Monday, May 19, 2008

Tough Love?

For the last thirty years we've heard a lot of stories bandied about with the phrase "tough love". What is it? How much is too tough? And when is it appropriate?

There are extreme examples of tough love. A parent beats a child and declares that they're doing it in the name of "tough love". That's not tough love. That's child abuse. When I think of tough love, I think of that phrase, Just Say No!

Too often in today's world, no one says NO. No one! In a gimme, gimme culture the time must come when someone finally says, "No." No, you may not go there. No, you may not have that. No, I won't buy you the latest electronics or car even if everyone else has one. Because if we don't ever teach our children that sometimes the answer is going to be "No", they never learn how to deal with that.

As our kids grow into adults, that lesson becomes more important. It sounds obvious, but an amazing number of parents don't get it. The time will come when your child cannot have everything they want. You will not be able to provide everything they want. And when that time comes, it might not be pretty.

We live in a bankrupt culture where no one know how to delay gratification. Want it? Charge it. Except now, we've run out of charge cards, bank loans, and all those other strategies that we used to acquire a bunch of stuff we really didn't need. As a society we haven't learned the value and meaning of "no".

I confess that I was late in learning this lesson. Like many parents in my generation who did without "things" when growing up, my husband and I truly wanted to provide those things for our children. It didn't occur to us that we weren't doing them any favors. They had tough lessons to learn as young adults when we could no longer help them. We as parents had tough lessons to learn, too. We had to learn to step back and say no. How much easier it would have been if we had learned our lesson sooner.

Anny Cook


  1. Great start, Anny. Especially love the last bit. There's a learning curve for parents, too!

  2. According to one of my older son's friends, we are being 'too strict' on his most recent restrictions, not being able to go anywhere with him except from school, and no overnights until after school is out.

    Why the restrictions? This particular friend decided to be an idiot while driving and came very close to not only totalling his truck, but endangering the lives of himself, our son, and a third boy.

    The driver's 'punishment' originally was to lose his driving priveledges for several months, but after one day, his parents allowed him to drive to and from school. (The damage to the truck in the wreck was only to the tires) And a week later, his full driving priveledges had been reinstated.

    Hopefully, by sticking with our restrictions, not only will our son learn the lesson about reckless driving, but some of it may also rub off on his other friends. We are not pushovers, and I have no desire to bury my honor student because his friend's parents can't stick to their guns.

    Great topic Anny!

  3. That's a tough one. I thought my oldest three weren't spoiled and they often didn't ask for money for things like prom or school trips which I would have helped with if at all possible (I found out after the fact) because they thought I didn't have the money. And yet, my oldest daughter (24, and the third child), isn't working yet and living at home, playing on the Internet most of the day. Some people have suggested I practice "tough love" and kick her out. I don't know if I can be that tough. And yet, I can't just let her waste her life. I keep talking to her and telling her she has to get a job and she'll say she's looking, but she's been "looking" for almost a year. I'm not seeing it.

  4. I have a friend who's doing the same thing. She's 42 and living rent-free in her parents' condo; always 'looking' for a job. Personally, she needs to go get a JOB, not something she thinks she qualified for. But then again, she uses her slight learning disability as an excuse when she gets fired. And Mommy and Daddy smile, pat her on the head, and give her gas money/pay the electric bill.

  5. This is sooo hard and I've had to do a bit of it lately myself. I've always been a little permissive with my kids. I mean, yeah, if they are waaaay out of line I've done the grounding thing but for the most part, my kids have been really good until lately. Time to get tough. I've found it's easier to tell others to "get tough" rather than do it myself. From now on, I'm keeping my damn opinions to myself about stuff like that.

  6. It's always so much easier when the shoe's on someone else's foot. We've had to say "sorry, this bank is closed..." and it was a tough, tough call, but all the kids are finally independent. It was worth it.

  7. Ironically, I'm dealing with a similar parallel issue on my normal blog today but dealing with Global issues, not parental guidance.

    And beating a child is never okay, but I do spank if there isn't another option. And yes, there are times when (in particular with one of my kids) it's not avoidable. I'm prepared for hate-mail. Bring it.

  8. Not from me. Sometimes it's unavoidable. Heh. I had one kid though that it just made him more stubborn. But take away his piggy bank and you would have thought that you'd killed him.

    Whatever works for each kid.

  9. Exactly. With P, I just have to give her a look and she falls apart. With J, her eyes glaze over and she ignores me. THAT one is the one who gets the spankings.

    And I never do it angry. That would send the wrong message. As it is, we hug immediately after and she changes her behavior instantly. It works for J when needed. P, it would be overkill.

  10. By Jove! You speak after my heart! I think you are spot on there!. I have been dealing with & am feeling exactly the same these days!

    To teach them value, let them earn it.

    What is given can always be taken away. What is earned can Never be taken away!

  11. Great post, Anny. My first answer anytime my son asks for something (other than obvious emergencies) is no.

    If he really wants it, then he has to explain why and convince me to change my mind. This seriously cuts down on frivilous and/or spontaneous purchases. It makes him take the time to think about rather or not he really wants something and if it is worth the debate to try to sway me (I'm not easily swayed).

    Does he still want for the sake of wanting? Of course, he's still a kid, but I hope I'm dispelling some of that need for instant gratification and he will carry these lessons with him into adulthood.

  12. It's far more difficult when they're an adult with kids in the middle of a personal crisis and they call for help and happen to mention their $1700 electric bill--complete with cut-off notice. It's hard to keep the money in the bank and help them brain-storm about alternative ways to pay it. But it doesn't serve them any favors in the long run if you just dish out the money.

    Good comments everyone!


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