Grounding Your Teen: How to Make it Effective

Discipline Your Teen by Restricting Privileges

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Grounding your teen can be one of the most effective discipline techniques. But to really teach your teen a lesson, you'll need to restrict privileges in a way that will encourage your teen to behave differently in the future.

If you take away privileges for too short of a period, your teen won't learn a lesson. Ground your teen for too long, and the consequence will likely backfire. It's important to ground your teen for just the right amount of time - and from the right privileges - to really make it an effective consequence.

Time Limited Restrictions

Get specific about when your teen can regain his privileges. Avoid saying things like, “You can have your privileges back when you start behaving.” A vague statement that may lead to frustration and disappointment when you and your teen disagree on what “behaving” should look like. Instead, either set a time limit on the restriction, or make it clear how your teen can earn back his privileges.

Sometimes, it makes sense to remove a privilege for a set amount of time. For example, you may want to take away your child’s electronics for 24 hours. Avoid taking privileges away for too long. Removing privileges for weeks or months at a time may not be effective. Your teen will forget why the privilege was taken away in the first place.

Often one day is a good time frame to restrict privileges. If it’s a more serious offense, a few days or a week may be the best time frame.

Let Your Teen Earn Privileges Back

Sometimes, it makes sense to have your teen earn back privileges. Instead of placing a specific time frame on the restriction, establish a clear guideline of how your teen can regain privileges.

For example, if your teen is late for his curfew, set his new curfew one hour earlier.

Tell him he needs to behave responsibly for two weeks by being home on time and getting all of his chores done on time before he can earn a reward, like a later curfew. Then, leave it up to your teen to take responsibility for earning privileges back.

Make sure that your teen understands exactly what he needs to do to earn his privileges back. It can be helpful to create a signed behavior contract to ensure that everyone understands the terms.

Types of Privileges to Restrict

It’s important to remove a privilege that will cause your teen some discomfort. The privilege you choose to take away should be specific to your teen. Take away something that your teen enjoys in order to make it effective.

Sometimes you may need to take away more than one item. For example, it often makes sense to take away all electronics. If you take away just the TV, your teen may just end up watching TV on the computer anyway and it won’t be an effective consequence.

Consider taking something away that will have an impact, but don’t take everything away.

If you ground your teen from every activity, he'll lose motivation to earn his privileges back.

Remember, it's OK to take away something that your teen received as a gift or that he purchased with his money. If it’s under your roof, it’s acceptable to take it away from your teen, no matter how it was acquired.

Privileges You Shouldn’t Restrict

There are some limits to the privileges that you should restrict however. Don’t take away major privileges for minor infractions.

For example, don’t force your teen to quit a sports team because he was late for his curfew once. That’s a major consequence for a minor offense.

Also, be careful about restricting your teen’s communication with friends. If you ground your teen from going anywhere, don’t restrict your teen’s ability to talk with friends on the phone. It’s important for teens to be able to maintain social connections.

Following through with Restrictions

Restricting your teen’s privileges will only be effective if you follow through with it. Don’t give in or give up just because your teen whines or promises to behave.

Also, avoid making idle threats. If you really won’t take his phone away, don’t threaten to do so. It will only reinforce to your teen that you don’t really mean what you say.

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