What Is an Appropriate Time for a Teenager to Be Grounded For?

Breaking curfew, speaking to you in that tone of voice or getting bad grades are just a few of the acts your teenager might require discipline for. Teenagers are bound to do something that requires a good old fashioned grounding. While it’s an effective punishment for most teens who exhibit a lapse in judgment, the length of time that it’s appropriate to ground your teen for is something you should consider seriously before issuing this method of punishment.

Grounded for the Short Term

Short-term grounding is the best idea when it comes to your teen, according to Texas-based psychologist Carl Pickhardt. Grounding your teen for a week or longer is not a sound idea, Pickhardt says. Days are much more effective. According to Pickhardt, teens who are grounded longer than just a few days risk their social standing, which can have negative long-term effects.

Grounding a Little Longer

Because short-term grounding is better than long-term grounding, you might not think you need to consider anything long term. However, you can ground your teen for a week or more if you ground her in a way that isn’t going to affect her socially. According to the Children’s Trust Fund of Massachusetts, a program designed to help families by providing familial support and activities, you can ground your teen for a week if you only ground her in a limited way 1. For example, if your teen breaks her curfew on a Friday night, limit her to an earlier curfew for a week or two.

Why Long-Term Grounding is Ineffective

According to social worker Carole Banks, a writer for the Empowering Parents website, when you ground your teen longer than a week you are essentially putting him under house arrest. This does not help him change his behavior because he might think he has anything else to lose. For example, being grounded for a month is more likely to make your teen figure out how to get by until he’s free again such as sneaking phone calls before you get home from the office or logging on to the Internet when you’re in bed. He’s not learning to change his behavior, he’s just learning to survive until he isn’t under lock and key anymore.

How to Make Short-Term Grounding Effective

Before you ground your teen for her misbehavior, talk to her about what she did, why she did it, why it’s wrong and why she’s being grounded the way she’s being grounded, whether it’s a short-term inability to go out or a long-term punishment of an earlier curfew. According to Banks, restricting her for a few days helps her evaluate her behavior and learn from her mistakes. She’s then given back her power of decision-making, which comes with the responsibility of making better decisions.