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Grounding Children: Why, How and Side Effects

Grounding Children: Why, How and Side Effects

You might be wondering why one would ground a child and what the effects are of it. Grounding is a method of punishment that prohibits a child from leaving their room or house for a predetermined period of time as a consequence of their own actions.

When a parent grounds their child, they impose a series of penalties with varying degrees of severity. Grounding Children: Why, How and Side Effects

These could involve cutting access to the WIFI, revoking phone privileges or even temporarily ban them from seeing their friends.

Ultimately, if you're unclear about your reasons for grounding them or if you ground them too much, you're doing more harm than good...

In this article, we will discuss how you should go about grounding your children as well as some side effects associated with it so you know exactly what you're getting into.

Common Reasons Parents Use Grounding As A Punishment


  • If you've asked your kid to conduct themselves a certain way and they've deliberately ignored you, you may have to restrict them.


  • We all know the difference between rough play and all-out violence, with the latter being completely unacceptable - this could come in the form of bullying or physical fights, neither of which should be allowed to go unchallenged.



  • Children lie in between, mostly to get themselves out of sticky situations, however, if it becomes a frequent occurrence, this could be the time to roll out grounding.


  • Some parents have to deal with the problem of their children stealing from them - theft is a serious issue that, if not addressed and quickly, might get out of hand. You may consider restricting them to help them put a stop to this habit.

Bad habits

  • As children grow up, they can develop various habits - some more unfortunate than others and can be detrimental to both their social and emotional development. As a consequence, grounding can be used as a deterrent to correct this type of behaviour.

Side Effects Of Grounding Kids

Grounding your children may, ultimately, give parents what they want, even in the younger ones, however, unless done properly, it can have unwanted side effects  that we all could do well to avoid:

They might hold a grudge:

If your child feels like they have been embarrassed by you particularly in front of their peers by grounding them, they may hold a grudge against you. Although this is most often associated with older children (tweens/teenagers), some younger kids have also been known to harbour similar feelings.

They might develop an irrational fear or anxiety:

If you ground your child without a good cause and/or explanation, you run the risk of them losing confidence in themselves because it leads to them to second-guess all of their actions, ie not knowing exactly which one triggered the grounding, thus allowing them to potentially develop an irrational fear of punishment + associated anxieties.

They might become defiant:

Whilst being grounded might strike fear in younger children, some teenagers seem to thrive on it and will go out of their way to do things that they know is a sure-fire way to getting grounded.

As a bit of a side-bar: If you are repeatedly grounding your child for the same things, it may be time to change tactics...

They might learn to wear you down

Children have a certain skill for repeatedly requesting anything they want (think Bart Simpson: "Are we there yet?") and you end up giving in to their demand. Eventually, they learn which buttons to push AND how to get to what they want more quickly, thus making it into a game. At this point, grounding loses all it's power because your child already knows they have the ability to wear you down.

They might get confused

In order for grounding to be effective, your child needs to to understand the concept of actions vs. consequences.

If they repeatedly do things that they have been told are unacceptable, you need to explain to them what will happen if they do not stop.

By not doing so, your child may not understand a) why they are being punished and b) how the punishment relates to the "crime".

As is human nature, they will try to look (and probably find) loop holes for how to regain that consequences they had taken away from them, especially if they're not sure why.

What You Should Do When Grounding Your Child

You might believe that grounding your youngster is the only way to teach them a lesson. However, there are certain procedures you must follow in order for grounding to be successful:

1. Define conditions and consequences in advance

Try not to give out vague directions or instructions - "behave or else" doesn't really mean anything to a child. Explain to them what will happen if they don't behave ("No screen time for the week, because..." thus making it easy for them to understand what's happening to them and where that fits into everything else they know about the world.

2. Focus on short-term expectations

It's difficult to maintain long-term objectives when children are young. As a result, you should offer them guidance that will help them focus on things longer, ex:  instead of "You should study well so that you do well at the end of the year," say, "Do this homework today and study for the exam tomorrow".

When they've completed the assigned work, be sure to compliment them - positive reinforcement is a wonderful approach to teach proper conduct.

3. Start a conversation

When you discover that your child has done something wrong, the first thing you should do is begin a conversation with them.

Create an atmosphere where they feel secure enough to talk to you without fear of being condemned. This is the greatest approach for giving them advice on the situation.

Your child needs to know that they can talk to you, no matter what, and worrying about how you're going to react makes them much less likely to accept any kind of guidance from you.

4. Ask your child what they think

Allow your kid to express their viewpoints and ideas. They must have gone through a specific process to arrive at their final decision, so you'll know what motivated them to take certain steps.

It's better not to interrupt them while they're talking, especially if they have a point.

It might be easy to correct each idea as it comes out of their mouth, but remain calm and allow them to finish what they have to say before offering them advise.

When your youngster speaks his or her thoughts aloud, he or she may acquire a new perspective on their behavior.

5. Discipline based on intent and not actions

If your kid has committed an act of immaturity in a fit of rage, keep the focus on what they wanted to accomplish rather than the act itself. For instance, if they have damaged something in anger, educate them on how to express their feelings instead of dwelling on the destroyed item.

This teaches your child that although they have the ability to express their feelings, they should not destroy things or harm others + reinforces that there are always consequences to actions, regardless of age.

6. Ensure that grounding is fair

When it comes to grounding, you should avoid or limit it while your children are young, but you must ensure that all of your kids are disciplined whenever they behave incorrectly.

Just make sure that it is maintained across the board - keep it fair so that none of your kids feels left out or trapped when they are grounded.

7. Do not overdo it

One of the most successful ways to ground a kid is to cut down on their favorite activities. However, go overboard and your child may become hostile rather than learn anything from the grounding.

Stop them from seeing people and/or events they like depending on the nature/degree of their actions.

8. Keep groundings short

Groundings for long periods of time appear to do more harm than good - children, particularly those who are older, find ways to circumvent or cheat the system.

Long groundings also prevent you from teaching good behavior. If they do something that justifies an extended grounding, maybe think about other ways of disciplining them.

9. Avoid complete grounding from social media

If you the option of restricting your child's social media use appealing, think again -  it may have a negative impact on their social skills.

Aside from keeping in touch with their pals,  these days, lots of children use social media/the web to stay current on schoolwork - cutting off all communication (ie. taking away their phones/devices) could put a dent in their education.

Instead, try limiting their access and/or time online.

10. Give them chances to reduce their grounding

Let your children “reduce” portions of their grounding for good behaviour by allowing them to do chores around the house or finish their homework on time.

If they manage to keep it up, you can then reduce the length of time they are grounded.

11. Give your child an opportunity to fix their error

Once you have discussed your child's actions, give them a chance to fix what they did or didn't do.

That way, they can begin to figure out how to fix their mistakes in the future - they'll learn to assess their conduct and eliminate distractions that take away their attention from the most pressing concerns.

12. Be empathetic

Never forget: You were once your child's age and like you, they are just trying to find their feet in the world.

When you begin empathising with your children, you're immediately on the lookout for solutions rather than yelling at them and restricting them.

The key to a good parent-child relationship is open communication - your child will be more willing to discuss various aspects of their life with you and seek your help.

When not done correctly, grounding children might look like the most effective approach to enforce rules/regulations, but it may drive them away from you if done incorrectly.

Do it reasonably and do let your kids make mistakes so they can learn from them.

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