My daughter is 12 years old. When she gets in trouble or we(parents/teachers/coaches) are trying to talk to her seriously, she has a smile/smirk on her face. She looks like she does not care what we are trying to tell or her show her. Can it be a nervous reaction or just disrespect? How can I help her to overcome this or teach her this is not the right way to react?

  • 2
    People do like to feel in control of their lives/all situations, so I am going to lean towards it being a defensive mechanism due to looking bad because of being corrected. I would like to know how you or the teachers/coaches/etc... are approaching the discipline? Is it calm and constructive? Demeaning? What happens if she gets pulled aside into a private area for the correction?
    – Jeff.Clark
    Sep 7 '16 at 23:23
  • 3
    Also, is your goal to have her learn from the discipline and change her behavior, or to stop smirking? What if she smirks yet still has the positive behavioral change? If she does not have the desired positive behavioral change, I would ignore her smiling and let her experience consequences for what caused you to want to talk to her in the first place.
    – Jeff.Clark
    Sep 7 '16 at 23:30
  • 3
    Question lacks context.
    – user20343
    Sep 8 '16 at 18:26
  • 8
    You should look at the comments of this question parenting.stackexchange.com/q/12261/23413 as apparently, smiling in high stress situations involuntarily is part of human natural instinct.
    – Bradman175
    Sep 10 '16 at 4:41
  • What you see on her face may not reflect what's happening in her brain. You need to look for other indicators of how she feels.
    – Marc
    Sep 27 '16 at 2:02

There are so many possible reasons for you to see a smile/smirk that there is no single answer.

  • she could be smiling because she feels superior and is uninterested in what you are saying
  • she could be very nervous or upset and the outward expression of this is a smile
  • she could be happy you are paying attention to her so is smiling
  • etc

What is important is to try and understand what the smile means - to her. She may not even be aware she is doing it, but communication will be key here.


I'm not sure if this is the same thing, but I recall smiling when I got into arguments with my mom. The earliest time I can remember it happening is when I was nine, and the most recent time I can remember it happening is about a month ago(I'm 16). I don't feel as though I have any control over it. I usually have to bite my cheek to stop myself, because I find the situation thoroughly embarrasing, otherwise. I'm not sure why I respond to anger in such a way, but I do feel that it is important to mention that I suspect that I have Asperger's Syndrome, so I may respond to things differently than others. I hope this helped. Thank you.


There is very little to go on here, so one would have to make assumptions. You seem to suspect that her smiling might be a form of disrespect. If it is a smirk, then it probably or possibly is exactly that. So...

If what is going on is that your discipline of her bad behavior is limited to talking to her and trying to teach her through words only, then she may have figured out that there really are no bad consequences to her bad behavior. If that is the case, she can stand there and laugh internally at your attempts to guide her away from behavior which you deem "bad", when she knows there is no reason for her to stop doing what she wants to do, just because there is some background noise in the room.

That may sound harsh, but that could be exactly what is behind a kid smirking at their parents' attempts to teach them only with words. Sooner or later, your child will find out that bad behavior is deemed "bad" because it usually carries bad consequences. Failure in school, social life, jobs, trouble with the law, these are the things that a kid who ignores discipline could be heading into in their later life. It is our jobs as parents to teach them that reality by instituting bad consequences for bad behavior in their childhood, where we can control the outcome to be instructive rather than destructive.

Of course, it could be that you are already doing this, and I am off base here. If so, ignore my answer. But if not, put in place strong, negative consequences for bad behavior, including smirking at you when you are talking to her. Call her on it - very bluntly tell her what smirking communicates and demand to know what she is trying to communicate by it. If the answer does not satisfy, then put in place those bad consequences.

With my kids, loss of privileges, grounding, earlier bedtimes, and very rare spankings have worked wonders. Mind you, those negatives for bad behavior happen in the context of ten times more positives, encouragement, praise and affection for bad behavior. Those negatives also happen in the context of daily (multiple times a day) affirmation of my love and appreciation for them, constantly communicating to them how freaking awesome I think they are while also communicating that I will love them till the day I die, even if they were to turn into total douchebags, which seems, frankly, totally impossible.

Today, my kids (four of them) range in age from 11 to 19. They are obedient, very respectful kids who do extremely well in school (straight A's) and are held up as examples by their teachers and other adults. When we ask them to do something, they usually answer with the typical southern "yes sir", and "yes ma'am" to my wife, but they are also very free with their expressions of affection to us.

Spend time with her, love her, communicate tons of positive affirmation to her. But at the end of the day, also, do not tolerate that smirk if you even suspect that it is a sign of disrespect.


I as an adult and remember doing this I did it because I would become nervous and or scared of getting in trouble that I would smirk and not know I did this till my parents said something I was doing it Because I don’t like to cry in front of people. My grandson actually has ISS for as the school says he showing disrespect but he said he doesn’t realize he is doing it. He has had a very bad year he lost his mom at age 10 been a year now. He won’t cry so he smiles do not to cry. Every child and every person is different and deals with life tragedies. I will be homeschooling him starting in Jan. I think people are so judgmental about what is right n wrong.


I think that MAYBE another possible way to get "in touch"with her, is to show interest in what she has to say...ask questions, ask from her to develop her impressions, ideas, what ever! Go on like this for some time, until you feel that it creates a connection, you are bound to each other. Once this is done, at some point later, you can start to exchange...


Its a way to show she is bigger than you, if you smile while you are telling her off it will be pointless for her to keep smiling.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.