You may shudder when you hear the expression ‘tough love’. It brings to mind kids out of control and families standing at the edge of a cliff. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be in crisis to benefit from a ‘tough love’ approach.
How did you handle the last difficult situation with one of your kids? Odds are you agonized over it. But after that, did you cave in, or did you do what deep down you knew was right, even if it was tough? Perhaps your fear of fallout from your child, or spouse, held you back. Were there yelling, slammed doors, “I hate you!” or the silent treatment? What was the final outcome, and were you truly, in good conscience, satisfied with your response?
Parenting is hard, no doubt about it. From the day they are born we nurture and protect, teach and guide. Then one day it’s time to cut some strings and let the kids figure things out, make some mistakes, and experience the consequences. The problem is, many of us don’t know how to let go and let that happen. What nature and nurture brought out in us needs to change, and that change can be gut-wrenching.
What will it take for this to happen? Nerves of steel, for starters! Then it requires a very clear picture of your vision for your children. You want them to be self-sufficient and independent, resilient and confident. Keeping the bigger picture front and center, and acting on it, will allow your children to become responsible for themselves and grow up.
The idea of unconditional love has been misunderstood. It means loving someone because of who they are, and in spite of who they are. It does not mean accepting what you find unacceptable with a smile and hoping they’ll ‘get it’ one day. Temporarily giving up the ‘relationship’ will be necessary. Sit on your hands. Speak the truth. Put your desire for harmony to the side. Make and follow through with the tough decisions. (I know, I know. It’s painful.) When they hit road blocks, you hit your own roadblocks, wanting to fix it for them. Fixing is not the same as guiding and teaching. Fixing will stunt their emotional growth.
You may think this is tough love. It feels like it, but don’t confuse it with lack of caring. What it is is good parenting, effective parenting. It may feel just the opposite of love… but in truth, giving your kids what they need is the ultimate, highest form of love.
This is your kick in the pants. With love,