While handling teeangers is certainly difficult, if done properly and according to the principles of human behavior and psychology, you could raise wonderful human beings that are an asset to society.
When your teenager snaps back at you, misbehaves with a stranger, messes up at school, or does something unsafe, you might be tempted to ground her for a week or two in the heat of the moment.
But as time passes, you’ll notice you’re having a hard time following through the punishment, and in the end you’ll have missed a wonderful teaching opportunity and gained a resentful child.
Why long-term grounding doesn’t work
Psychologists often discourage long-term grounding (and other harsh punishments), and there’s good reason for that.
Punishments are supposed to teach your teenager a lesson — something that can change his thought process and guide him towards better choices.
According to this study, harsh punishments are associated with child conduct problems, a reduction in social skills, and poorer attention spans, which is opposite of what you want to achieve with your kid!
Punishments are supposed to make teenagers realize why what they did was wrong, how they could’ve chosen a better behavior to achieve their goal, and what they can do in future to prevent their mistake from recurring.
Unless your punishments achieve this goal, they’re essentially toxic control strategies (which long-term grounding basically is).
Instead of teaching teenagers a lesson, harsh punishments redirect their thoughts, energy, and anger towards you.
The child starts focusing on how you’re so unfair — the worst parent ever.
And so something that’s supposed to improve your child’s behavior ends up making her hate you.
Plus, long-term grounding only teaches children to “do time”.
It’s like a jail, with nothing to do except fooling around and wasting time that could’ve been spent in better ways.
Also, when you inflict harsh punishments on your child, you stoop down to the level of a peer from being an authority figure and someone your child can look up to.
The message you send out is one of I’m going to show you who’s the boss here instead of I’m going to hold your hand and guide you towards being a better version of yourself.
So here are 4 positive alternatives to grounding.
1. Get them working
While this does seem like a harsh punishment, it’s better than grounding because it associates bad behavior with a clear consequence, and the consequence is a productive activity instead of having your kid just do time.
Whenever your child does something that boils your blood, take a step back, and hand them a task to do.
Write down specific instructions detailing how to perform a chore, so your child doesn’t have to ask you and there’s no room left for questioning or arguing.
You might want to take away privileges as long as the task isn’t completed.
But make sure you set clear and reasonable expectations for your teenager before implementing this system of punishment.
Your child needs to associate an unambiguous behavior with this consequence and you don’t want to leave any room for confusion or uncertainty.
2. Turn things upside down
Most parents are on the look-out for bad behavior and will go to unreasonable extents to correct it.
But not many parents are eager to identify good behavior and praise it wholeheartedly.
Teenage is a tumultuous time, and while your child might be sulky most of the time, there will definitely be periods of good behavior.
You can reinforce this behavior by taking note of it and letting your child know that you appreciate it.
This is called positive reinforcement and it’s meant to increase the frequency of good behavior, which will automatically translate into a reduction in bad behavior!
3. Use a punishment specific to a misbehavior
If you haven’t noticed, grounding is a very general punishment.
Not that it works, but you can ground your child for failing a test at school and returning to home late at night after a hangout.
Different behaviors, same punishment.
A better way to deal with specific behaviors is to hand out punishment that’s related to the behavior.
For example, when your child breaks the curfew time, ask him calmly what happened instead of yelling out in anger.
Try to understand the reason behind his behavior.
Your child will most likely come up with an excuse to justify the behavior — don’t accept it and communicate clearly why it isn’t justified.
Finally, hand out a relevant consequence, such as a reduction in curfew time for the next weekend.
The goal is to teach your child to make better choices and learn skills they don’t have. Both of these play a major role in many types of misbehavior!
4. Make them apologize
A lot of misbehavior teenagers display is related to other people, including school mates, teachers, relatives, and sometimes even strangers.
One of the most effective punishments in this regard is to have your child write an apology letter.
This will force her to acknowledge her mistake and ponder over how and where she went wrong.
It will also teach your child a valuable life-lesson, which is to apologize graciously and without hesitation. At the end of the day, your teenager will be a little more empathetic and disciplined!
Parenting can be challenging at the best of times and it is ok to seek outside support.
A behavioural psychologists can help diffuse your situation at home. Click here to find out how a child psychologist can assist you.