a reaction that’s difficult to control and represents an unloading mechanism in the face of a disturbing context.

A child lying backward off a couch and laughing.
Through laughter, many children try to reduce the anxiety generated by being scolded and thus try to feel more relaxed.

3. They’re trying to regulate their emotions

According to the previous point, we understand that sometimes children resort to this behavior to try to regulate their emotions. We’re certain that no one is born knowing how to manage their own emotions. Rather, we acquire this ability progressively. Therefore, as we grow up, we face challenging situations throughout life that include intense emotions.

For this reason, perhaps your child laughs while you scold them in order to self-regulate and thus obtain the much sought-after emotional homeostasis. In this way, they get better control of their cognitive, social, and psychological functions.

“My child laughs when I scold them and that makes me angry.”

Explaining to a child that their behavior is inappropriate, dangerous, or rude and receiving laughter as an immediate response is most unpleasant. Therefore, it’s understandable to feel anger and frustration in the face of this response. However, it’s important to consider that laughter can have an adaptive and self-regulatory function, especially in young children.

Children still have a great deal of ignorance regarding themselves and the ways in which they relate to others. So, if your child laughs when you scold them, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re making fun of you or that they don’t respect you.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Janin, B. (2012). Los niños rebeldes y desafiantes de hoy. Actualidad Psicológica405, 1-32.
  • Melgarejo Espiña, S. (2017). Sobre la puesta de límites y la internalización de normas en la infancia: una mirada al ámbito educativo y familiar.
  • Sáiz Manzanares, M. C., Carbonero Martín, M. Á., & Román Sánchez, J. M. (2014). Aprendizaje de habilidades de autorregulación en niños de 5 a 7 años. Universitas Psychologica13(1), 369-380.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.