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Why Grounding Doesn't Work...


I learned a lot about parenting, and grounding kids, from going to prison.

I was grounded a lot as a tween/teenager. (That's me in the photo.)

I talked back.I was often disrespectful.

I bullied my younger sister, Megan.

I had fun breaking rules.

I was angry.

I was opinionated.

I didn’t like being told what to do. 


My mom did not like this. And she was not a passive parent. This strong woman wasn’t about to sit back and let me treat her, or others, like poorly. 

I got grounded. A lot. (Did I say that already?)

 Today, I am a world-renowned Family Coach, my podcast is a Top 10 parenting podcast in the world, and I don’t believe in, nor teach, grounding.

I have never grounded my kids or my grown teenagers... and don’t plan to start.

Yes, I am passionate about authority, structure,  respect, rules, and kids having consequences, but I have also never used Time Outs, Naughty Chairs, or stupid Star Charts. 

Why Grounding?

Parents ground because they have high hopes and good intentions. You want your kids to mature and learn from their poor choice. Learn their lesson. Learn that life has harsh consequences. You can't act this way, or else...

The problem is...

  1. Research Shows Grounding Doesn’t Work

 Yes, some smarty-pants over at the Yale Parenting Center have done a bunch of studies and have concluded that grounding a teen doesn’t change their heart, their attitude or their behavior. Those people are very smart.


  1. Grounding Often Leads To Them Hiding, Lying, Deception...and Avoiding You 

I have listened to your kids for 24 years. Many have told me their thoughts on grounding.

 They say things like,

 “Why would I talk to my parents about that, I know I’ll just get in grounded. I'm good on my own.”

“I always hide this from my dad and will never tell him…he would freak out and ground me.”

“My mom thinks grounding affects me, but I just play on my XBOX/phone the whole time and then go right back to what I was doing. She’s an idiot.”

 “It’s so easy to lie to my parents. I don't even care of I get grounded.”


  1. Grounding Usual Hurts Closeness and Trust…and Could Lead To Hatred

I have a phrase I like to say to my clients, and I want to say it to you. 

In 2006 I was a newlywed husband and grad student and co-founded a unique men’s prison basketball team, which still exists today.

I went to prison. A lot. As a visitor!

I came up with the parenting expression while playing basketball against the inmates.

My team travels into the notorious prison once a month to play against the prison All-Star team. This is an actual photo from inside the gates.

 The SQ All-Star team is composed of murderers, violent offenders, drug dealers, violent thieves and all types of convicts. (ESPN , CNN, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, CNN, and many other news outlets have featured the basketball program a movie was recently made about the program, produced by basketball superstar Kevin Durant.) 

I have learned a lot about parenting from the 17 years I traveled into prison to play basketball with murderers and robbers.

The phrase I like to say to my clients is,

You can’t be best friends with the warden of the prison.”


It’s true. No prison inmate would ever want to become close with the San Quentin warden. No inmate would ever want to share intimate secrets or details with the warden. They taught me that.

 Why? An inmate would never trust the warden. They would always be fearful that if the warden knew their real self, and/or what they really did inside the prison walls, they might be further punished. The warden has so much power, and is not fully trustworthy. The warden isn't a friend. 

It’s hard to be close, connected and honest with someone who can lock you up!

While it’s an absurd analogy in many ways, this same psychological effect can occur within our kids.

Grounding your children may make them second-guess them telling you a secret, a personal story or admitting a bad choice. They may not feel safe telling you the truth, inviting you to help them process a decision. They may see you as a warden.

It's much safer to lie, hide and avoid.

"Why would I be honest with you when I know I would just get in trouble?" - Our Kids

 I sometimes hear kids say to me, “I hate my parents.”

 When I hear this, I KNOW that some form of grounding or poor punishment has probably taken place in that home.

For some kids/teens, grounding makes them angry. Very angry. They feel controlled and powerless. No teen wants to feel locked up.

 And if the teen is already angry…it may give birth to hatred. 



  1. Grounding Doesn’t Foster A Heart Connection, Their EQ or Their Reconciliation Skills


We want our children to learn the difference between right and wrong.

We want our children to learn there are consequences for bad choices.

But we also want them to learn…

-How to reconcile when they have hurt someone

-How to earn back trust when they have lost it

-How to share their true feelings and emotions

Grounding doesn’t require a teen to do or say anything. It's doesn't help them learn or grow.

Grounding doesn’t teach a tween how to communicate.

Grounding doesn’t help a child learn socio-emotional processing and dynamics. 

Grounding doesn’t invite the young person to emotionally engage with a hurting person in order to heal, learn and reconcile. 

Grounding doesn't connect with their heart.

And I don't need some Yale smarty-pants to tell me this, it's obvious.

And this teenager on the right knows this from first-hand experience.  (That's me.)

If you need alternatives to grounding, then join me in my VIP Membership, I would love to help you reach your child's heart. Your teenager's heart. 

Book a call with me and let's chat about it.

Listen to my podcast, The Sean Donohue Show.


Be Strong. Stay Close. Teach Wisdom.


 Your Friend,

Sean Donohue

Family Coach 

Founder of