Grounding Your Kids: The Right and Wrong Way to Discipline

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Grounding Your Kids

It’s safe to say that you were grounded at least once in your childhood or adolescent years. It’s a form of discipline that most baby-boomers used, and that’s probably because their parents grounded them, too.

But just because it’s a traditional form of discipline, does that mean it’s a good one? And should you be grounding your kids on the regular? Here’s the scoop.

Why do parents ground their kids

The most common reason why frustrated, fed-up parents resort to grounding is because of disobedient children who just don’t listen.

And when children consistently don’t mind you, it’s easy to get angry and feel a very strong need to establish yourself as the power and authority in the household.

Grounding can build resentment in your child

Enter grounding. And while it can work from time to time depending on your child’s behavior, it’s best to not use it as a regular form of harsh discipline. That’s because it can set up a power struggle between you and your child. What’s more, instead of instilling a sense of regret in your child, they’re more apt to feel resentment and bitterness toward you.

If you think back to times when you were grounded by your parents, what do you remember feeling?

Long-term grounding doesn’t always cultivate desired behaviors

When your child has disobeyed you for the umpteenth time, you decide it’s time to ground them – and maybe for a few days or even a week.

And while you might think that the severity of the punishment (house arrest) should match the crime (disobedience), your child doesn’t really see it this way.

Your child just see long-term grounding as “doing time”. And they can wait it out until they’re set free, but in the meantime, have they learned to change their negative behaviors? During the grounding process, did you take time to talk with them about what went wrong? Or, do you simply ground them and hope they’ll learn their lesson.

Chances are, they won’t. And the same offense can happen again.

Do you ground your child to get a reaction?

When children are obstinate, they probably won’t want to show that they’re affected by your punishment. And that leads parents to up the ante and ground their children for even longer time periods.

But try not to focus on whether your child looks effected by your anger or punishments. Chances are, he or she is affected, but they definitely don’t want to show you that. So instead, of looking for repentance,“focus on what you want your child to learn from the consequence”, according to James Lehman, MSW.

Do you want to be grounded, too?

Most parents don’t realize that when you ground your child, you’re also getting grounded. That’s because if your child has to remain home, you probably have to stay home to ensure that he or she is safe, and that they’re not breaking more rules in your absence.

Are you ready to be under house arrest, too?

What’s more, when you take away your child’s privileges and their freedom to leave the house, but you fail to give them meaningful tasks to complete, you can be left with a bored, nagging child and that’s definitely a recipe for disaster.

How to ground your child effectively

It’s not that grounding your child is inherently bad. It just depends on how you ground your child. And if you do it right, it can make all the difference in helping your child improve his behavior rather than just go without certain privileges for a certain amount of time.

Here are some top tips for how and when to discipline your child so that at the end of the day, they come away with better coping skills and improved behaviors.

Meaningful consequences

As parents, we often fall back into cutting privileges that are most important to your child. We want to stick it to them, so to speak. But is this very meaningful? While it’s important that consequences be uncomfortable, make sure they’re also meaningful, too.

For example, if your child uses your car without your permission, he or she will clearly not being able to drive the car for a while, but in the meantime, think about what behavior is lacking in the first place: respect. Therefore, help your child to behave with more respect and not just go without the car.

The grounding period is negotiable

Let’s say you ground your child for a week, but wouldn’t it be so much better for everyone involved if you didn’t have to ground him or her for so long? You can help your child return to freedom by giving them meaningful tasks to do. The more they complete, the sooner they can stop being grounded.

Remember, the consequences should have some level of discomfort, but they should also help to cultivate important traits, such as kindness, respect and honesty. Some of their tasks can include household chores, but others can include writing a nice letter or doing random acts of kindness for family and friends.

Try ordeal therapy

Instead of grounding your child, you could try a method called “ordeal therapy.” Here, your child must complete an uncomfortable task that has a positive outcome, explains Gary Lundberg, a licensed family therapist.

For example, your child could easily wash the floor with a mop or Swiffer. But with ordeal therapy, they must wash the floor on their hands and knees using buckets of soapy water and rags. It’s not pleasant work, but when they finish, the floor will be sparkling.

And when they finish, don’t bring up why they had to do this work. They already know! Instead, thank them and praise them for doing good work. This experience can help deter them from misbehaving in the future.

When it comes to disciplining your child, it’s easy to get swept up in a power struggle and feel the need to establish yourself as the powerful authority.

Instead, use grounding and ordeal therapy as a intentional method to stop bad behavior and give your children the tools to improve their behavior. Because in the end, that’s what will benefit him more than simply being grounded.


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