Originally Posted by Jeannine
With all due respect, I think this is largely semantic. When I was a kid, my parents didn't like to "ground" us, either. (They thought we might consider it cool and teenager-ish to be "grounded"...what the heck!?) But if a kid wants to do something and a parent says you can't until your homework's done, and the kid blows off their homework and then doesn't get to do the thing...does it matter whether you call it grounding or natural consequences? The kid isn't doing what she wants, because she failed to do what was expected of her.
I think it's natural to extend this to "jerk"-y behavior. If you expect your mother to drive you to meet your friends at the movie theater, give you money for tickets and popcorn, then come and pick you up when it's done; but when she asks you to take out the trash you refuse and then you mouth off to her about something, you're risking the natural consequence that she may say, "I'm not taking you." And learning to treat people decently, and that you're not entitled to have whatever you want regardless how you behave is just as valuable a lesson as learning to manage your homework assignments. (IMO)
And sure, if breaking something is a genuine accident, grounding seems an odd response. But if, prior to driving a kid to meet her friend at the movies, Mom says five times, "Stop chasing your sister through the living room with a lasso. You're going to break something!"; the kid ignores Mom and then breaks the TV...such circumstances would be similar to the "jerk"-y behavior discussed above.
Enlarging text so I can see it more easily, hope it's not too huge for others.
For some kids, it wouldnt' matter. I have an extremely logical older child, and the WHY matters to her. Telling her, "You're grounded" wholesale for a specific infraction would have far less impact on her than the more common interaction, which might go like this:
"Can I go to the movie on Sunday?"
"If you get your homework done, first."
Sunday rolls around, and I check in with her, "Is your homework done?"
"Maybe you'll get your homework done earlier next time so you can go."
Except that usually, having a dependent reward meant that she did, in fact, get the homework done.
Attitude discussions would go like this. Not, "You've been really snotty to me, you're grounded", but "You know, you're asking me for a favor, but the last time I asked you to help out, you whined at me and refused to do it. Should I react the same way?"
Except that usually, when she started with the whining, I'd cut it off with, "You know, you're probably going to want a ride or a favor from me soon, should I react that way the next time you ask for something?" And she'd get done the task I was asking her to do.
We had a lot of conversations when we weren't in the heat of the moment, which also helped, and a lot of discussions about situations with other people that didn't go the way she wanted, and alternative ways of handling them.
So there were times when she would say no to a request for help... but she'd do it in a way that I would know exactly what the underlying issue is. I'm not an ogre, I'm not going to be spiteful to my kid if she says, "I really don't want to help with dinner, I'm having bad period cramps because it's the first day of my period," if most of the time she *is* helpful. And we established a ground rule of "Sometimes it is a request and is phrased as such, and sometimes it is necessary and is phrased as such, and sometimes it is absolutely mandatory and you'll know it from the tone of my voice."
But my point is that for her, language mattered. How a "punishment" was presented, mattered. Punishments which seem arbitrary breed resentment and distrust. Making sure the consequence was clear in advance and consistently enforced meant she could predict and control her environment.
In fact, there were times she screwed up where there was NO immediate consequence... but there was an in depth discussion about what went wrong, what caused it, and how to prevent it from happening again... AND what the consequence would be in the future. This meant she could tell me the truth with relative impunity, and she saw the consequences not as punishments, but as aids. Literally, she came to me on one occasion and said, "Mom, I need a consequence."
Amused, I asked "Why?"
She explained that she was having trouble remembering to turn her homework in on time, it would get done and sit in her notebook. There was no real consequence in class (second grade) other than a disappointed look from the teacher.
I asked her when she would realize she'd forgotten to turn in her homework, and she said, "After school, when I open my notebook to do my new homework."
And I said, "So perhaps that's part of getting homework done, and if you open your notebook and discover your homework, you won't be able to finish your homework until you turn it in the next day."
Finishing homework + some outside play = pretty much as much screen time as she wanted aside from family/chore time. So discovering homework was "not completeable" until the next day = no computer or tv that evening.
It was a Friday. She said, "That sounds fair. I guess I can't watch TV this weekend."
I said, "No, you came to me with a problem and told me the truth and asked for a consequence. It would not be fair to enforce a consequence when you have no chance of fixing the problem until Monday, and did not know the consequence existed when you could have done something about it. So we'll start Monday, and if you forget then, THEN we'll do it." Interestingly enough, we never DID have to bring that into play during elementary school. Simply knowing where the line was was enough.
Similarly, if she forgot her lunch once in a school year, I might make a trip to the school to bring her lunch. But not a second time.
Property damage and injury don't get as much of a cushion as homework problems, but even so, the consequence needs to fit the issue, IMO.
The equivalence to grounding is only relevant if the issue is "We have an established curfew and you didn't call or get home on time, and therefore you won't be going out in the evening unless someone is willing and available to ensure you come home on time." or some other issue directly related to "Being out of the house" (for you're grounded to the house) or "Doing fun things with friends", etc.
I want to put control of behavior into my kids' hands, so that they know that what they do affects how pleasant their lives are.
K once asked me, "What if I just said no to that?"
I said, "Well, you could say no, but since it's something you really need to do, and I didn't give you the option not to do it, digging your heels and fighting with me about it is going to have me looking for ways to make your life less easy and pleasant, and I'd really rather not have our relationship go down that path. You're getting too big for me to 'make you', so yeah, I probably can't force you to do it, but I'm a pretty creative person, and I suppose I can find ways to make you really wish you had."
We never did go down that road. I try to be as reasonable as possible, but I also know that there have been situations in our lives where "instant obedience" has been critical to safety, and it is necessary for people in this family to know how to take orders when orders are necessary. There are times when negotiation and discussion are fine, but my family knows that I'm generally reasonable, and if I'm barking orders, there's probably a dang good reason behind it. When you've got a special needs little one with medical issues and a violent streak and your own mobility issues, having someone around who responds instantly to "catch her!", or "Go upstairs and get the neb equipment and suction RIGHT NOW," is really, really important. Camping, or boating, or other fun but not perfectly low risk activities are also places where the voice of command response can be essential. (I was at the receiving end of this as a young teenager, when I accidentally chopped into a beehive while gathering firewood. My scout leader's quick response and barked orders meant I ended up with 3 stings instead of 30.)
Regardless, we have never once had a situation where the words "You're grounded" would have been as effective as a more targeted and talked out consequence, and I think her relationship and mine are much better for it, and have been since she was four. On the other hand, my special needs 6 year old IS effectively grounded, but doesn't know it because she neither has the cognitive capability to comprehend the "punishment" nor the ability to follow directions meaningfully, and so we've had to structure her life and ours around keeping her safe and me sane. It's not a punishment, it's just that if she had the run of the house (let alone the neighborhood) her lifespan would be measured in hours, not years, and so would mine because she practically gives me a heart attack every time we're out of our "safe spaces" for very long. Still no point in saying the words. It takes her dozens of repetitions to understand cause and effect...her sister could get it from an explanation, not even have to experience the full cycle.
But with my niece, who is two and a half, the consequence of whining and demanding is that Aunt Jen says "No", and she's gradually getting that she's much more likely (though not guaranteed) a "Yes" if she asks politely. And it works much better with her if I explain that the "No" is because she said, "Give me that, I need it" rather than saying, "May I please have that, I want it." Without the explanation, without giving her a way to succeed, the "punishment" is pointless. We do have natural consequences... I don't like screaming, so people who scream (absent extreme physical pain) who don't need to be here don't get to stay in my space. Her screaming at my house has dropped about 95%. But as always, when she gets sent back over to her house (about 10 feet from mine), there is always the statement, "Oops, you're screaming, time to go home. Maybe next time you can use your words." Is it a grounding? Mostly it's just a "Sending home". And it's still a ball that's in her court. .