This post first appeared in November of 2007. You can view the original here. That horrible spelling error has been fixed!
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Grounding a child is a very popular form of discipline. I have met folks who ground very small children, as young as three or four years of age. Some say they ground children from something specific, such as video games or television, while others ground them in the sense that these children must stay home and remain separate from the community (friends especially) for a specified number of days or weeks.
While many of my readers would probably say that grounding a small child doesn’t make much sense, I am guessing that these same readers, like myself, would consider grounding a reasonable response to a disobedient teenager, and maybe even a bit younger than that.
So imagine my surprise when I found that Withhold Not Correction completely disagrees with grounding! Now, my children aren’t of grounding age, but I still thought the concepts presented by author Bruce Ray were interesting. And not only were they interesting, it was exactly what we used when I worked for the Dean of Residence Life at Biola University.
Ray explains that, especially when a child is older, parents feel that some offenses require something more than administration of the rod (otherwise known as ahem). Most parents resort to grounding at this point. While Ray agrees that some offenses do require more than ahem, he objected to grounding for three reasons (emphasis is in the original):
Grounding fails to qualify as an adequate corrective measure for several reasons.
In the first place, grounding is impossible to enforce.
Secondly, the practice of grounding allows a sinful and unnatural tension to remain between the child and his parents for days or even weeks. Mom and Dad have to maintain a cool and negative attitude toward their son or daughter to even think of trying to enforce grounding.
Thirdly, the Scriptures provide for that situation where physical correction of itself is deemed to be inadequate.
The scriptural principle is not grounding: it is restitution.
When I was at Biola, there were instances in which the act of a student was so severe that they were removed from the community entirely. This was akin to Paul handing over Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan. Withhold Not Correction reminds us that it was Paul’s hope that this extreme measure would teach them “not to blaspheme.” Even when a student was expelled, I can testify that there was much prayer that the student would eventually repent and follow Christ whole-heartedly.
But there were other times when restitution was called for. Perhaps the student’s silliness or foolishness had literally taken from the community in the form of damage to property. Other times, they had stolen the peace from the community. In both instances, we worked out some form of restitution. Sometimes, we turned these students over to the grounds crew, that they might restore peace and order to the community through planting flowers and emptying trash cans. Other times, they might actually assist the facilities crew in making the repairs to the property they damaged.
We had to be creative, but we always found a way to bring the student back into harmony with the community through the means of hard work and contribution.
Ray suggests a similar approach:
[R]estitution is not only for the thief. It is for any situation where person or property has been harmed or endangered…If your son threw rocks at the girl down the street, or put a BB through Mrs. Jackson’s window, or rode his bike through her flowerbed, then he ought to be made to do something especially nice for the person whose property he harmed or endangered (including, of course, the replacement of any property that was destroyed). The function of correction is to rescue the child from his wrongful course and to establish him on the proper path wherein he assumes personal responsibility for his actions. Grounding will not do that; restitution as a part of biblical correction will. Restitution demands an immediate, personal, and proper response, whereas grounding provides only time for thought (perhaps to plot revenge).
I (obviously) don’t have teenagers, or even older children, though I am sure that restitution would occasionally be helpful for a child even as young as five or six, especially when property damage is involved.
Now I have questions for you. What do you think about grounding? Did/do you ground your children? Did your parents ground you? Do you agree with Ray, that restitution is more biblical? Are there any Scriptural supports for grounding? Have you had positive experiences with restitution?
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