Tough Love Isn’t

“It is ominous for the future of a child when the discipline he receives is based on the emotional needs of the disciplinarian rather than on any consideration of the child’s own needs.” – Gordon W. Allport

How true this is. And unfortunately, how often it is the case that it is the parent’s problem, not the child’s.

Children basically are victims of their parents.

When young they learn how to behave in order to have the parent’s approval. This can be shown in many forms; with nice compliments, a showing of affection, gifts, and privileges.

In short order every child learns how to please.

In time however, children want to assert their own will and thus begins the chain of events that can lead to years of problems.

Parents want children who are well behaved and compliant. They try to teach their children to avoid danger; whether with a hot oven or cars in the street.

More subtle are the values that parents hold that they wish to instill in their children. They want to be listened to and obeyed.

How often have you seen a child being hit by a parent? It happens. Often it is so that they will not be seen as having bad children in front of others.

Of course, parents are bigger and stronger and until a child has developed and grown they are no match for brute force.

I once had a client with an adolescent who wanted to be a musician. As he became of college age his parents wanted him to apply to schools to become a doctor or lawyer. He refused and only wanted to go to a music school.

They were wealthy and withheld support and would not pay for a music school. Eventually they told him to leave home and make it on his own.

Being a sensitive young man who was not worldly wise he left and lived on the streets with no family contact. The parents were very upset but told me in counseling they were applying, ‘tough love’ to teach him what he needed to learn.

Well, in my book there is no love in tough love.

This young man eventually became prey to drug dealers and ultimately died.

So much for teaching a lesson!

Often the world will teach what parents can’t. Sometimes for the better and often for a big wake up call.

To try to force your influence with what we deem tough love can ruin a child for life.

To accept and see a child as different from you or wanting something different for their lives is not easy for parents but tough love? Never!

When you really love, you love someone with all their differences and with the ups and downs.

Parents usually want the ‘best’ for their children. They want them to have better lives than maybe they had. They have experience true, but it is THEIR experience and their generation.

When I read about these, ‘tiger moms’ and what they do to very young children, I cringe.

You may get what you are after, but you ruin the person that child should become.

Yes, I believe in discipline and correcting children and wanting children to behave in a civilized manner but how to get it and how far to impose your wishes.

Many parents dream about their children making them proud. That’s fine and they can express their desires. Children know what parents hope for.

Going against that is a problem not only for the parent but the child has to be strong to buck the messages. Guilt is not a good thing.

If there is only one parent that makes it even more difficult. If the child is the parent’s primary source of happiness and success that also makes it a loaded issue.

It is the fair balance of making your wishes known, protecting small children from harm and sharing your life experience that is best. Beyond that it can be a crap shoot.

Most people follow the values they have seen lived in their family of origin. Parents have to trust that in the end their children will do the same. If not, you can only hope their children will give them the same run for the money that they gave you!!

“The scars left from the child’s defeat in the fight against irrational authority are to be found at the bottom of every neurosis.” – Eric Fromm

Are you what your parents wanted you to be? Are you happy about who you are?