As a parent it can be infuriating when your child appears to be not taking you seriously when you challenge them over their behaviour. It can make you feel 'impotent', 'mocked' and 'worthless'. These feelings can quickly lead us to become angry and aggressive. "Wipe that smile off your face or I'll wipe it off for you." This sentence and other variations of it have been said countless times and too often in the past have been swiftly followed by a 'slap'. However, smiles, giggles and laughter are usually not a sign of disrespect but rather an expression of their anxiety and stress.
So what is going on?
The child may be experiencing a whole range of complex emotions such as embarrassment, shame and guilt. They struggle to understand and process these emotions because they lack the emotional intelligence and life experience to contextualise the experience. This causes anxiety and stress that can be released through being aggressive behaviour, crying or laughter. Most children will exhibit each of these responses at different times. The 'terrible two's' is a time when most children react aggressively to being 'told off' by going into a 'toddler tantrum'. As children develop most will learn that aggression is going to make things a lot worse. As they mature further the act of crying becomes embarrassing in itself and so they try to avoid being tearful. This leaves laughter as the only release for their stress and anxiety.
As a parent try to ignore any smirks and giggles and remain focussed on the original misbehaviour that required disciplining. Totally avoid escalating any consequences that you are giving just because they are laughing.