Do you know how happy I was when the little girl was finally old enough to be grounded? As a younger child, she was infinitely adaptable to whatever kind of consequence we’d give. Threaten to take a toy away? That was effective until we actually had to carry through, and then she realized it wasn’t that big of a loss. Time out? There was always some form of entertainment nearby. We finally had to tell her to “pick a square” meaning she had to choose a 12-inch tile in the kitchen or dining room and not let her little behind leave that space until time out was over. There was never any consequence that we could count on to actually be distasteful to her. But now that she’s a tweenish sort, grounding her from phone, TV, friends, and computer is finally a consequence with some teeth.
Today she was sassy to me when I asked her to turn down the speaker phone while she was talking to her friend. They play an online computer game together with the speaker phones turned on so they can have real-time conversation. Her friend lives 3 hours away so I allow this kind of crazy phone/computer use.
But I digress. Because of her sassmouth, I told her she needed to get off of the phone. Things escalated and ended with her telling me she was going to go out to the woods by herself. Fine. “The woods” are just a few wooded lots behind our house. I thought it would be a good cooling down so I allowed it.
Not ten minutes go by, and she yells in the back door, “I’m going to go a little farther than the woods!”. You can guess what my response was. A quick and unequivocal “NO!”
Another ten minutes go by, and I go out to check on her. It turns out that she had indeed gone farther than the woods. Far enough that she didn’t immediately respond when I called her. It turns out that she had gone as far as the little neighborhood lake across the street from the woods, which is a big big big no-no at our house. No children at the lake unattended. Just not safe.
So of course she got chewed out all the way home. And of course she cried and said she was sorry. She said she hadn’t heard me tell her “no” since she had already closed the door and was on her way down the sidewalk by the time I said it. (Don’t worry, I let her that was not a valid excuse! She was still expected to do what I said, even if she didn’t wait around to hear what it was.) And then she wanted to know what the consquence would be. She knew she’d be grounded, but she didn’t know how long it would be. I sent her to her room and then waited for Tony to come home so we could discuss. (The final result: Not allowed in the woods for a full week. Grounded from TV, phone, computer, and friends for the rest of today and two more days.)
Here’s the thing. Once she accepted that she was grounded, she became a totally different child. She became sweet. She wanted to sit with me on the couch. And she wanted to have conversation. And she immediately decided she’d write a book. “The Eight Days of Halloween”. Within 30 minutes, she’d written two “chapters”, each a full page on standard notebook paper.
It happens like this every time. She’s much sweeter when she’s grounded than when she has access to computer, phone, or TV. I suppose if I were a good parent (or one with a backbone), I’d take that as motivation to remove her from all electronic media. Cancel our Dish. Declare our house a TV- and computer-free zone.
But given that we’ve defined a media-free existence as a consequence for bratty behavior, in her mind we’d be putting her on permanent punishment. That hardly seems fair. “Because you bring your attitude into check whenever you get this consequence, let’s just have the consequence all the time!” Yeeeeahhhh, that’d go over well. And then, what would we do for consequences when the sassmouth or bratty behavior bubbled to the surface again? I don’t think “pick a square” would work any more.
So we’re kind of stuck. My child is much nicer to be around when she’s grounded, but she can’t stay grounded all the time. I find myself secretly being glad when I get to ground her. Sick, isn’t it?