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Why Grounding Doesn't Work


I was grounded a lot as a tween/teen.

I can now understand where my mom was coming from.

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 was not a passive parent.

She wasn’t about to sit back and let me treat her or others like crap. 

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


Today, as a Family Coach and Parent Coach I don’t believe in, nor teach, grounding. I have never grounded my kids and don’t plan to start.

Yes, I am passionate about discipline, authority, respect, rules, and kids having consequences. 

If you ground your kids, you probably have high hopes and good intentions. You want your kids to mature and learn from their poor choice. 

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. 


  1. Grounding Often Leads To Hiding, Lying and Deception 

While I am not a Yale researcher, I have listened to tweens and teens for 21 years tell me their thoughts about grounding.

 They tell me things like,

 “Why would I talk to my parents about that, I know I’ll just get in trouble.”

“I hide this from my dad and would 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.”


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

I have an expression like to say to parents...

15 years ago, I co-founded a unique men’s prison basketball team.

It's in the prison (where I was a visitor!), I came up with the expression.

My basketball team was made up of my friends from the San Franciso Bay Area. We travel once a month into San Quentin Prison and play basketball against the San Quentin Prison All-Star basketball team, pictured above.

 The SQ team is composed of murders, violent offenders, dealers, thieves and all types of convicts. (From ESPN , USA Today, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Etc, the program has been featured in articles around the world, and a movie was recently made about the program!

I have learned a lot about people, and about trust, from the 12 years, I traveled to prison to play basketball against, and talk with, the men of San Quentin.

The expression I like to say to parents is,

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


 It’s true. No 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.

 Why? They would never trust the warden. They would always be fearful that if the warden knew the real person, he might be further punished.

 In other words, it’s hard to be close and honest with someone who can easily lock you up!


While it’s an absurd analogy in many ways, this same psychological effect can occur with your kids. Grounding your children may make them second-guess them telling you a secret, a personal story or admitting a bad choice.

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


I sometimes hear teens say, “I hate my parents.”

 When I hear this I know that some form of grounding has probably taken place.

 For some teens, grounding makes them 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 Their Heart, 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

-How to say things like, “What can I do to help make this right?” and “How can I help repair the pain I have done?” and “Your trust is important to me. What can I do to help earn back the trust I have lost?

Grounding doesn’t require a teen to do or say any of these things.

Grounding doesn’t teach a tween how to communicate.

Grounding doesn’t give an action-oriented path towards reconciliation.

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


We want to be close with our children.

We understand that a close relationship will foster their obedience, open communication and their personal maturity.

We understand that a close relationship maximizes our voice and wisdom in their life. 


Grounding doesn't connect with their heart.

I didn't need some Yale scholar to tell me this.

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

 If you need alternatives to grounding, then:

 1. Enroll in my Parenting Teens Masterclass.

2. Read more of our parenting articles.

Like this one or this one.

3. Book a Parent Coaching session with me via Facetime, Skype, or phone!


Be Strong. Stay Close. Teach Wisdom.


 Your Friend,

Sean Donohue

Family Coach 

Founder of

 Click HERE to go deeper with Sean's coaching and take our Parenting Assessment!

Click HERE to schedule a "Parent Coaching" session with Sean.

Click HERE for Sean's article, "Why Teens Need EQ Skills".

Click HERE to read Sean's article, "How To Evaluate Your Teen's Emotional Maturity".




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