Does Grounding Your Child Work?

You are grounded for a week – GET UP TO YOU ROOM.  No video games, you can’t play outside, no friends can come over,  can’t use your phone, no ipad, no easter bunny, no presents for your birthday, you aren’t even aloud to speak until I say you can.

Ok I went a little far on the last few, but you get the idea.  In this video, we are going to explore if grounding your child really works and does it get the desired outcome you want?

Grounding has been a long standing tradition among parents. For those not as familiar with it, it basically means having your child confined to a specific area like their bedroom or the house and removing any enjoyable stuff they get to do.  Years ago, it became popular as an alternative to physical discipline.  As people realized that hitting your child was probably not a good method, they felt this was a better alternative.

Unfortunately it’s one of the biggest parenting traps there are.  Parents will often solve a problem they are faced with their kid by grounding them.  It feels like we are punishing them and when kids do something wrong they are supposed to be punished!!  Right?  Right???

Let’s take a step back and look at a more extreme situation, prison. Did you know that around 77% of prisoners who are released, get arrested again. Why do you think prisons don’t work?  I’m not a prison expert and I’m sure there are other factors involved, but taking away someone’s rights and punishing them, doesn’t seem to teach them to avoid the bad behavior or how to correct the behavior.  If you treat people negatively, guess what?  they will act negatively.  If you treat people positively, they will act positively.

So like prison, grounding doesn’t work.   In either scenario, the person who gets in trouble focuses on the “mean” people who locked them up, rather than what they actually did wrong or how/what they did effected other people.

You know, when I was growing up, I noticed I was disciplined differently than many of my friends.  Kids would often not be able to play or were confined to their room on “house arrest”.  My parents took a different approach towards discipline.  When I did something wrong, my parents (especially my mom) would explain what I did wrong and we would figure out ways to fix the issue.  We would talk about it. I believe this approach, done over and over, caused me to learn right from wrong and make the decisions that were good for me and those around me.  This is certainly not giving myself credit, this is giving my parents credit.

Let’s go over a few scenarios where a child might do something wrong and the typical response is a parent would ground them.  We’ll review how it could be handled without grounding….and so that your child learns something:

First scenario, Your child gets in trouble at school for hitting another child and goes to the principals office.  Your child wasn’t defending himself.  He got angry and hit the other child.

Does grounding relate to the problem?

The child needs to be talked to about how hitting is not ok and that it’s not the way to solve problems.  The key then is to come up with solutions together.

  • grabbing their own shirt
  • walk away
  • clenched fists in pocket

Everyone gets mad, but we need to learn proper ways of dealing with it. Then I would suggest the child apologize to the other child as well as come up with something nice they can do for them.  This scenario teaches them much better than keeping them on house arrest for a week or taking away their electronics.

Here is another scenario.  Your daughter steals something from the store.  She doesn’t get caught from the store manager but you find it in their room. Grounding here would just make her better at avoiding getting caught and she’ll be angry at you…which keeps her from learning anything.

I would suggest making the child take the item back to the store and apologize to the manager or store owner.  You also discuss how stealing is not ok, and they can ultimately go to jail.  Maybe they need to do something nice for the store owner.

Another scenario:  Your child talks back to the teacher and gets detention.

Well, detention is the punishment. There really isn’t much value in punishing them at home as well.  But the most important thing is apologizing to the teacher and seeing what they can do to make it up.   Let the child come up with the solution. You then discuss about being respectful and how if you want to be respected, you have to provide respect.  Also, how it’s not fair to other students for them to disrupt.

In all of these scenarios, punishment doesn’t teach about what is right.  The child will just learn how to be better at avoiding punishment.  They will focus on how horrible the person who punished them is, not what they did wrong and how to avoid it next time.  Many argue they will just do it again because there isn’t consequences.  I would challenge you on this.  You can certainly choose to rule by fear and give out punishments, but your not going to see the changes you are looking for.

Our job as parents is to teach our children right from wrong and the ways of the world.  This means helping them understand things, not punishing them.  (Keep in mind, I don’t believe in rewarding them either, but that is for another video).

In many scenarios there are consequences:

  • detention at school
  • losing friends
  • and/or even jail if its something pretty bad

You can certainly explain or even show them those scenarios. The bottom line, we are all trying to raise ethical and moral children.  Punishing them isn’t the best way to get them there.

Clip 32: I’d love to hear from you.  Do you think grounding is an effective parenting tool?  Leave your feedback in the comments section!

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