Consequences are Gifts
Tough love isn’t punitive. The purpose of tough love is redemption. This means that the consequences that are being faced by the offender should be something that will lead them back to the place that they should be.
What does that look like practically from a parental point of view?
Today my nineteen-year-old son did not wake up for work. He lives in the same house with his boss, which happens to be his Dad.
He is preparing to move away to start college, work, and adulting. In the interim, he is working for his father along with other laborers.
There are no special privileges for him. Especially not the privilege of a personal alarm clock.
Today, because he was not awake when it was time to leave, he will not earn money. Instead, he will stay home and work on the yard for free.
This may seem cruel to some, but he knows that he messed up. He knows he needs to have the skills to be self-governing and self-supporting.
His bad decision to stay up late, not set his alarm, or whatever it was that made him unprepared for his workday is all on him.
He acts offended and victimized at first but as I explain to him in a calm, concerned, and determined manner, he lets his victimhood melt away and is ashamed and feels like a schmuck. I do not enjoy it.
Resist the Urge to “Fix It”
As a parent, of course, we want to overlook it. We want to tell him “it’s ok” and give him another chance. If he were fourteen, we might do that. But this is not a drill. It is time for him to be an adult.
We raise our children to be self-sufficient and purposeful, according to their plans. That means one may choose a doctoral program, while another chooses to marry and raise children.
Both are treated with the same level of importance and respect. We expect them to pursue excellence in whatever they pursue. We do not choose their life plan for them. If they are in a state of preparedness and personal growth, they have our support, however, we do reserve the right to dissuade boneheaded decisions.
Allowing them to fail and face consequences are the best gifts we can give our children for being prepared. Don’t waste opportunities for growth on useless passive aggressive nonsense.
Tough love means that when your children fail, you weep with them. You hurt for them, but you do not fix their problems. You point them in the right direction and let them attack problems themselves.
Be Adult in Your Parenting
Tough love isn’t mean. I think people believe in order to demonstrate tough love that you must be unloving and withdrawn. That is the worst time to be unloving.
It doesn’t mean that you don’t get angry. It means that you demonstrate how adult you are by “cooling off” before you speak.
You reach within yourself beyond the personal offense that you feel because your child disobeyed you and take the opportunity to help them grow.
You encourage them that they were created to be amazing people. You tell them to pay for the consequence and do better tomorrow.
Discipline and consequences should be purposeful and redemptive. The motivation of our actions should be to help them succeed later.
Honesty Really is the Best Policy
We do not have to trick them or keep them guessing. We tell them what we are doing. We tell them that they are worth it.
Tough love hurts but it is not mean. It is done with patience, thoughtfulness, and purpose.
Sometimes that means paying for the dent they put in the car, even though it was an accident that could have happened to anyone.
It means allowing them to fail while they are close to you so that you can help them identify and overcome their weaknesses.
Tough love is not easy, but it is right and necessary.