Teddy, have you forgotten who you are?
– Parent to elderly acquaintance when he was a child
Many years ago, I had a conversation with an older gentleman who related that that was the common phrase uttered by his mother when he misbehaved or did something dumb. The implication of the phrase was that he had been raised to not only know better but to actually behave better as well. His parents assured that he knew the difference between right and wrong and could never blame misbehavior or errors in judgment on not having known. In a sense, they wanted to assure that he knew who he was and that he was firmly grounded in the family values. Perhaps it’s something that we miss and need to remember when we ground our own children for disciplinary reasons. Grounding isn’t just a punitive measure because we’re either too terrified to let them out or we just want to throw away the key in complete frustration.
To say that a person is grounded is typically a compliment, such as she’s a good person who’s really grounded. If you look up ground in the Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, there are a multitude of definitions and one of them pertains to furnishing "with a foundation of knowledge." Apply that to the person who’s really grounded and you mean that she has a solid understanding of herself and the world around her.
When kids screw up, and it can be spectacular, one of the common parental responses is to ground the child from favorite activities or pastimes so that they learn from the transgression. But that can also mean banishment to the bedroom or some other place away and apart from the family. In the short term, it means that the child will stay alive a little while longer and that you will too because that risk of stroke is lessened when they’re absent. Unfortunately, it’s only to likely be a short term fix if there’s no continual involvement and followup to re-engage and help him remember who he is and what the family values are. In the heat of the moment, we forget that the root of the word discipline pertains to learning and teaching and that means that we have to be the adults and put away the anger and fear; we must make purposeful efforts to spend time with them in whatever way possible to help reconnect them to the family values and lessons. I have to rake, come hold the bag for me. I’m going to take the car in for an oil change, come along and we’ll go next door for a soda. Come and watch this with me, I think that it’s something that you’ll appreciate. I’m going to walk the dog so get your jacket on and grab a plastic bag. In other words, it does no good to ground them if we make no further efforts to ground them as well.
The next time that you have to ground your child, take a little time to cool off. Spend the evening away from him, take a walk, drink a beer or go beat your head to a bloody pulp against the wall. After things are back in perspective, then go back and start the hard work of actually grounding your child.