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How To Ground Your Child

As most parents know, grounding is a technique effective with school-age children and teenagers and involves restricting the child to a certain place, usually home or his room, as punishment.

But, unfortunately, most parents do not know the proper way to use grounding, and instead, ground too long – or not long enough. The result: grounding totally loses its effectiveness, and the parent complains, “I’ve tried everything with this child –and nothing works!”

How To Ground Your Child - 20 Tips for Parents:

1. Age appropriate groundings are a vital consideration. Little kids who are put in 'time out' are in effect being grounded. At this age, time outs and groundings need to be timed in minutes. The rule of thumb for time outs, groundings or withholding of privileges should be commensurate with age, but only up to a certain point. Kids under about six years of age should be given incremental time outs in minutes. Time outs should last no more than about one to two minutes per year. Between the ages of six to ten, you can start to ground kids to the yard or house for a few hours to a day at a time.

2. Be prepared to alter your routine in order to enforce the grounding. This may mean making small sacrifices and inconveniencing one or more members of your family. Making small sacrifices now will reap benefits in the future for you and your youngster. So, if grounding your daughter means that one parent stays home with her and misses the family’s Saturday pizza night, so be it.

3. Be ready to take extra steps to enforce the grounding if need be. If your child leaves the house and goes to the party anyway, go and get him. This action lets him know that you mean business. Don’t worry about embarrassing your child, since his friends probably already know that he’s supposed to be grounded anyway.

4. Consider reprieves, but only for good behavior, and often only if the grounding was initially too ‘over-the-top’. Prepare to apologize as well, and be sincere, because in a fit of anger, parents often make the punishments too harsh, then cool down and realize they made a mistake.

5. Good things to ground children from are: sugary snacks or candy, television, computer, video games, IPod, cell phone, special events (e.g., going to a friend's house, after school party, trip to McDonald's or some other junk food venue, etc.).

==> Parenting Techniques for Difficult Teens

6. Grounding for a week or longer is difficult to follow through with. Within a week's time, many activities take place. Mothers/fathers must constantly decide whether each activity is included in the grounding. It's also difficult to simply follow through at all on a long grounding. Parents who take away the driver's license for a month often shoot themselves in the foot. For one thing, this means that the parents need to provide transportation to work, school and other events that are not included in the grounding.

7. Grounding must be done in small increments of time (i.e., minutes, hours, or days). Then, if kids defy the grounding, it is increased in small amounts as well. If the original amount of grounding time is large (e.g., 2 weeks), moms and dads risk escalating their youngster’s defiance rather quickly. CASE EXAMPLE: Talking on the phone instead of doing homework. Normal Consequence: Cell phone taken away for one day and evening. First Escalation: Cell taken away for one additional day/night. Second Escalation: Three days. Third Escalation: Four days.

8. If your child retaliates by destroying your stuff or making a mess, then it is appropriate to add to the grounding. However, it should be O.K. for a youngster to discharge his anger through screaming and yelling, but it is never acceptable for him to take his anger out on someone else or his property.

9. Try to give a definite date for the end of the grounding. Prisoners almost always know when their sentences will end, when they have committed far worse crimes. Knowing when the grounding will end will be reassuring to the youngster, while still being effective.

10. Be calm whenever you impose any kind of punishment and avoid any form of aggression. Keep in mind that grounding should be a removal of privilege not an administering of harm.

11. Kids should not be grounded from school field trips or special interest group activities, sports practices, Boy Scout camping trips, youth group functions, band concerts, choir presentations, sports events in which they participate.

12. Never withhold meals or other necessities from a youngster during grounding.

13. Kids should not be grounded from visiting relatives. For example, they should be permitted to go on outings with grandparents (otherwise, you are punishing the grandparents, too). Find something else to withhold.

14. Lift the grounding when your youngster must go to someone’s home (e.g., to be watched while you are at work). Continuing the grounding is difficult for the ‘caretaking adult’ to follow through with. It may cause some tensions that will only have an adverse affect on the desired outcome of the punishment.

15. Make sure that you know whether or not the child’s disobedience was deliberate. Believe it or not, often what seems to be a knowing disobedience is actually something a youngster thought was O.K., and being punished for that could take him by surprise and teach him that you are just waiting to take away his things. Sometimes, kids even forget things, and the proper way to deal with forgetting a chore is to have the youngster do an extra chore for payment.

16. Make sure the punishment fits the crime. Example: If a youngster keeps on imitating fights seen on TV and uses knives, forks, or anything else that is dangerous, then TV restriction is a good course of action.

17. Make sure the situation the youngster is being grounded from is something she really sees as punishment. If she doesn’t seem to care whether or not she goes to her grandfather’s birthday party, ground her on another day when she’ll miss going out with her friends. If your youngster enjoys spending time alone in her room, restricting her to her room will serve to reward her instead of punishing her. Try taking a privilege away instead, or require her to spend some time outside her room.

18. Once you have grounded the youngster, prepare for him to protest, scream, and throw a fit. If that happens, ignore him, and he will soon realize you will not listen to his whining.

19. Only on the rarest occasions should your child be grounded from playing with other kids. If they get into trouble together, or if the youngster is a threat or danger to your youngster, then it would be acceptable to ground your child from seeing the other child.

20. There is a point at which the grounding has the opposite effect from the desired correction (i.e., the point of saturation). For the first few days of grounding, the youngster often feels a certain remorse for the behavior. Whether they admit it or not, most kids understand why they were grounded, if it was an appropriate grounding. After a few days to a week, children begin to get bored and restless. Resentment begins to set in and what was initially effective, corrective discipline backfires.

==> Parenting Techniques for Difficult Teens


Many moms and dads use grounding as a discipline technique with their teenagers. However, when parents ground their teenagers for long periods (e.g., several weeks or more) it often loses its effectiveness because there is typically little incentive for teenagers to behave well during the grounding. Also, when parents ground teenagers for a long period of time, they often give in and reduce the length of grounding because of the restraints it places on the whole family. When this happens, teenagers learn their mother/fathers won't follow through with the grounding they impose.

The modified grounding procedure described below involves brief and intense grounding, but the teen is allowed the opportunity to earn his way off grounding by completing a job assignment. This technique is most appropriate for older kids (e.g., 12-17 year olds).

Points to consider when using modified grounding:

1. After your teen has completed the assigned job(s), he should come to you so that his performance can be checked. If the job has been done well, it is important to briefly praise your teen for the job performance and inform him that the grounding is over. If the job has not been completed satisfactorily, briefly provide feedback to your teen on the aspects of the job that have been done well and those that need additional work. Be specific in what additional work needs to be done. Try to handle corrective feedback in a matter-of-fact manner without nagging, lecturing, or becoming upset.

2. Grounding is severe and means staying in one's own room (or an assigned room) except for attending school, eating meals, or performing chores. During grounding there should be no television, no video games, no radio or tape players, no other games/toys, no visitors, no telephone calls, no snacks, no reading materials except school books, and no outside social activities. If a family outing is scheduled, a sitter should be used so that the grounded teen remains at home while the moms and dads and other family members can still go on the family outing.

3. Sit down with your teen and develop a list of 10-15 jobs that often need to be done around the home. Do not sit down with your teen to start this procedure at a time when your teen is about to be punished. Choose a time when your teen is behaving well to discuss the technique and to create a list of jobs. These jobs should not be chores that the teen is expected to do on a regular basis. These jobs should take a significant amount of time to complete (e.g., at least 1-2 hours). The jobs should also be things that your teen is capable of doing. Examples of such jobs include washing the windows in the house, cleaning out the garage, and cleaning the bathroom.

4. After a list of jobs has been created, your teen should be told that when he misbehaves to the degree that grounding is necessary, this new discipline technique will be used. Immediately after the misbehavior has occurred, the teen will be told he is grounded and an index card will be picked at random. The teen will be completely grounded until that job has been completed to the parent's satisfaction. For particularly significant misbehavior, more than one card can be drawn.

5. It is critical that you not nag your teen about the jobs to be done. The rules of grounding should only be explained to your teen once.

6. Write each individual job on a separate index card. This description should include a very detailed description of exactly what is required to do the job satisfactorily. For example, cleaning the garage would involve removing all objects from the garage, removing cobwebs on the ceilings, sweeping the floor, hosing/scrubbing the floor, and replacing objects in an organized and neat fashion. If some jobs are relatively brief, it is possible to combine jobs together so that all cards have a job assignment that will take approximately the same total time to complete.

7. Remember to frequently praise and give teenagers positive feedback when they are behaving well. As with any punishment technique, grounding will only be optimally effective when there is a positive and loving relationship between mothers/fathers and their teenagers.

Using the modified grounding procedure, your teen earns his way off grounding. Therefore, your teen basically determines how long the grounding will last. Grounding may last anywhere from just a few hours to several days. If the grounding lasts more than several days, it is important to check to make sure your teen is being appropriately grounded (e.g., they're not sneaking television/radio).

==> Parenting Techniques for Difficult Teens


Anonymous said...

great tips..thank you.

Anonymous said...

My name is Oscar Luera. My wife, Kayla, and I have been having alot of problems with my son Logan. He came back from his mothers at the end of the summer before school and has been "Hell on Wheels"! He has been very disruptive in school, fighting with peers, hitting his other brother and sisters, and has gone as far as tripping/pushing my wife down the stairs. He is completely different when I am around and very rude, violent, & and disrespectful to others. He is starting to get to be the same way with me. We've tried disciplining him to no availe.... He sees a therapist periodically and was we were making positive ground until about 3 weeks ago. He began choking the cat, his younger brother, and even trying to choke my wife. He has in a sense acted like he was hurt and drawn my wife and his older stepsister in and punched them in the face. He was just in a Psychiatric hospital for children for 3 weeks for evaluation and it only made it worse. their form of therapy was based on a reward system and didnt challenge him. All he did was practically watch movies, play Wii, and playstation. Now he is 10 times worse, just broke our flat screen in the living room, just got kicked out of school his first day back, and continues to curse profanities at my wife. We need help. Our marriage is so strained by my son we need some way that'll help. He lies consistently, steals and throws it in the trash & just recently thrown my wifes wedding ring away after he stole it.

Anonymous said...


Your thoughts on the following situation we are facing would assist. Our nearly 16 year old son has gone off to live at his girl friends house. Living at home with us is fine for his 18 year old brother , however, his younger brother decided it was more interesting to live with his girl friend. There are no particular problems at home. We sometimes withheld pocket money if he was rude or did not do chores etc. The fact is at his girl friends sha has a large room with her own TV and computer and life over there seems to be attractive to him.

The problem is the girls parents are happy for him to stay there. They will not ask him to leave as the girl friend threatens if he is forced to leave the daughter will leave as well. Unfortunately the girl has form. She has previously left home and lived with her then boy friend for about 3 months. Her parents are concerned if they ask our son to leave she will leave too. Our son was fine last term at school but this problem has developed quickly since he has been going out with this new girl friend oer the recent holidays.

We have said he must come home and if he does not he will not get any phone credit or pocket money and we wont pay for Karate lessons. The girls parents make him lunch and appear to generally dote on them both. He has come home on one or two evening to stay the night and he has generally been rude and cocky saying he will stay and live with the girl friend as the parents are happy for him to stay there.

Under our law the police will not retrieve a 16 year old , or nearly 16 year old, as at 16 they can legally leave home. We continue to pay his private school fees and try and stay in touch and go to school parent nights etc.

Any suggestions to resolve this would be much appreciated.



Mark said...

Well... the more you try to get him home -- the more he will dig his heels in.

I would say that, if he is in a safe environment, let him stay (ALTHOUGH I am very sure this will be a temporary thing).

Having said this, since he is doing this against your house rules, you are in no way obligated to continue to fund his life-style.

So I would pull the plug on him financially -- BUT not as a manipulation to get him back home -- rather to send the message that "when rules are broken, there are negatives consequences."


Anonymous said...

My children have been through a rough time, their father had a nervous breakdown a few years ago, we seperated I have gone bact to work etc. Any way my eldest daughter became very angry, defiant, abusive but I stayed strong and got her through it. My second daughter (almost 15) is now just going through it. She has become very disobediant, disrespectful, she has been caught out lieing about where she is. I have grounded her removed her phone and cancelled her internet privlidges. I have stood firm and will not be bullied into caving in. However she will scream at me for hours, tell me she is running away that she hates me. I don't understand what else there is to do, I am not a wishy washy parent if I say something I stick to it but she is wearing me down.

Lisa said...

My stepson is 15 and is ADHD. He hates doing chores and doesn't do them completely or properly. He's lazy and doesn't want to bother doing the chores because there's nothing in it for him. We don't give allowance because as a family unit we all work together and he can't expect to be paid for everything he does in life. I grounded him for a week to our property( no friends over and he doesn't get to go anywhere to have fun) he's mad about it and my husband is too lenient on him and says he should still get to go with us out to eat, to movies, swimming etc. I say that defeats the purpose of being grounded if he gets to have a lot of fun. Please help me with this dilemma.

Anonymous said...

yes he is grounded, but you should let him go for activities with you, you should keep him active and out of the house with you guys, you can still supervise him, but you should never completely restrict fun from a child. He needs to learn and grow and having you coup him up in the house will just provoke anger towards you. No kid wants to do chores and you will never be able to force him, maybe instead of saying you have to do this or you are grounded, say if you do this chore we can go out to eat, or you can have a few friends over and ill buy you some snacks.

Anonymous said...

I like the suggestions used here. I have a neighbor, the mother committed suicide 5 years ago. I have been looking after the youngest for 5 years; after school, school days off, etc. She is now 10 years old. The father is involved with someone now. This summer they found out the daughter had been telling stories about what she ate (especially here), sneaking U-Tube, hiding her laundry (she is responsible for doing her own), and other crimes I would consider minor for the age -- with short restrictions. She was grounded for 10 weeks! Now, I am not allowed to talk to her for fear I will undermine his authority. I'm heartbroken for what has become my third child. Does anybody else think 2-1/2 months is too long to ground a 10-year-old?

Unknown said...

I have a seven year old daughter name Skylee. It seems that most of the time she's grounded and I feel bad. My boyfriend grounded her for seven days for sneaking my iPad and watching tv at 4 am after being told not to. I just think seven days is too long to be grounded for unless a chid was violent. My daughter comes out of her room for drinks, bathroom breaks and meals but if she comes out to socialize with me or her sister and if I talk to her, braid her hair while I watch my tv show or let her play w friends after five days of punishment he tells me I'm a bad mom and says mean stuff. Idk what to do

charmingone said...

1 week is way too long. If he says you're a bad mom for braiding her hair and talking with her, he's an idiot and you should kick him to the curb. She's your daughter. love her and guide her.

TONI said...

He is going to drive a wedge between you and your daughter a 7 year old confined to her room and not allowed to spend time with her family is ridiculous. Dont let this boyfriend of yours dictate you and your childs relationship she will resent you when she is older and may harbor some resent now. This boyfriend of yours shouldn't be given that much power it should be something you as her mother are comfortable with. If it pleases him great, if not his opinion shouldn't be valued anyway. IF YOU DON'T STAND UP FOR YOUR DAUGHTER WHO WILL..... SURELY NOT YOUR BOYFRIEND AND SAYING MEAN THINGS TO YOU AHHHHH COME ON .... THIS GUY IS A JERK

Unknown said...

16 yr old daughter stayed out all night and didn't get home in time to babysit for sister to go to work. Sister almost lost her job but got hours cut instead. What is a reasonable amount of time to be grounded n phone taken away?

Concerned mom said...

My 16 year old daughter got caught shoplifting at target. She was with her best friend who apparently shoplifts all of the time. The girls got stopped at the door, the friend ran, but my daughter stayed put. My daughter gets good grades and is an athlete. She has always been painfully honest with me so I believe her that this was the first time. They didn't press charges, they said she seemed like a good kid who made a bad decision, but she is banned from all targets for 1 year. I've been reading all of these articles that say anything over a week of grounding is ineffective, but they are for things like missing curfew. This is more severe. I took her phone away and I see the texts popping up, the other girl is pretending she wasn't even there. My daughter can't even defend herself because I took her phone. She has a fairly new boyfriend that is leaving for school in 3 days. I'm not trying to ruin her life. But I also want the punishment to have an impact. Please help!!

Unknown said...

How long should i ground my 6 year old daughtee because of her snotty attitude and what is best way to ground her

Unknown said...

Is it wrong to punish your 15 year old for more than 10 weeks because he/she has not finished more than half of their homework, with no video games, computer, phone, with no exceptions?

Unknown said...

Two weeks to a month depending on level of cooperation, and also a paddling.

Unknown said...

At first blush, yes, but you don't know what Dad has to put up with at home. If you express sympathy for the Dad and let him know you understands how hard it is to punish a child he loves, you may get more leverage; or if nothing else, you may get to commiserate with and comfort the kid a bit.

Anonymous said...

How long do you ground a 7 year old for lying?

Unknown said...

My daughter is 10 almost 11 an is generally a pretty good girl. But I got some stuff from school saying that she has not been turning homework an not following rules. She also pulled a chair away from a kid so he'd fall. Her grades r great an she listens fairly well. But I really don't like that she's not doing homework. I was thinking taking her phone away for 2 days an no video games or tv. But on wed night she goes to church. Do I still let her go? I kinda feel it be wrong to keep her from church

despratedad99 said...

Almost 18 year old daughter has a bad reputation for sleeping about, she denies it and seems to be in a relationship with a 20 year old. She asked to stay at his house after college and I refused to let her because of this reputation I fear she has, this caused an argument and she is now threatening to move out again, am I right to ground her and for how long?

Tanya said...

You don't paddle a 16 year old. You're just instilling violence in her doing that.

Tanya said...

I think one day is good enough to get the point across.

Laura B said...

Perhaps instead of grounding you could have get sit down and write sentences like I will have a good attitude or I will be nice to my family

Anonymous said...

You need to go to therapy as a family with your son because what he is doing is not acceptable to society. Ground him to his room for a long time with nothing to do, keep him in there and make sure he stays in there. If he starts to get physical with you, your wife or anyone don't hesitate to be a little physical back. I'm not saying to beat him half to death but you should at most only slap him across the face, that's how my father set me straight and all I did was talk back. Try talking to him when he's calmed down and try to find the source of his anger. If all else fails try contacting Dr.Phil

Anonymous said...

Your daughter is a good kid who made a bad choice, I think you should keep it a week but you should let her talk to her boyfriend before he leaves or else she might start to act out against you. Remember your daughter is a good kid but she was pressured by her friend into doing the wrong thing, if anything you should talk to her friends parents and have your daughter hang out with her less often

Anonymous said...

I do the same thing. My son is 14 and in 9th. However it has no effect on him to be grounded and have extra chores for even up to 3 months. This has been going on for at least 4 years. If I watch him like a hawk he makes A's and B's easily but if I don't he just doesn't do schoolwork and lies about it. He is a good kid in all other ways. He will fail school if I do nothing. So tired of dealing with it. ~ k.

Anonymous said...

My husband keep adding weeks for every day she is bad at school (running out of class/cafeteria, gym, bit teacher and punched two class mates was assigned stopping her from running out) my 5 year old about turn 6. I feel that it's too excessive if a punishment for her age only been a month she been doing this. So far it's 6 weeks then says oh what want to eat for your birthday dinner (sat) when birthday on Monday? Isn't that confusing her if punish then ask what she wants to eat? Seriously confusing.

Anonymous said...

My kiss (boy & girl) have both been through a hell of a lot crap brought about by their abusive mentally ill mother and her equally mentally ill strumpet of a mother!
The police and Social Services were involved and it took me eight,nearly nine years to get sole custody of my kids!
However,my daughter has settled superbly well,both are great kids but I'm strict but fair with loads of love thrown in!
Both need counselling and my daughter who is thirteen has had some but my ten year old boy has not!
He was feral over at his mother's house and I've had to reel him in but the thing is,he destroys things around the house then lies through his teeth about it when the evidence is clear as day!
Then I ground him and he retaliate by destroying my things I'm furious as he is spoilt and gets everything he wants to an extent!

gheartoms said...

How should I behave while my child is being grounded from her phone? Do I talk to her normally as if nothing has happened..or continue a more detached or punitive stance?

Anonymous said...

What happened at his mom's house? Maybe his mom can explain?
Its interesting that little by little he's trying it with you too. Which means he's afraid/respects you. Use that as an anchor point to reinforce your stance.
I would ground him, wait for the smoke to clear, then go to his room and open some dialogue. You probably won't get anywhere the first couple of attempts but don't leave if he doesn't talk, just keep talking. Make small talk, tell a story about work, explain something about a project your doing, ask for his ideas in how to fix something you've been meaning to fix. Continue to do that until you start getting a response. Develop a connection. Have your spouse do the same.
And lots if therapy. Something is happening there.

Anonymous said...

my 7yr old granddaughter was taken frm mom in April of this year and now living with dad. she was homeschooled last yr public school this yr. She I guess was not doing her work at school and she doesnt know how to read. she is being punished now by dad doing school work right off the bus everyday going on 2nd week. after school work she has dinner then sent to room til bathtime then to bed. no TV no one talks to her including dad and girlfriend. I feel its unhealthy to hard of punishment

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