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Does grounding a teen work?

“You’re grounded!”  Angry voices, hardened hearts and slammed doors often punctuate the punishment.  How effective is grounding a teen?  A better question focuses on the goal of the grounding:  punishment or discipline.  Is the grounding a reactive response to undesirable behavior?  Or is it a forewarned consequence with proactive aspects?  Like any parenting tool, grounding can produce great results—or rebellious destruction.

As a punishment, grounding a teen—isolating an adolescent from social interactions—definitely has an impact.  Developmentally, a teen naturally focuses on understanding and expressing individuality in the context of social friendships.  Grounding directly affects that critical aspect of life.  In our technological age, any effective grounding involves the elimination of electronic communication as well.  The very life-blood of teens feels cut off when grounded; fighting back is the natural response.  Punishment roots itself in a mentality of suffering produces learning; an angry revengeful attitude powers punishment. Like produces like…anger and vengeance produce anger and vengeance.

As a discipline, the same consequence—grounding—can create positive results.  Any time a consequence directly relates to the precipitating event, the potential for positive change is greater.  For example, grounding a youth who has foolishly chosen to attend a party they knew would have alcohol makes intuitive sense.  Poor judgment with social interactions naturally leads to less choice in those activities.  Alternatively, a youth grounded for a disrespectful attitude will likely respond with more rebellion.  Natural consequences, preferably discussed before the need arises, are a valuable parenting tool.

The teen years are a proving ground of earlier child training.  In adolescence, the parenting job transitions to ‘application.’  The values taught in childhood now have great opportunity for expression.  Parents must help teens learn to establish priorities and develop character to assume responsibilities.   Effective discipline, not punishment, is a tremendous ally.  Discipline always demonstrates respect; it delegates responsibility to the youth and helps them develop self-discipline.  Discipline does not control or micro-manage; it redirects and builds.

God entrusts our children to us; His Word, His grace and His mercy must emanate in every aspect of our parenting.  Enjoy your blessings and disciple with discipline.

Ephesians 6:4

(4)  And the fathers, stop provoking your* children [or, stop making your* children resentful], _but_ be nourishing them in [the] discipline and instruction of [the] Lord.

Grounding a teen as a tool to develop better habits and wiser choices is beneficial.  Using grounding as a punishment is likely to backfire.  How have you effectively used—or benefited from—parental discipline?  What has been your experience with punishment:  did it produce positive results or a rebellious heart?


About Billie Jo

Billie Jo is wife to Craig and mom to Rusty and Riesa. Formerly employed in the human service industry, the past fifteen years have been dedicated to homeschooling. She is a freelance writer for a number of print and internet publications. She is also passionate about serving in the community. She works in a GED preparation ministry and a community-based servant program that provides opportunities for youth to serve others. It is passion for the love of Jesus and His transforming work that motivates her writing and serving. "I love to see God at work in the lives of others and this is the way I see best."

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