Grounding

Diana Lang

Grounding is a technique in which caregivers teach children that there are consequences to their actions by taking away certain privileges or freedoms.  This is especially beneficial to start using at around 12 years of age, when many children are starting to gain new freedoms and may push the limits.

The goals of grounding are to provide the child with appropriate limits and boundaries and teach the child that there are consequences to behaving in certain ways, such as pushing these limits or crossing these boundaries.  If a child chooses to behave in contrast to the limits or boundaries set by a caregiver, grounding can be the logical consequence for the child’s behavior. [1]

How to use this method:

photo showing a girl holding a cell phone
Figure 1. Cell phones are a common item removed when grounding a child. (Image Source: pxfuel, CC0 1.0)
  • Start early: From as early on as preschool, a caregiver can begin to set boundaries and family rules for the child and should explain to the child that not following these will lead to consequences.
  • Choose specific activities to take away that are desirable to the child: When grounding, choose a tangible activity, privilege, or freedom to take away from the child such as toys, television time, or playing with friends.  The activity, privilege, or freedom must be something the child enjoys or this method will be ineffective.
  • Do not give in to guilt: Even though a caregiver may feel bad and want to give the privileges back to the child early, the child must learn that poor decisions lead to negative consequences; a child will not learn the lessons that grounding aims to teach if a caregiver does not follow through with the entire process.
  • Consistency is key: Caregivers must consistently follow through with all consequences in order for grounding, or any other guidance technique, strategy, or method, to be beneficial and successful in their child’s life. [2]

Example

  • Lucy’s parents have established the rule that Lucy can only be out with friends until 11 p.m. on weeknights.
  • One night, Lucy did not follow this rule and came back home at 1 a.m.
  • As a consequence, Lucy’s primary caregiver decides to not allow Lucy to go out with her friends in the evening for the next week and take her cell phone away from her for three days.

Key Takeaways

  • Grounding is when caregivers take away certain privileges or freedoms from a child as a consequence for undesirable behaviors.
  • The goal is to provide limits and boundaries to teach children that there are consequences when boundaries are crossed.
  • The removed privilege or freedom MUST be desirable to the child or it will not be effective in changing the behavior.
  • Once caregivers state the consequences, they must follow through with the consequence or the child’s behavior will likely remain the same.

  1. Brooks, R., & Goldstein, S. (2001). Raising Resilient Children: Fostering Strength, Hope, and Optimism in Your Child. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Zolten, K., & Long, N. (2006). Modified Grounding. Retrieved from https://extension.tennessee.edu/centerforparenting/TipSheets/Modified%20Grounding.pdf

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