Thursday, April 16, 2015


"You're Grounded!"  Uh oh - you shouted in anger but now what????

I recently read an article on Facebook entitled “Congratulations – You’re Grounded”.   It detailed a list of chores with point values and told the errant child he needed to earn 500 points to get ungrounded.  A friend asked my opinion which I couldn't  reduce to a nice sound bite so here is my reply!

My first thought was that most everything on the list was a basic chore that kids should be doing anyway – as members of “Team Family”.  Kids don’t make much money so they can’t help pay the bills.  But their family is the most important team they will ever belong to.  Every sports team I know of requires all members to work hard at making the team successful.  A family should be no different!  So chores it is – from a young age!  Chores are not about punishment – they are about learning to run a house, learning to be responsible and helping to create the free time for fun family activities.

So the list struck me as much too simplistic.  The only truly extra chores on the list were washing and detailing the family car and writing a nice letter to a family member (I liked that one!).  Everything else was the fabric of daily life – washing dishes, emptying the dishwasher, cleaning one’s own room, vacuuming, laundry, taking out garbage, etc.    If you teach kids to do chores from about age 4 onward, it becomes a core responsibility of the household – occasional grumbling, of course, but no blatant refusal to participate if handled without too much drama.

Now on to grounding:   Grounding should not be used lightly.  It should be reserved for majorly unacceptable behaviors – times when your child needs a huge wake up call.  If over used (like any punishment) it loses its WOW factor and serves to create hostile, rebellious kids – probably because over use generally means micromanagement and micromanagement creates rebellion!  Micromanagement also means you are not giving kids the freedom they need to learn life’s important lessons by trial and error – but that is a whole other topic!

So if a child has committed a great big, terrible, awful behavior, grounding makes good sense.  And at its core, the chore list meant the kid couldn't just sit alone in his house to serve his sentence.  That is a GREAT idea – sitting around gives too much time for brooding over having the meanest, most unreasonable parents on earth and thinking up all the arguments why his crime was not wrong or not his fault.

But I would make the list much more meaningful.  I would select things that take up significant amounts of time – detailing the cars, cleaning out the basement, the attic, painting the picket fence, the garage, big spring/fall cleaning chores like washing all the curtains and rehanging over washed windows, etc.  Make the list worthy of about 2 weeks of spare time.  Your child then actually chooses how long he is grounded without you ever saying a word.  It will be at least 2 weeks, but as much longer as he chooses to let it play out before he completes the list.  So he can brood or mope or cry foul, but he is only extending his sentence.  When he decides to move forward I am often surprised when parents report a happier kid, a creative kid (figuring out how to get this done faster and better) and a more responsible, respectful kid.  So let the brooding continue with little or no discussion and just wait calmly for your child to choose when to move on.

Once this little episode plays out, your child will have no question over what he did wrong and how he got himself out of it.  Those strong lessons will help your child act more responsibly the next time he is faced with outrageous choices!

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