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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