Tough Love or Just Discipline Positively

If you are a parent like me who is trying to learn the best way to positively discipline, you would likely hear many suggestions and ideas and more often than not, you would hear “do tough love… don’t enable the child.”

Parenting comes with many do’s and dont’s, some things valid some not. It sometimes rattles me when I share and vent about disciplining my child and then hear a response, ‘do tough love’.

The scenario goes like this: you call your friend upset about something your child has done. “I can’t believe this child! He knows he must catch the 4 :00 o’clock bus for his game and again he misses the bus. He is now calling me to get him.” Your friend reacts by saying “Let him miss his game, that’s the only way he learns its called, ‘tough love’.” You sigh because you are again left confused and angry by this reaction of ‘tough love’ that does not help you or your child.


Positive discipline can include a variety of options


The question arises, ‘What is the true meaning of ‘tough love’ and how can we use it to teach our children?’ There is a verse in the bible which says ‘God disciplines those he loves’. Nothing mentions that he administers ‘tough love’ to those he loves. ‘Tough love’ to me has no place in parenting and disciplining of our children. When this phrase is mentioned there is only guilt, with feelings of being unsure in your parenting. You leave your child to take the bus you feel guilty, you pick him up, you feel guilty and sometimes furious with yourself and the child.

So what do you do? Why can’t we just parent and discipline our children with love. Why do we need certain words and phrases that create more stress and confusion in our parenting.

There are several attempts to define ‘tough love’ such as “love or concern that is expressed in a strict way especially to make someone behave responsibly.” An article also describes it as “any parenting in which the child experiences some negative emotions that are part of a learning process.

I would recommend to eliminate ‘tough love’ and just discipline because you love your child. Our ultimate goal as a parent is to love and nurture our children, which includes discipline. So, sometimes it’s ok if Sammy goes to his friend’s house and for the fourteenth time asks if you can pick him up. As the parent you have to decide the reasons to pick him up or not. Sometimes there is no wrong or right decision you just do.

In the end, we know as parents we have the best and most challenging job in the world and we do the best we can. Again, our job as parent is to love and nurture our children and with that we discipline. As noted by Dr. Kevin Leman on parenting and discipline, “discipline is a privilege.” “Having the opportunity to give your kids direction, teaches them a valuable lesson that can help them avoid some long-range disaster, or that will contribute to their character development.” That is the privilege and the joy of parenting.

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The Joy of Parenting and the impact of Trauma or Abuse

Parenting is the most significant job one will ever take on. At times, it can be the most challenging, but it is the most rewarding. When we first become parents, there is an overwhelming, indescribable feeling of joy, happiness and excitement. How we take on and perform in this role of parenting is determined by our makeup of past experiences our perception and knowledge. Sometimes when we have faced significant challenges from trauma or abuse it affects our various roles in life. In our brokenness, we sometimes can’t see beyond, to be a positive parent and support our children. Parenting through our brokenness and darkness can be detrimental to our children’s development. This doubles when our children too exposed to our trauma or abuse. When we are stuck in brokenness from its effects, the outlook in parenting will not feel rewarding.

There are many challenges that can cause us to lose our ability to parent effectively. This inability often leads to neglect of our children. When we don’t recognize our brokenness and the effects or seek support and services it becomes impossible to meet our children’s needs for their healthy development. There are many situations and incidents that will occur in our lives that will challenge our ability to parent. We may find ourselves in scenarios such as an abusive relationship where children are exposed decisions to stay or leave a situation where the effects of trauma on our psyche still linger. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as the “development after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as a major stress, sexual assault, or other threats on a person’s life” ( Encyclopedia). The effects can cause feelings of depression and anxieties to name a few. In trying to manage and understand your feelings, loss and the grief we sometimes neglect our children. In struggling to manage, these feelings will sometimes cause reactions of anger and neglect towards our children. When these events occur in our lives, our children require special attention for them to feel secure. The impact for our children includes nightmares, displays of regression, bedwetting, aggressive behavior, use of drugs or alcohol to name a few.

Despite or own experiences and challenges of trauma or abuse parenting is rewarding. Watching our children grow, develop and meeting their milestone, is rewarding. To overcome the effects of trauma and abuse, it is vital to seek support and services, such as individual counseling, groups and support of families and friends. For your children, seek counseling such as play therapy, family therapy to name a few and involve them in sports and other activities. While working through the effects of trauma and abuse focus on your children, reassure them that you are there, and listen to them and their concerns. Be positive as much as needed because our children often mirror our behavior. Remember, each child is different, no set solutions, but feelings of security are needed for all.The

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The Range of Supervised Access – From Supervised to Unsupervised


If you are the parent who hacanstockphoto23651678d or has to have visits with your children supervised, the question that would likely be asked is “Why,” and for how long.

This situation is often frustrating with feelings of anger and resentment. To help dismantle these feelings and help build a healthy relationship for parents and children, these questions need to be looked at from all sectors: the courts; lawyers; access centres; parents and the family.

When a decision is made by the courts for supervised access, it is made in the best interest of the child. However, this decision is seen as only temporary. The reality is that if there are no goals or steps to increase and develop the relationship between parent and the child, the courts decision feels like forever.

When the parent (often the non-custodial parent) and the child begin this process it feels like a dark cloud with no hope of movement or change. Sometimes the parent and child access visits continues with no understanding of their relationship, no known progress.

When the decision is made for supervised access the question to address is how long will the duration be and how will the parent and child transition from one stage of supervised access to unsupervised in the best interest of both.

It is of great benefit to a parent child relationship that they are allowed the opportunity to develop their relationship through supervised access. When the decision is made, all sectors including the parent, need to be inline with the goal for access and the healthy development of the parent-child relationship.

When looking at this decision of being temporary and transitioning from one stage to another, the following issues must be considered with commitments:

  • Does the parent understand the reasons for supervised access, does the child;
  • What are the concerns around the parent-child relationship that need to change;
  • Does the parent need to seek services to address those issues;
  • Has the parent and child made progress in their relationship;
  • Does the access centre provide ongoing support to parents through this stage and updates on parents in their progress;
  • Does the access centre provide teachable moments to parents when needed;
  • Does the access notes show the progress of the relationship;
  • Does the goal for the lawyer and parent match to reach the next stage of access, increasing to no supervision.

As part of the intake process for supervised access it is important the parent is helped to identify the things needed to help maintain a healthy parent child relationship. Both parties should work to increase access with the goal of minimal to no supervision. At Side by Side Services, we help parents work towards this goal. This begins at the first contact with the parent and the family. Please visit our website for more information or call us 416-518-1569

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Out of the Mouth of Babes



Recognizing that our children are on their own individual journey means being self-reflexive


I must have asked Mathew (not is real name) a million times to eat his dinner. He must have sensed my exasperation because he responded with, “If you keep talking to me like that I will not listen to you.” He was so matter of fact. I turned to him immediately ready to ask “who do you think you are talking to like that?” My own Caribbean socialization and upbringing was now at the forefront of my consciousness. My child had just turned 4, I thought to myself, and here he was disrespecting me. My mind was racing; I wanted to quote Proverbs and Ephesians respectively. He needed to be obedient and, honor his mother so that his days would be long upon the land. Notwithstanding, Mathew would be oblivious to whatever scriptures I wanted to quote, I wanted to repeat them anyway.

In truth, I was worried that somewhere along the line I had given him permission to speak to me in whatever manner he chose and, that is unacceptable. Instead of repeating the verses and thoughts that was ruminating in my head, I took a deep breath and, asked Mathew, “How was I talking to you.” He promptly responded, “Not nice.” I then remembered the scripture “out of the mouth of babes.” My son had stood up for himself; he knew that my behavior was unacceptable and was obviously not intimidated to say so. I did not particularly like the feeling of being humbled (who doesn’t struggle with pride?) by my 4 year old child. In that moment and other moments, I have been forced to examine my own behavior and attitude about parenting, which is also intricately related to my own expectations.

“Mathew asked, ‘why do I have to keep reminding you to pray,’ I’m tired of asking you to pray.”

Let’s face it, my friends and family know that I’m perpetually busy; I move, walk, and talk fast; Will (my partner) jokes that a leisurely stroll with me is like a marathon. I get things done! This attitude is sometimes manifested in my parenting which doesn’t work well with a 4 year old especially at dinner time. I sometimes get frustrated with how long Mathew takes to eat especially when there are other activities to complete before bedtime. For Mathew, life is not a rush! So when he called me out on my tone, I had to admit that he was absolutely correct; he deserved to be treated with respect. Living in rather hierarchical culture-where parents epitomize authority and are supposed to be all knowing- admitting to and apologizing to a child is foreign. Our ego will not allow that kind of submission. In moments like these, as parents, we are forced to confront our own contradictions. We insist that we want to raise autocanstockphoto23651678nomous children who grow up and contribute to society. Yet, we take certain interactions like the one I mentioned with Mathew out of the equation; we often fail to see these as moments of growth for ourselves and our children. We love and appreciate our children as long as they abide by the rules we have put in place, such as “not talking back,” which seems to be interpreted as impertinent.

That moment with Mathew (and I have had many more) made me realize that he is precisely the kind of child I want him to be. I recognize that my son is intelligent and capable of articulating his feelings even if it is at the expense of my ego. It’s not enough to want our children to be independent thinkers while placing limitation on them if it appears ever so slightly that they are challenging us. As a process, parenting is difficult, because it requires that we let go of some the norms and ideals that we hold dear to our hearts because they no longer work. It means recognizing that our children are on their own individual journey that is separate from ours. It means being self-reflexive, (not over-reactive) which is sometimes my tendency. It means listening to our children and valuing their ideas, feelings, and perspectives.

Thus, a few nights ago, as I lay beside Mathew as it’s our custom; he asked, ‘why do I have to keep reminding you to pray,’ I’m tired of asking you to pray.” While Mathew has been the one to pray, several months ago, he would ask that we pray out loud. I’m more accustomed to praying silently. He was obviously annoyed; I chuckled and then prayed. The next morning I had a conversation about his response to my forgetting to pray; he reiterated his reaction. I then admit that yes sometimes mommy does forget to pray, which is not intentional. Mathew then said, “O.k. mommy, I will always remind you to pray after I pray.” Our children can be the best teachers if we remain open and receptive.

Dr. Karen Flynn is a Toronto native living in the U.S. She is an associate Professor in Gender and Women’s Studies and African American Studies, and at the University of Illinois and author of Moving Beyond Borders: A History of Black Canadian and Caribbean Women in the Diaspora.

Follow her on Twitter @KarenFlynnPhD


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Parenting Solutions through Separation/ Divorce


Another year has come and gone.   New year, for new changes. Like many of us, as the year ends we will reflect on the past with all the good, the bad to make resolutions for future change.

Many parents, both mothers and fathers, are reflecting on the past year as one of separation and divorce.  There are some common questions and scenarios with solutions for those in this situation.

Each year many relationships end in separation and divorce. “Out of about 59,000 total civil cases decided in all of Canada in 2011, over 53,000 were divorce cases”. Many parents in 2014 found themselves separated. If you were part of this category you may have experienced scenarios, which forced you to make some significant adjustments for you and your children. These adjustments often cause sudden financial and emotional struggles coupled with scenarios which can also cause emotional changes in your children behaviors. At times these situations can be described as never-ending.   Despite the issues faced in 2014 there have no doubt been some positives. You sought and found services and support for you and your children. You made sure your children were not exposed to the conflict. And you were determined to make it work, and it did.

It is a new year, 2015 is a time to make changes with new resolutions along with a commitment to continue to parent your children. In making the positive changes it is important to remember that children of divorce and separation cope better when there is a consistent routine and are allowed to be children while not exposed to parental conflict or guilt. It is also necessary as you make these changes to always remind your children that they are loved by both parents despite the decision to separate or divorce.

If you became a non–custodial parent in 2014, you like others will face situation that will feel like a no win situation. You will battle with feelings of hopelessness and loss of the relationship with your children. You will experience many common scenarios with many areas of conflict in regards to the children’s needs as you try to co- parent. You will also be faced with much criticism, accusations and more from those around you. There will be circumstances where you will need to negotiate with the other parent for access to your children. Those challenges and stressors faced in 2014 were actually opportunities to practice spending positive time with your children while helping them to adapt to the changes and understand they are loved by both parents.

As you make changes for 2015, it is important to remember to seek support and services from organizations and agencies such as Side By Side Services. No matter if you are the non-custodial parent, the primary parent or the newly divorced or separated parent, the scenarios are similar with solutions. As you move into 2015 be the change you want for yourself and your children. Continue to work towards building a healthy relationship with your children and find support and services to help meet these needs. In separation and divorce everyone is affected.

Parents who seek support and services for themselves and their children are more stable and adjust better than those who don’t. Continue to be consistent with what works well, listen to your children, be open to change and don’t stress the small stuff, (its ok if the children have junk food sometimes). Seek services such as or 416-518-1569 for support.

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Self Care and Parenting

In order to have a healthy body you also need to take care of your mind.

Many people turn a blind eye to their mental health before the symptoms overwhelm their personal life and affect their relationship with their family, friends and colleagues. Some discover the effects of a mental illness only when confronted with a legal battle or are in hospital. Symptoms of concerning mental health issues are unfortunately often ignored, resulting in many undiagnosed illnesses. It is important that we all routinely revisit and address our self-care needs and seek medical attention when symptoms first develop.

Consider persons diagnosed with mental illness and how we can help them? How do they manage their illness? But the question is; where do we go when our minds suffer?

Mental illness is a commonly misunderstood term, and notably people who believe that mental illness is an unusual condition often stigmatize other persons with mental illnesses. To those persons, don’t use names like “crazy” or “wacko” to refer to a person with mental illness. Educate yourself about the correct diagnosis of mentally ill individuals, do not judge or assume.

There are occasions in everyone’s life that our mental well being needs care by medical professionals. In those circumstances, seek help immediately.

Also, practising self-care and staying grounded can definitely change the circumstance of mental health. Regardless of how busy you are, it is important that you set aside time out of your busy schedule to do something for yourself; for e.g. but not limited to; going for walks or jogging, bubble baths, reading a great novel or simply just calling a friend to talk. Decrease stress by staying physically active and practice meditation to relieve anxiety and depression simply to give your mind a well deserved break. Lastly, treat persons with mental illness with deference and dignity. Maintain balance thinking so that your thoughts or feelings do not only influence how you treat yourself but how you care for others.

Keeping well includes seeking help immediately. Immediately seek medical attention and care when you feel you are struggling with a mental illness and its symptoms. Contact your family doctor, psychiatrist and/or call 911 when symptoms emerge.

This article is not to be either medical or legal advice.

Contact a lawyer if your legal matters may have either directly or indirectly been a result of symptoms of mental illness or if you have questions regarding your medical treatment.

Charlena Claxton, B.A. LL.B, Lawyer (Mental Health Law, Criminal Law, Family Law, Litigation) and Tarah Morgan, Paralegal  


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Co-Parenting through Separation


When two individuals make the commitment to enter into a relationship, this sometimes includes the commitment to be parents. With this decision and the commitment made by each, begins a plan of a lifelong partnership. Unfortunately many relationships can change for the worst and the only solution is separation. Today we know many marriages and common law relationships also end in divorce or separation. Families change when relationships end. Everyone is affected.


 The impact of separation and divorce can feel like a whirlwind of chaos and distress. For some it can be seem as a relief to new beginnings. The impact can also cause short and long term emotional effects. For some the effects are more of anger, frustration, depression, and feelings of loss of identity.

How a Child Copes with Divorce is Often

Determined by How the Parent Copes

When there are children involved the impact of divorce for parents and the effects can seem to multiply. Not only are parents trying to understand and manage their own emotions, cope with the sudden changes, but they also have to manage all the fe
elings, emotions, reactions and understandings of their children. The outcome of this can play a large impact on how parents handle this change and how they in turn help their child. How a child copes with divorce is often determined by how the parent copes. As seen in many research, for those who are the primary parent (often mothers) there are compounding issues to managing not only the emotion and the stress, but also the financial needs. 

If you are the parent with a childhood of living through your parents separation, your views of being a parent is often influenced by what you were exposed to. Often we parent based on what we believe. Sometimes if our experiences were negative we parent against those negative influences and exposures.   A mother speaks about her parents separation during her childhood and how it impacts her parenting. 


Very often custodial parents struggle with resentment due to non-custodial parents being seen as “the Disneyland Dad,” where visits are more planned and enjoyable with outings to restaurants and the movies. The custodial parent is often the one seen as enforcing full fledged parenting duties such as doing homework. (Niel Katter “Growing Up with Divorce Helping Your Child Avoid Immediate and Later Emotional Problems)

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How to Arrange Supervised Access

supervised access guidelines

How to apply for the supervised access program

Referrals can be made through your lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, then a self-referral is acceptable. We require a copy of the court order or signed separation agreement which specifies the conditions of access such as, times, dates, and frequency of the visits. We ask that both parties provide proof of court orders. We also accept referrals from family members who are caregivers. We require the contact numbers for both parties in order to schedule intake interviews.

To discuss your suitability for our service, contact us

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Supervised Access For Grandparents

The structures of families are changing. As the structures change, the role of grandparents is altered significantly. In 2001, 56,7000 children lived with their grandparents ( Along with these changes we see more parents living with grandparents in addition to grandparents taking on more responsibility for the family financially and emotionally. In 2001 of the survey conducted, half shared their homes with their adult children and their grandchildren. In today’s economy more parents work outside the home, as a result we see the role of the grandparents shift to that of full time caregiver. Today’s grandparents often embrace these adjustments with different lifestyle decisions to meet this trend and are commonly referred to as “grandboomers.” (

If you should speak to a grandparent and asked them about their grandchildren you would often hear the best tales of how special their grandchildren are and how great he or she will be. You will for sure hear tales on end of the latest things they have done, or the activities they shared together, expressed with glee and a sense of pride.

The number of children living with grandparents without their parents is considerably high. The Children’s Aid Society often assigns grandparents the role of the custodial parent by way of a court order or through family court. This occurs when there is a break down in the family home.

The decision to care for grandchildren whether temporarily or permanently by grandparents can often bring about struggles as well as a lot of unforeseen benefits. The relationship seen between a grandparent and grandchildren is often positive for both. Children often see their grandparents as nurturing and comforting.

When a grandparent is the custodial parent the relationship with the parents can sometimes be stressful. Grandparents are faced with the conflict and stress of managing a relationship with their adult children while maintaining their relationship with their grandchildren. It becomes more challenging if the relationship with their adult child, the parent, has historically had issues of challenges and conflict.   Grandparents have to manage the stress of ensuring that the parent, their own child, abide by the custody order issued. They also need to communicate with the parent when issues arise around their access, and their parenting style, which can be difficult.

When the courts make this type of arrangement for supervised access, it is important that the grandparent maintain an open and trusting relationship with their grandchildren. It is also important they seek support around the issues that are stressful. When there is a communication breakdown it is recommended they seek mediation or contact their nearest family law office for additional services and support.

It is important that if a supervised access is approved as part of the custody order grandparents seek the services of a neutral party to assist in the relationship between the parents and child. The building of this relationship is important in the healthy development of the child and for all involved. Contact a local supervised access centre to arrange supervised visits.

When supervised access is arranged, it is important that grandparents as the recognized custodial parent continue to maintain a supportive relationship with their grandchildren. At the access centre they provide information and resources to help children, caregivers and parents.

To help prepare grandchildren for their visits grandparents should speak to them about the access centre, the time and location of visits, who will be there and assure the child that at the end of the visit someone will be there for them. Grandparents can also help grandchildren through the process by speaking positively about the visits and listening to the child’s concerns. If the child is feeling fear reassure them of the safety and speak to the staff about the child’s concerns. It is important to always be open to listen about their concerns surrounding visits. Support can involve helping them prepare by packing their favorite games or other activities that they would enjoy do during visits. After the visit, continue to be supportive to the child, and listen to their experiences, concerns and questions. If the child is not open to speak about the visits don’t push, be patient and continue to be supportive.

Most supervised access centres are aware there can be anxiety and difficulty surrounding visits. Access centres will often conduct an orientation process where the child gets familiar with the centre and the staff to better prepare them for their first visit.

It is clear grandparents play a vital role in the lives of their grandchildren and the lives of parents.  So it is imperative they have the support of those who can help them as they redefine their roles and make the shift in lifestyle to be there for both their child and grandchild.

For more information on supervised visits and how we can help, contact Side By Side Services at or 416.518.1569.

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Supervised Access For Fathers

There are 8.6 million fathers in Canada. 3.8 million of these fathers have children under the age of 18 who live with them (stat.Canada 2011).

Fathers play a vital role in their child’s development. Their influence and relationship impacts the social, emotional and academic areas of their child’s life.

The structure of families is also changing. This change occurs when parents separate. Separation can affect a great deal and when this occurs the child’s relationship with both parents becomes even more crucial. This is especially true for fathers. In separation we often see many fathers listed as the non-custodial parent with access and sometimes supervised. This decision for non-custodial access supervised is usually made for the well being and safety of the child. In this process it is vital for father’s to maintain good communication with their child. Despite this decision made by the courts it is on the premise that a father’s role is significant to the lives of their children.

When the decision is made to separate everyone is impacted, this includes fathers. There can be long term emotional effects on fathers. This can be seen in a father’s lack of ability to express their emotions and feelings about the separation. When this happens it is important to seek services and support. The effects on fathers include a sense of loss, grief, anger and depression. Fathers are often depressed because their time with their child is now limited and they are frustrated in trying to resolve complex issues to reach an agreement for access with their children. While in this transition, it is recommended fathers continue to have open communication with their children and seek support from friends and family as well as counseling support as needed. The support and services will help to lessen the emotional impact and help to rebuild their relationship with their children.

If you are the father whose visit is supervised, this too can have a major impact on your emotional health and also impact the relationship with your children. The purpose of the access visit is to help support you and your child in building your relationship. It is quite common for a non-custodial parent to feel frustration and anger towards this new arrangement while making adjustment to a new life style.

Supervised access gives the father and their child an opportunity to build their relationship in a neutral and safe environment. Supervised access can provide the father with the tools to build a positive relationship with their child.

If the child has been exposed to family violence or other serious conflict there will be many challenges to build back the relationship. However, with support and services relationships are repairable. Having to use supervised access is a positive step towards building a relationship with your children.

In the process of building your relationship and having supervised access it is imperative that you the father stay positive in the process. The behavior we see impacts that of the child’s.  In preparation for visits it is important to meet with the centre’s staff to share your fears or concerns. The goal of visits is to build the relationship with your child and will therefore need you to be engaging and attentive. Before you have a visit, plan activities you would like to do with your children. Bring items to the visit you think you child would like such as books or games. Be open to change the plan in the visit because your child may changes his mind. In the visit be positive, have open communication with your child. It is also important that the visit is about you and your child’s relationship. It is essential to avoid more damage to the child by speaking negatively about the other parent and not paying more attention on the child.

When a child has been exposed to parental conflict or violence there will often be fear, anxiety and apprehensiveness in the visit. Reassurance to the child that things are ok and safe will help to subside those feelings. At the end of the visit let your child know how much you enjoy the visit and are looking forward to the next visit. It is important that this is about the relationship with you and your child. If you are having struggles or anxious about your visit speak to the staff at the centre.

Supervised access is a short term step to a long term goal for fathers and their relationship with their children. It is a positive space to accomplish this goal. For more information please contact our centre at

In separation cases fathers can also become the primary parent and this too can have an emotional impact. The challenges here will include rebuilding their lives with their children. When this is the situation it is important there is open and honest communication with the children. It is important to seek services and support. There are also challenges when access to the other parent is supervised. Hence, it is important to seek services such as those offered at Side by Side Services.


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