“Tough Love” Parenting
Archie Modequillo (The Freeman) - November 16, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Different parents have different styles of child-rearing. Some parents are too ‘soft’ with their children, allowing the kids to step all over them (because “Oh, they’re just kids…”). Others are too ‘stiff’ such that the kids perceive them to be their adversaries.

Every parent knows that it takes the right mix of firmness and tolerance to raise balanced kids. But just what that right mix is, many parents do not have a clue. And, in their quandary, parents often end up in either extreme.

In recent years, more and more parents have been swayed to take a “tough love” approach to bringing up their children. They believe that the approach give their kids a better chance of doing well in later life, according to a published report. The approach entails a combination of warmth and discipline for the kids from their parents.

Experts claim that kids subjected to “tough love” are more likely to develop crucial qualities such as self-control, empathy and determination. Murray Wardrop, at the website www.telegraph.uk, cites a study by the think-tank group Demos that identified a wide gap between the character development of children from the richest and poorest backgrounds. The finding suggests that bad parenting in working-class families has caused stagnation in social progress and opportunities for millions of British youngsters.

“Tough love” is a term coined by Bill Milliken in his book “Tough Love” in 1968 and has been used by many other authors since then. It means treating a person – say, a young child – in a stern manner with the intent to help get him on the right life path. Basically, there has to be some strong feeling of affection and pure intention behind the sternness to qualify it as “tough love.”

For example, genuinely concerned parents refusing to give in to the whims of their misbehaving child and instead demands that he mends his ways would be said to be practicing “tough love.” Athletic coaches who enforce strict rules and stringent training regimens, but who care about their players, could also be said to be practicing “tough love.” In the family setting, “tough love” can be as simple as ‘authoritative’ parenting.

Some of parents are obsessed with how they come across with their kids. They think that being good parents means never resisting the wishes of their children and just letting the kids be. But kids who are never subjected to the pressure of becoming anything may fail to develop key life skills, child-development professionals argue.

The Demos study found that children’s upbringing during preschool years, particularly up to age 5, profoundly determined development of social skills which allow them to get on later in life. Children with “tough love” parents were twice as likely to become empathetic, more determined in the face of difficulty, and better at controlling their emotions and avoiding temptation (by age 5) than those with ‘disengaged’ guardians. Children from the richest backgrounds were more than twice as likely to develop these characteristics over those from the poorest families, and children with parents who are legally married were twice as likely to show the traits over children from lone parent or step-parented families.

The study concludes: “Confident, skillful parents adopting a ‘tough love’ approach to parenting, balancing warmth with discipline, seem to be most effective in terms of generating… key character capabilities.”

There is evidence to suggest that “tough love” can be beneficial in the development of preferred character traits in children. The huge emphasis in developing good character is on parenting; character being integral to children’s future success and wellbeing. But whatever the parental background – it is confidence, warmth and consistent discipline that matter most.

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