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How to use grounding appropriately

The Star

by Nichole Hacha-Thomas

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Have you ever felt that you have tried every disciplinary tactic that exists with your child, and nothing works?

Using grounding as a consequence for inappropriate behavior can be an effective and useful tactic, but sometimes it doesn’t seem to have the desired effect. Sometimes, grounding proves to be more difficult for the parent than the child and this can lead to inconsistent application, which negates the message parents are trying to get across. An appropriate use of grounding isn’t to punish a child for their behavior, but to help them learn that actions have consequences.

The following tips are paraphrased from a list offered by Mark Hutten, a Counseling Psychologist:

  1. Be prepared to alter your routine in order to enforce the grounding. If your child is grounded from an activity, that might mean that one parent needs to stay home with him, thus missing their own activity.
  2. Be ready to take extra steps to enforce the grounding. If your child defies the grounding and leaves the house to go to a party anyway, go get him. This lets him know that you mean business.
  3. Grounding for a week or longer is difficult to follow through with. For example, parents who take away a driver’s license for a month often shoot themselves in the foot. This means that the parent then has to provide more transportation to school, work, etc. It can simply be too difficult for parents to follow through with an extended grounding, and they give up trying.
  4. Try to give a definite date for the end of the grounding (even prisoners know when their sentences will end). However it is a normal consequence to extend the grounding if your child deliberately defies it.
  5. Be calm when imposing this tactic, and avoid any form of aggression. Keep in mind that grounding should be a removal of a privilege, not an administering of harm.
  6. Before implementing grounding, make sure that you know whether or not the child’s disobedience was deliberate. Sometimes the guidelines or expectations of the parents are unclear. And sometimes kids simply forget.
  7. Make sure that the punishment fits the crime. Grounding your child from using the car when he has abused the privilege makes sense. If the connection between his action and the consequence are clear, your child will be less likely to be defensive and resentful.
  8. Never withhold meals or other necessities from a youngster during grounding.
  9. Kids should not be grounded from school field trips, activities relating to special interest groups (choir, sports, youth group functions) or from visiting relatives, since you are then punishing the relative as well. Find something else to withhold.
  10. Realize that there is a point at which the grounding has the opposite effect from the desired correction. For the first few days of grounding, the child often feels a certain remorse for his 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 the initially effective, corrective discipline backfires.

To read the complete list of tips from Mark Hutten, and for other articles helping parents deal with their strong-willed children and adolescents, visit his website at onlineparentingcoach.com.