At What Age Is a Child Old Enough to Be 'Grounded'?

Updated on March 11, 2013
K.C. asks from Anchorage, AK
25 answers

Hi moms, I am wondering at what age did you start to use grounding as a punishment? I have a 4.5 year old and we use time out as punishment (among other things). I think she is old enough now to be grounded, but my husband thinks she is still too young. Thanks in advance.

**Added: By grounded, I meant that she is not allowed to do a fun activity outside of the house for a day or two. We have plans to go to a bounce house place tomorrow with my best friend and her kids. My daughter was not listening tonight, so I said lets ground her tomorrow and she can't go to the bounce house. Hubby said NO, just put her in time out.

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So What Happened?

Thanks moms! I agree that she is too young for grounding, We went to the bounce house today and we had a blast. Thanks again!

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J.O.

answers from Boise on

You can't just throw out there "Well you weren't listening so now you are going to be grounded and not go to the bounce house". Now if you are at the bounce house and she is not listening you get up and leave.

Really until they reach 10-12, immediate action is the best action. Grounding only works when the child has the ability to reason through all that is happening. A 4.5 year old doesn't have that, they still work off impulse, and their control is still a work in progress.

The hubby is right.

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L.F.

answers from San Francisco on

Too young. 6 or 7, one day grounding is ok in my book. But not 4---She is too young to understand the meaning. Also only for a super, super serious thing----I don't personally think its a good form of discipline.

Do discipline that matches the infraction.

Updated

Too young. 6 or 7, one day grounding is ok in my book. But not 4---She is too young to understand the meaning. Also only for a super, super serious thing----I don't personally think its a good form of discipline.

Do discipline that matches the infraction.

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D.K.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I think there is pretty good evidence that punishment is not effective at any age. So - I don't see an age at which grounding (or time outs used the way you are using them) would be helpful.

Time outs were designed as a quiet space for a child to recover/calm themselves so that whatever the issue was can be addressed. They were NOT developed to be punishment. Does anyone believe that a 4 year old sits for 4 minutes in their time out contemplating how to be a better person next time? I think they pretty much stew about the unfairness of it all and completely forget whatever the initial offense was.

The only thing I learned when I was grounded in high school was how not to get caught next time. And I was a really good kid - never in trouble at school, rarely in trouble at home.

ETA: I might bend all my positive parenting principles if it would get me out of going to a bounce house. I would rather go to the endodontist.

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T.S.

answers from San Francisco on

Honestly I rarely "punished" my kids at this age, and if I did it was directly related to what they did.
Natural consequences.
You need to clean up the legos before we can leave to go to the park.
Since you keep fighting with your sister I'm going to separate you.
The golf club is not a sword so I am taking it away for the rest of the day.
I need you to listen to me now (at this point you make her look you in the eye and repeat back what you are saying.)
I don't see how she's going to learn how to listen by taking away a future activity. You missed the teachable moment by not making her listen when she should have been.
Grounding and other punishments are more appropriate in older children who understand full well if I do x then z will happen. At this age it's YOUR job to guide and enforce good behavior. As long as you do that consistently she will rarely have a need to be punished at all.

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B.A.

answers from Chicago on

Until a child is about 8 or 9 they don't have a solid ability to connect a future punishment to correct current behavior. Immediate restrictions such as removal of favorite toys or no treats this afternoon or loss of wii or tv for the afternoon along with at the end of the time period talking about why the restriction occured and what they need to try to do different. You will have plenty of opportunities to ground her later.

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R.M.

answers from San Francisco on

I think that's too harsh for a 4 year old. Let her go to the bounce house, or you will be punishing yourself as well. Not listening? Sounds like normal 4 year old behavior. Hubby's right.

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I.G.

answers from Seattle on

Your DD is still too young. At her age, and for a few more years, any consequence needs to be immediately after the offense.
Grounding is ongoing, if she did something in the morning and still still punished for it in the afternoon, she will fail to make the proper connection of behavior and consequence.

For most 4.5 year old a time out is plenty sufficient for discipline - I don't really see why you would need to ratchet it up. Discipline should be about learning to make good choice - not punishment.

IMO grounding is not effective until kids actually have a social life outside the home, so mostly tween/teen age.

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

How do you ground a 4.5 yo? To me grounding means she's not allowed to go anywhere without parental supervision. She's already grounded. lol

My daughter and her husband have added that their 12 year old daughter isn't allowed to use the phone when she's not allowed to go out with friends. The 9 you gets grounded to his room because he doesn't see his friends outside of school. So, I guess, if by grounding, you mean she's not able to use electronics or watch TV that could be grounded and yes, she's old enough to do that as long as you ground for short periods of time and that it takes affect immediately. If you ground her from TV for days which is what often happens with teens she'll forget the reason she's not allowed to watch TV and she'll have not learned anything about the original lesson.

After your SWH I suggest that you can tell her that unless she is listening you won't be able to go to the bounce house because it's important for her safety that she be able to listen.

Now that I've written that I strongly believe that she's not old enough to understand that. Her brain is still quite immature. That form of grounding would be more appropriate for a 6 yo or older. At 4.5 she's not able to grasp the concept of cause and effect over a several hour period of time. She needs a consquence immediately after the misbehavior.

(later: The child has to know ahead of time what the consequences are so that they can conform. It's not fair to decide on the consequence after the misbehavior. That's punishment and not discipline which is a whole other topic.)

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J.W.

answers from St. Louis on

A child is old enough to be grounded when they are old enough for the grounding to effect change.

Thing is that is a pretty hefty grounding for the first go around.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

Grounding is more for middle school age kids and up.
They have a better sense of what's right and what's wrong and staying home away from a social event (school dance, going to movie with friends, etc) is what get's their attention and helps them not to do something again.
At 4.5 a timeout (1 minute per year of age) of 4 or 5 minutes seems like an eternity to them.
The punishment needs to happen when the offense happened.
If she's not listening to you tonight - put her in time out tonight.
Tomorrow is too late - she'll never associate the punishment with what she did wrong.
Also - the punishment should fit the crime.
4.5 yr olds (even up to 7 yrs old) get busy playing and just don't hear what you say.
Things went MUCH more smoothly for us once I realized I needed to get my son's attention first, have him look me in the face, have him listen to what I say, and then have him repeat to me what he heard.
This attention thing is a developmental stage, so I think punishment for it is not the best way to resolve it.

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D..

answers from Miami on

She's too young. Right now she can't actually put "tomorrow" in her head to keep from doing something she's not supposed to do today. She is still too impulsive and needs to have consequences that are age appropriate and "fit the crime", so to speak.

If you ground her for not listening by not letting her go somewhere tomorrow, you aren't teaching her anything.

Talk to your ped about when to start grounding. I'm pretty sure he will say not for years...

Dawn

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B.S.

answers from Lansing on

I've taken away an activity from my 5 year old. Guess what? She knows I don't make empty threats and/or that I mean business. For me it worked but I can understand maybe they are too young to grasp that. In my situation it just set the precedent that mom means business.

Although I'd be careful on taking away the things that would let other family members and or other kids/parents down.

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J.M.

answers from Boston on

Sounds too harsh.

Updated

Sounds too harsh.

Updated

Sounds too harsh.

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C..

answers from Columbia on

If she doesn't go to the bounce house..... doesn't that affect the whole family? So, I would say that's not an appropriate punishment. In my opinion grounding should be a punishment that only impacts the one being grounded.

However, for what it's worth, I don't use grounding, per say, and my daughter is 12. I use more discipline... which means I give her clear explanations of what kind of behavior I want to see.... then if she makes a choice to do something else we talk about what she did.... what's the consequence and how she can fix it. Then she fixes it and we move on. there isn't PUNISHMENT for that.... because what I really want is for her to learn how to behave appropriately for the situation and to be able to apply behaviors to a similar, but unrelated, situation next time.

That's not to say there are never consequences for her. There certainly are. But I'm not about to "ground her" because she gave me attitude. Instead I call her out on the attitude, figure out what the REAL issue is, she takes steps to correct it and we move on. Sometimes that means she doesn't get to watch her TV show.... because we had to re-do homework AND talk about the correct tone of voice to use when you're frustrated.... but it was more effective than just "you can't watch TV tonight because I don't like what you did". She learns a different lesson, you know?

I also think if you are grounding a 4.5 year old for not listening you are going to have hell on your hands by the time she is 8.... and you are going to have to ramp up your punishments so severely in order for them to be impactful that I'm not sure I would want to live in your house. Punishment is supposed to be something that gets taken away that they care about. once you start taking everything away..... she will learn not to care about stuff because she knows it will just get taken away. So you're losing your currency early.

If your 4.5 year old is not listening.... get her attention. Give her 1 thing to do and then do it with her - let her know that nothing else happens until she completes her task and then praise her when she does it correctly. Be consistent. Talk WITH her instead of AT her. Usually those techniques are much more successful than punishment.

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M.D.

answers from Washington DC on

I think at that age you still need to find appropriate punishments. I don't think a full day of loss is fair for her. If she's not listening, redirect her and make her listen.

Time outs may not be working if she is continuing the same behaviors. For something like this, I'd go to the bounce house, and make her sit out for 4 minutes. That would have more of an effect on my kids than a full day at home, honestly.

But, was she not listening all day? For an hour? How bad was the behavior? Always make the punishment fit the crime. And I'm famous for getting eye to eye with my kids, telling them what the consequence will be for the continued undesireable behavior, and making sure they understand with a sound "yes ma'am" when I ask if they understand what will happen. Normally they don't like the consequence and will stop. Sometimes they don't and they face the music.

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Y.Y.

answers from New York on

it depends on the punishment like not letting her out of the house to play for a day is fine but going out with you, your friend and her kids is too much. you planned for this day and your best friend is expecting you to be there with your daughter.

if she did something not so good take away something she really like to play with or ask her not to go out for a day or two. 'not listening' is normal to 4 y/o children their attention span is shorter and not listening is different from not understanding and not following rules.

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M.F.

answers from Portland on

My 7 year old was just grounded for the first time.
The only thing I did was take away television for 3 days.
Nothing else.
That was it.
That was the very first time I grounded her.
Before that it was all time outs or loosing toys.

I would not do the punishment you are suggesting, not even to my 7 year old.
So, yes, I agree with your husband.

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J.B.

answers from Houston on

I have a 5.5 yr old, and I haven't thought of doing that yet. I agree with others about something more immediate.

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K.A.

answers from Phoenix on

I think 4 is too young for that sort of thing. I don't really think you can "ground" a kid that age. They don't have much they do outside of the family at that point.

I think when a kid has things they do independently, it is more effective to ground them. For example, DD (almost 7) was naughty today, so she has been grounded from playing with her neighborhood friends.

I do think it's way more effective on an older kid with an active social life. You take a way their ability to see or communicate with their friends and it can be pretty effective. For a 4 year old, not so much.

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A.J.

answers from Williamsport on

Personally I've never taken away privileges yet. My kds are 7, 5 and 3. For younger kids (under 5) more immediate consequences are needed or they don't make the connection. If I can't enforce right away (in public or whatever) I'll wait until we get home THAT DAY. If you are effective and consistent, follow through isn't needed very often. Time outs are pretty ineffective for lots of kids-and grounding from fun stuff is sort of like just another time out....it's sort of "a void from real life and pretending a real reckoning is happening" but really, she'll be fine if she stays home right? I mean you're not going to make her do anything super hideous as punishment while she's missing the bounce house right? So so expecting her to just be so sad that she is missing the bounce house from the comfort of her own home is not going to deter her from future bad behavior. Too drawn out, delayed and lax. I would save that for teenage years when she's depending on her social activities on a mature level and really wouldn't want to be prevented from her earned privileges-plus you can pile on chores and extra homework at that age....but not at 4.5. If you start grounding now, you'll have nothing left to use by then and you'll be keeping her in all the time from fun stuff where she could be practicing right behavior instead of dwelling on wrong... The book Back to Basics Discipline by Janet Campbell Matson is great for this age. Even my third extremely difficult child rarely needs discipline now at 3 1/2. You want to be effective and concise and consistent to avoid future bad behavior.

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M.S.

answers from Portland on

Does you husband believe in grounding? I personally think it sucks for the whole family, but that's my opinion. What do you want to ground her for or with? I mean, what is her punishment or grounding for? I guess I need more information before I can say for sure. But, at 4.5 she should be able to understand it for a short time, like the rest of the day kind of thing. Not a week by any means.

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G.B.

answers from Oklahoma City on

My kids do the normal thing when they're grounded. It's out of reach, out of mind. If you ground them they let go of that activity and just accept they can't do it. So it doesn't work for us.

For us grounding them from the computer for an hour, off their bikes for an hour, take away TV for an hour, etc....that makes much more impact than grounding them for a day or two. They just don't remember they wanted to do that after an hour or two.

So don't even do grounding. It doesn't really do anything.

Time away is much better until they're at least teens. And only for an hour or two.

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K.S.

answers from Miami on

I think it would be to far in advanced for a 4 year old. I think if she was at the bounce house place and did something that a punishment was necessary having her sit out for 4 minutes while everyone played would work. But the night before nope. I'd give her 4 minutes time out and if that doesn't cure the bad behavior take a favorite toy out of her room and put it in its own time out.

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M.T.

answers from New York on

I think it depends on the severity of the offense, and whether grounding would mean something to them. A 10 minute time out is for a minor offense, skipping a full day activity would be for a big deal. Also, for preschool aged kids, sometimes it's still hard for them to grasp the concept of time, and that today you're not allowed to go to the bouncy house place because you misbehaved yesterday. At 4 years old, is time out still effective for her? If it is, then stick with it, but if she's outgrowing its effectiveness, then you and hubby need to find something else.

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L.P.

answers from Tyler on

I think it is time to revisit wording here, substitute "grounding" for "learning consequences". How long will your daughter be able to connect the defiant action with the discipline? The answer is different for each and every child. This is a maturity issue, and your discipline approach must be at the level of your kids maturity. Connecting the misdeed with the consequences is the best form of discipline, so if your kid is mature enough to connect today's defiance with tomorrow's absence of activity, then go for it. If it is a complete stretch of logic for the misdeed and consequence to be connected in your kiddos brain, then it isn't worth it.

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