Creative Child

Alternatives to Grounding Your Pre-Teen

by Rebecca Eanes

Positive discipline is fairly straightforward when parenting toddlers and preschoolers, but the ground feels a little shakier when you’re disciplining a pre-teen. When children are little, positive parents focus on helping children learn about emotions and manage them through using time-ins, calming corners, and peace tables, but what happens when kids outgrow the calming corner? How can you positively discipline a pre-teen who deliberately breaks the rules or exhibits poor behavior?

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Grounding seems to be the traditional discipline of choice for this age group. Parents often also send kids to their room, a big-kid version of time-out. However, neither of these options are in line with the principles of positive parenting as both are forms of punishment, and to be frank, losing a day of electronic privileges isn’t likely to improve a child’s attitude or abilities. If anything, these tactics further frustrate children, causing yet more behavioral problems to arise.


If your pre-teen is frequently defiant for has a negative attitude toward you, this is a red flag that your relationship is in trouble. Children who feel a positive bond with their parent are typically respectful and cooperative, and your only hope of influence as your child moves through these and the teen years is a strong, positive relationship.

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To develop or strengthen a positive relationship:

  • Spend quality time with your child each day to listen and connect.
  • Make rules simple and fair. If your child feels you have a lot of overly strict rules, he’ll feel like you aren’t on his side. However, do stick with the rules that are important to you and explain why they are important.
  • Show her that you value her opinions and voice. Give choices when appropriate and engage in lots of delightful conversation which, in today’s always-plugged-in world isn’t as easy to do with a pre-teen as it seems!
  • Peers are important to your child at this age. Invite their friends over and get to know them. Not only will you get a better sense of who your child is hanging out with at school (being influenced by) but caring about their friends feels a lot like caring about them.
  • Be respectful. Home should be a safe haven. Avoid criticism, yelling, and teasing. Even playful teasing can be hurtful to a sensitive child. Children are at risk of being bullied at school and online more than ever before. Home should be a no-bullying zone.
  • Laugh and have fun. A lot! Play games, dance, and be lighthearted. The more fun you are to be around, the more your child will listen to you! Honest!
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