Tough Love Parenting - When & How to Use Tough Love Parenting

Tough love parenting ...

... the essence of this parenting style is to hold your ground and guide your teenager in a way that compels him or her to take responsibility for his actions and make changes in behavior. Since this parenting philosophy is primarily geared toward troubled teens, it is usually considered to be a last resort in response to self-destructive behavior (like drug use) or maladaptive behaviors that are dangerous to others. In this article, you'll learn how to spot trouble behaviors and when to apply the principles of this style of parenting.

First, let's talk about the movement and how it got its start. Back in the 1980's, David and Phyllis York developed a set of strategies to deal with their out-of-control teenage daughter and tough love parenting was born.

What constitutes out-of-control behavior is at issue here. Out-of-control behavior encompasses acts like outright defiance, self-harming behaviors (like drug abuse) blatant dishonesty and criminal behavior. Other behaviors that parents may apply tough love parenting principles to are more passive, like indifference with regard to performance in school (which after all, can alter the course of adult life) and lack of motivation with regard to outside activities.

How to Apply Tough Love Parenting Principles

  • Stop enabling your child. When your teen does something wrong, don't stand in the way of his consequences. Some parents enable their teen by making excuses for his bad behavior. If your kid gets suspended from school for drug use, don't defend his behavior. Everybody knows there are no drugs at school. Let him suffer the consequences so he learns from them. Make it clear that you can't rescue him when he does things he knows are wrong. Even if things have been tough in your family life and you can understand why your child might want to escape his life, do not prevent the natural consequences of his actions. Instead, acknowledge this as a cry for help and get it for him.

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  • Be respectful of your teen but let him know that you expect the same in return. He is living under your roof and let him know that you will do everything in your power to prevent him from engaging in behaviors that jeopardize the well-being of the family.

  • Stand strong. Ever since its inception, there has been resistance to the tough love parenting movement, primarily because people think it is harsh. If your teen is in danger of destroying his life, sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to be firm. Being tough doesn't have to mean being cruel. Cruelty is taking no action in the face of your teenager's impending self-destruction. Although it was probably inaction on your part that has helped create your teen's sense of self-entitlement today, you have a chance to help him turn things around. Do this in a way that shows that you mean business, but also lets him know that loving someone means that getting them to take responsibility for their life.

If you're in the midst of raising a troubled teen, here's a story that should give you hope. At the age of 16, my younger brother started down the path of self-destruction by doing some very dangerous drugs. My mother, who had enabled him as a child because she felt guilty about our family situation, finally realized that she had to take swift and decisive action or my brother would lose his life. She applied tough love parenting strategies along with the transformational behavioral strategies in this program that was designed for home use and then got him into rehab. This was the first of a series of actions that ultimately turned him around. Today, he is a caring human being and responsible citizen with his own business who feels stronger for having walked through the darkness inside himself to reach the good life on the other side.

Related Resources

If you are a parent who realizes that you sometimes enable your child out of guilt, read the parenting book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting which explores guilty parenting and what it creates. Since the book teaches parents how to raise children to develop their strengths, so their life becomes an expression of strength and integrity, it is a book that can transform your life, your child's life and the way you relate to each other.

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