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 I am a mother of 3 making that 15 year experience in motherhood and have taught and been around thousands of children and parents in my profession as a early childhood trainer and as a Karate instructor. This blog is based on my opinion, experience and research some will agree and some won’t and thats life, so enjoy the reading either way.
For those people who grew up knowing that, all it took was ‘The look’ from your parents, understand perfectly what, ‘ Tough Love’ means and the consequences. ‘The look’ meant you were in serious trouble. Which most 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 wellbeing?
We are allowing children to dictate what they will and will not do. And the reason is what I like to refer to as, the Bubble Wrap syndrome. As parents, we are hard wired to protect our children from harm, even from momentary discomfort at the cost of Bubble Wrapping them away from some truths or facts. Such as, little Johnny ran faster than you in the race, therefore he came first. Sometimes those moments of disappointment or frustration are necessary to drive home important lessons. We are NOT all winners, sometimes we lose and that is alright!
To allow a child to make a decision between eating a banana and an apple is a decision manageable for a young child, because the choice is fruit or fruit. Give a child a choice of McDonald’s and a caesar salad, and you can bet your bottom dollar only a very few will go with the salad. Decisions which encompass the health and well being of the child I believe are the responsibility of the parent, it is our duty of care. Just like allowing a child to decide whether they will or will not continue practicing karate for a trivial reason like, it’s too hot or my friend won’t be there today. Giving up at the drop of a hat undoes the principles which karate naturally install in your child.
So, back to tough love. Literature and reports show children brought up by parents practicing ‘tough love’ are more likely to become rounded personalities with well-developed characters than those who face either authoritarian or laissez-faire approaches. Here are some strategies.
The forgetful child
If your child is a chronic forgetter, most often than not, you’re a parent that has to remember everything. However, by doing this your your child is learning that he/she doesn’t need to remember, someone else will do it for them. And most importantly, will not learn responsibility. How do we learn to be responsible? We need to be given responsibility and the pros and cons that go with that.
Try this, if your child forgets their lunch box, let them go without lunch and be hungry for a few hours (they may even eat their dinner without any problems). Let them receive a lunchtime detention, if the project is not handed in on time. (I can feel you cringing right now) Natural consequences make excellent teachers, let them do their job!
The giver upper
Within the ‘Bubble wrap’ syndrome is a terrible nemesis, called ‘instant gratification’. Child cries, she/he gets a phone to play with, the child gets bored the phone goes flying through the air. Parents drive frantically forwards and backwards from one after school activity to the other to entertain this child, for the child to turn around 3 weeks later and say I’m bored, I don’t want to do it anymore. Some schools are even promoting this epidemic of giving up, with their concept of there are no winners or losers, as long as we are all having fun.
Seeing the faces on 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 the key ingredient been motivation, what else will drive these children into the future?
So, what do we do? We first set expectations and then we encourage our children to follow through, try to instil the never give up attitude. You may want to put this in a calendar and make an arrangement between you and your child or 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 to this behaviour however disobedient behaviour 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/her may want badly enough like the Xbox, iPad, iPhone, computers, PlayStation, anything electronic 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. (cause and effect)
The lazy child (teenagers)
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. 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 practise 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 not 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 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!
The moral to the Tough Love approach is, it doesn’t mean you love your child any less by applying boundaries and consequences. 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. In short. Tough love, is showing love.
See you at the Dojo- Sensei Jess