Tough Love Benefits

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noun: tough love

1. promotion of a person’s welfare, especially that of an addict, child, or criminal, by enforcing certain constraints on them, or requiring them to take responsibility for their actions.

First of all, I’d like to mention that I am a mother of three, giving me 15 years of experience in motherhood (2016). I have also taught and been around thousands of children and parents in my profession as an early childhood trainer and as a Karate instructor. This blog is based on my opinion, experience, and research. Some people will agree with me, and some won’t, and that’s just how life is. So, enjoy the reading either way.

For those who grew up knowing that all it took was “The look” from your parents, you understand perfectly what “Tough Love” means and the consequences it carries. “The look” meant you were in serious trouble, which more often than not was enough to set you back on track and behave as you were supposed to. So, the question is, why have our parenting styles changed so dramatically? Why are we so afraid to say “No”? And why are we allowing young children to make decisions regarding their own well-being?

As parents, we are hardwired to protect our children from harm, even if it means shielding them from momentary discomfort. We tend to bubblewrap them away from certain truths or facts, such as the fact that sometimes we lose and not everyone is a winner. Sometimes those moments of disappointment or frustration are necessary to drive home important lessons, this is something I’ve named “The bubblewrap syndrome”.

Allowing a child to make a decision between eating a banana and an apple is manageable for a young child, as the choice is between two healthy options. However, if you give a child a choice between McDonald’s and a Caesar salad, you can bet that very few will go with the salad. Decisions that encompass the health and well-being of the child should be the responsibility of the parent. It is our duty of care, hence the title adult and child for example, allowing a child to decide whether they will continue practicing karate for a trivial reason like it being too hot or their friend not being there undermines the principles that karate naturally instills in a child.

Here are some strategies for some children with these traits:

The forgetful child:
If your child is a chronic forgeter, it often means that you, as a parent, have to remember everything for them. However, by doing this, you’re teaching your child that they don’t need to remember as someone else will do it for them. More importantly, they won’t learn responsibility. So, how do we teach responsibility? We need to give them responsibilities and let them experience the pros and cons that come with them. For example, if your child forgets their lunchbox, let them go without lunch and be hungry for a few hours (they may even eat their dinner without any problems). Let them face a lunchtime detention if a project is not handed in on time. Natural consequences make excellent teachers, so let them do their job!

The giver-upper:
Within the “Bubble Wrap” syndrome lies a terrible nemesis called “instant gratification.” Whenever a child cries, they get a phone to play with. And when they get bored, the phone goes flying through the air. Parents drive frantically from one after-school activity to another to constantly entertain their child, only for the child to turn around three weeks later and say, “I’m bored, I don’t want to do it anymore.” Some schools even promote this epidemic of giving up with their concept that “there are no winners or losers, as long as we are all having fun.” Seeing the faces of Year 6 boys when they are told they can’t keep score of their goals on school soccer gala day is enough to understand that this system or way of thinking is not encouraging motivation or a drive to succeed. Without motivation, what else will drive these children into the future?

So, what do we do? First, we set expectations, and then we encourage our children to follow through. We try to instill the “never give up” attitude. You may want to put this in a calendar and make an arrangement between you and your child or create a goal list.

The disobedient child:
In most cases, this type of child is plainly seeking attention. So, before we have our own tantrums, we need to ask ourselves, am I watching him/her at karate? Am I too busy to notice what he/she is doing? And the list goes on and on. Hopefully, you have been able to narrow down a few triggers for this behavior. However, disobedient behavior doesn’t just go away. If your child is constantly breaking the rules you have set out, then you may need to remove (lock away out of sight and reach) whatever he/she may want badly enough, like the Xbox, iPad, iPhone, computers, PlayStation, anything starting with an ‘I’ these days. Set a limit on an egg timer or your phone. If the timer gets ignored, you may need to add an extra job to do as well. Your child will learn that the cost of breaking the rules is far greater than the temporary pleasure of breaking them. (who would have guessed, cause and effect)

The lazy child:
Nobody loves cleaning and everyday chores! This is the only thing that grows and grows without you even trying! Setting chores for your child is not slavery, it’s discipline! DO NOT FEEL BAD, you probably had to do it, and you are probably saying yeah, but my kids would never….

It’s your bed. You sleep in it. You make it (even if you have to go in and fix it later). You dirty it. You put it in the sink or dishwasher, whatever is the normal practice in your home. And, of course, the consequence of not doing the chore could be something like, for every chore that’s missed, another gets added to the list, or privileges are taken away. Being a parent entails a lot of hard work. It would be so much easier if they were all born with a manual.

The greatest challenge in the “tough love” approach is overcoming your own apprehension. Of course, we all want our children to be happy and smiling 100% of the time, achieving the best possible results, having loads of friends, and being popular. But setting boundaries and seeing them through makes us very uncomfortable. Policing electronic time, checking on chores, etc., is very time-consuming. However, that’s parenting, it’s our job and responsibility, and we owe it to them!

The moral of the tough love approach is, that it doesn’t mean you love your child any less by applying boundaries and consequences or need to be strict and mean, It means we are raising our expectations of their commitment. We are helping them understand disappointment and, most importantly, how to bounce back and develop resilience.

FYI So far so good with my own kids, training, studying, and working, they are respectful hard working, and loving people, of course, their rooms are a mess and they have tried and tested all of the above, but after being a mum for 22 years I have no regrets on how I am raising my almost all adult children and am super proud of the humans they are today (2023).

Good luck!

See you at the Dojo –  Jess Sensei



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The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants- Gichin Funokoshi