Creative Child

Why Saying “You’re Grounded” Doesn’t Work

by Rebecca Eanes

“You’re grounded!”

“Go to your room!”

“No electronics for a week!”


Parenting is hard work. When our children break the rules or make poor choices, it can be difficult to know the right way to discipline, so parents often resort to punishments like time-out, grounding, and taking away privileges. The problem is that research shows these punishments don’t work – at least, not like we want them to. We may temporarily gain the upper hand and appear to be in control. The best that punishment has to offer is making our kids “come into line” in order to avoid pain, shame, isolation, or unpleasantness, or in order to regain our love and affection. The true lesson, however, is lost. Punishment puts the focus, in their minds, on how unfairly they were treated and the resentment they feel – not on remorse or plans for better behavior. So, they appear obedient for the time-being, but underneath the surface is a hardened heart and a whole host of negative emotions which will eventually drive more bad behavior.


The real lessons we want to teach our children are how to control their own behavior, make wiser choices, think of others, and take responsibility for their actions. These lessons aren’t learned by sitting in a room or losing their iPhone. They are learned through a heart-to-heart connection with a trusted parent in conversations, modeling, problem-solving, and repair. And yet, so many parents are resistant to skipping the punishment and moving directly into connecting and problem-solving because they feel that they’re not truly disciplining if they don’t impose some kind of punishment in the moment. True discipline, though, is teaching, and children learn best when they feel heard, understood, and connected.


Of course, I’m not suggesting that we offer a hug, pat them on the back, and send them on their way when they do something wrong. I believe accountability is important. In fact, positive discipline is very involved parenting. It requires a lot thought, self-control, investigation, time, and energy to come up with a solution that really helps your child be and do better. Punishing is easy, but teaching and finding solutions take work! However, it’s rewarding work because you end up helping your child heal emotional wounds, learn to work through emotions and problems, repair relationships and take responsibility, and you get to keep a positive, trusting relationship with her. None of that happens when you simply say, “You’re grounded.”

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