Creative Child

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

by Rebecca Eanes


Three Things to Do Instead of Grounding

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1. Check yourself. A lot of times, parents react quickly to misbehavior out of anger or frustration, and the choices we make in those heated moments are rarely the best choices. To effectively discipline, we must have access to our rational brains, and science says we don’t have that access when we are triggered and angry. We need to wait until we are calm and level-headed to approach the problem, so tell your child you need to calm down if you have to, but wait until you’re no longer angry before you make a decision.


2. Empathize with your child. This is the step that is confusing to many parents. We have been led to believe that we must harden to be effective disciplinarians, but my challenge to you is to actually soften. Why? Because it helps your child to soften, too. Empathizing allows your child to feel safe enough to open up to you and to take in your instruction, and because he’s not on the defensive against your punishments, it allows him to truly reflect on his behavior and get to the root of the problem. This is so much more effective than butting heads.


3. Have a meaningful conversation to find a solution. “How can you fix this?” “What could you have done instead?” “What will you do next time?” “What do you need right now?” “What brought on those emotions?” Remember, this only works well if the child is feeling safe and has a softened heart. That’s why the first two steps are critical to do first. If this is an emotionally charged conversation, she is likely to shut down.

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Ask, what it is that she needs? Is she floundering in school? What does she need? Is she being disrespectful at home? What’s the reason? What is she feeling? Is she fighting with her sister? What’s going on? The goal is to find the reason behind the behavior and to address it at its root. If she’s stressed with school work, perhaps a tutor, a chat with the teacher, or a lighter load of extracurricular activities may be the solution. If she’s being disrespectful to parents, it’s likely a feeling of disconnection and quality time is the solution. If she’s fighting with her sister, perhaps you need to teach boundaries and conflict resolution skills.


The point is that there is always a driving force behind the behavior. “You’re grounded” does nothing to find out that cause or to heal it, and it doesn’t teach better skills or self-management. If we want our children to do better, we have to heal their hurts and empower them with better tools and skills. Losing an iPhone or sitting alone in a room can’t possibly be as effective as that.

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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