Creative Child

Alternatives to Grounding Your Pre-Teen

by Rebecca Eanes


Other helpful tips for thwarting poor behavior:

  • Limit screen time to under 3 hours per day as studies have shown that more than that has a negative effect on mood and puts your child at risk for mental disorders.
  • Create a conversation “bubble” or “safe zone” where your kid can tell you anything. Keeping communication open in these years is critically important.
  • Set a good example. I know it seems like an obvious one, but not only will they do what they see you do as they did when they were little, now they’ll begin to call you out if you discipline them for something that you do yourself.
  • Keep an eye on your kid’s stress level. Middle school is a tough transition, and with changes in schedules, classes, teachers, and peers, along with homework, projects, and extracurricular activities, children can get stressed and overwhelmed easily. Make adjustments as needed.

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Alternatives to grounding:

Alright, so your relationship is good but your child still breaks a rule or acts out of line (because he’s human too), so now what?

  1. Get curious. What’s going on behind the scenes (at school, on the media your child is consuming, or just in his heart) that could be contributing to the behavior? Getting to the source is best way to stop it.
  2. Bring the ideas from the calm-down corner to this new stage by teaching your child simple techniques she can use now to her emotions in check. Whereas it may have been watching a swirling glitter jar when she was two, at 12 she may enjoy listening to calming music, counting backwards, yoga, or tapping. Explore several different ways until your child finds what works for them.
  3. Use a journal to discuss issues with your child. Writing back and forth can be a great way to communicate with a pre-teen, and they may open up more on paper than they normally would. Try it!
  4. Ask your child to brainstorm solutions to the problem. This teaches him that he is responsible for correcting his mistakes and taking charge of his behavior. If he broke something, he should fix it. If he was hurtful, he should make amends. Ideally, he will come up with a solution on his own, but this could be delivered as a logical consequence (chores to pay for a new bike or an apology note to sister) as long as it is given in the spirit of teaching. Convey that you are on your child’s side and spend time connecting later to strengthen the bond.

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Positive discipline looks a little different for pre-teens but the principles remain the same. Attachment. Respect. Proactive parenting. Empathetic leadership. Positive discipline. Remember that your relationship is your only real source of authority and keep it strong.

Rebecca Eanes, is the founder of and creator of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. She is the bestselling author of 3 books. Her newest book,Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, is more than a parenting book, it's a guide to human connection. She has also written The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parentingand co-authored the book, Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide to Putting Positive Parenting Principles in Action in Early ChildhoodShe is the grateful mother to 2 boys.


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