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

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