Changing the way many parents “ground” their kids can make some of the biggest changes in daily behavior.
Usually, what I see is parents who give children free access to all of their preferred things (e.g., iPad, Wii, PlayStation, XBOX, etc.) until the kid screws up and does something ridiculous. Then, depending on the parents, the behavior, and (more often the case) the current emotional state of the parent, the child loses access to those preferred items for a period of time (think about this for a moment and let me know if I’m right).
Usually, the period of time the item is lost is not even disclosed or is set for some crazy period of time that is not likely to happen. For example, “you can get this back when you show me you can act responsibly!” or “you have lost your PlayStation for the next 2 months, or better yet, “I’m throwing your Thomas trains in the trash.”
Here is my translation of what the parent is actually saying at these times:
- I am only going to use these highly preferred things to punish bad behavior by taking them away, so take advantage now.
- These punishments will be inconsistent, because I don’t really know when I will give them back and it will usually depend on how I’m feeling when you ask me, not really how you have behaved since taking it away.
- I will threaten to take it more than I will actually follow through (probably because I have no expectation of actually taking it away).
- I have to wait for you to screw up before teaching you anything about your behavior.
- My opportunities to teach behavior with these preferred activities therefore depends on how often you screw up.
- For however long I have said you cannot have your XBOX, I’m losing that many opportunities to use it to reinforce appropriate behavior (since you don’t have your XBOX anymore).
- Oh, and by the way, I’m not going to ensure that you stay off your XBOX by taking it into my room, so I will ground you more when AND if I catch you on it.
How about trying this on for size? At least think about it.
- Your access to these things are not a “given”
- You have the opportunity to earn these things on a daily basis
- You will earn access to them at this specific time if you have done your chores, your homework and set the table (by the way, the criteria for those things are posted on your door).
- The quicker you get those things done, the more time you have.
- If you don’t do those things, no big deal, you can earn your XBOX tomorrow.
- If you do something truly outrageous, you need to earn x number of days before getting having the opportunity to have them again.
- Oh, and by the way, I have the controllers, so the only way for you to have it is through me!
Think about this…use those preferred things more carefully and make it depend on behavior, not your emotional state at the time.
GOOD LUCK (and, as usual, let me know if you have any questions)!