If there’s one thing that parents learn when they ground their kids, it’s that they are also grounded. A useful discipline technique usually reserved for severe infractions of the rules, grounding for long periods of time can erode motivation for a change in behavior. Resentments can develop as the child focuses on the punishment rather why they got grounded in the first place. One-day grounding solves that issue, and frees parents up, as well.

As a foster mom, it was imperative that I build relationships and buy-in with kids who were weary of being in a foster family. Grounding counteracted relationship building. One of my foster kids, who lived with me for over two years, had a significant case of ADHD and engaged in numerous inappropriate behaviors, due to his difficult life. Two days into a two-week grounding, he forgot why he was in trouble, but remembered that I was the one who doled out the punishment. Three days into the grounding, I realized that this was not working, for either of us!

This great kid inspired one-day grounding. Because he struggled with remembering what he did wrong and felt persecuted over a long grounding, I changed his correction to a severe grounding, based on his inappropriate behaviors. But, it only lasted one day instead of seven or 14. Here’s how it works:

  1. Use a dry erase board, or chalk board.
  2. List every privilege the child has. (Ideally, have a range of less-preferred to highly-preferred items and activities listed)
    1. Electronics: iPhone, TV, computer (except for homework), video games
    2. Games and toys: bicycle, Legos
    3. Social Opportunities: play with friends, play with sibling(s), etc.
  3. Have your child wipe off or draw through one item/activity per infraction. They get to pick which ones. (It’s okay if there was only one very serious infraction for it to “cost” two privileges.)
  4. For the rest of the day, the child would lose access to the items/activities listed.
  5. In the morning, give your child a cloth to literally wipe the slate clean.
  6. Encourage your child that today is a new day and they can begin fresh.

My foster kid thrived with this system. He might have been angry in the process of picking what privileges he would lose but, when he calmed down, he told me that this system seemed fair to him. Because he chose what privileges to do without, I relinquished my enforcer status. Instead of continuing the lecture with, “You should have known better,” I could say, “I am really sorry you chose that behavior. Now you can’t play video games.”

I became my child’s ally while he had to own his behavior. This opens doors to learning personal responsibility. Parents can focus on helping their child make better choices rather than just enforcing the punishment.

My sweet kid had a particularly bad day at school one day. It was so bad that he lost every single privilege and he had to go to bed 30 minutes early. His only privilege that night was sitting on the couch and reading a book. That difficult moment opened the door to a supportive conversation where I could express my love, commiserate with him, and encourage him to do better the next day. In the morning, when he wiped the slate clean, a huge smile crossed his face and it gave him hope.

One-day grounding is intense and over quickly. It motivates the child to keep their privileges by behaving appropriately and frees up parents’ time and energy.