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Redefining “Grounding” for your Teens

By Lloyd J. Thomas

Parents of teenagers often perceive "grounding" as an effective form of punishment for misbehavior: "Since you came in an hour after curfew last night, you're grounded for the next two weeks." Unfortunately, keeping a teenager cooped up in the house for a couple weeks is often more punishing of the parent than it is of the adolescent.

Teenagers often perceive being grounded as cruel and unusual punishment. It deprives them of contact with their friends, and they usually think they will shrivel up and die without it. To the teen, grounding can be an excruciating experience.

Another side to grounding
During the hours after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center towers, all of the airplanes flying over the United States were "grounded." We ground planes in order to protect the flying public, to allow for inspections to occur, to have time to make any necessary repairs and to maintain the planes in safe, working order.

When an adult is "grounded," we consider it a virtue. We talk of being grounded in one's career, in one's family, in one's lifestyle. Taking the time to become more grounded in a particular skill or activity is perceived as positive. It allows one to safely explore their inner life. Becoming grounded invites introspection to occur, to identify any desired changes within and perhaps to maintain your life in balanced, working order.

Native Americans believe in the value of being in touch with "mother earth." Being grounded means to be in contact with the earth, being rooted in the earth and learning from what the earth (nature) teaches. Many Americans advocate re-grounding ourselves in the natural world.

Re-defining “grounding”
I submit that "grounding" needs to be re-defined. So the next time you ground your teenager, begin to perceive it as providing him with a protected opportunity to look inside and make any necessary changes within.

Perhaps a teenager can experience being grounded as an expression of your caring about her. You want her to be safe, to learn how to manage her own life better, to engage in self-care more effectively. What better way to engage in these things than to ground them in a home environment of support, caring, concern and love?

If we ground airplanes to protect and inspect, why not ground ourselves and our offspring once in a while? Perhaps we need to take time out from the stress and busyness of flying around in our daily lives to stop, breathe deeply and look inside ourselves. We might find new feelings, skills and understandings about ourselves, about which we were never aware.

Time to pause and reflect
Perhaps, each of us needs occasional grounding. The more grounded we are, the more we respond to life from within rather than react to external events. If we are grounded in our lives, we know we are a part of a larger, natural world. We feel we belong here. We sense our connection with others. We experience the unity of all things in the world, perhaps in the universe.

I invite you to ground yourself in love and compassion. For thousands of years, great, grounded teachers have exemplified the power of love and compassion to generate happiness and to feel the joy of being alive. Ground yourself in love and compassion, and you will feel that same joy.

© Lloyd J. Thomas

Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D., has 30-plus years of experience as a life coach and licensed psychologist. He is available for coaching in any area presented in "Practical Psychology." As your coach, his only agenda is to assist you in creating the lifestyle you genuinely desire. The initial coaching session is free. Contact him at (970) 568-0173 or e-mail DrLloyd (at) or LJTDAT (at)


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