--By Deb Wesselmann, MS, LIMHP
Groundings for a day, a week, a month….removing one privilege, four privileges, ten privileges… Parents or caregivers easily get stuck in a cycle of escalating punishments. “Two days of grounding didn’t work; this time it will be two weeks!” “Removing the toys didn’t work; this time everything from her room will go except the mattress!” It’s endless--and things only continue to get worse.
When you see this happening to a family in your clinical practice, ask the parents to consider whether their children view them as a source of comfort, security, safety, or emotional support. Ask, “Does your child come to you to talk about things? Does your child enjoy hugs? Does your child seek closeness and connection with you?”
Remind parents that when children forget that their parents are a source of comfort and security, they stop trusting their parents to be their guides through life. When they forget that their parents have their best interests at heart, children stop viewing their parents as a trustworthy source of information about how to live in the world. When children don’t trust their parents’ words to be in their best interest, they stop listening to their parents’ view regarding what’s important. When children stop enjoying their relationship with their parents, they stop trying to emulate them.
Offer to help parents entice their children into a trusting relationship, one in which their children will begin to view the parents as a source of comfort, connection, and security. Help parents explain to their children their reasons for their directions and requests in a way that demonstrates how much they love and care about them.
Create fun interactions between parents and children in your office to strengthen their connection. Play communication games in which parents and children practice expressing themselves and listening to one another. Assist parents in giving their children positive affirmations and words of encouragement. Strengthening children’s sense of security and connection with their parents is a simple but effective recipe for cooperation.