10 Keys For Tough Love Parenting

Parents the world over want just one thing for their children—for them to grow up into independent, happy adults with a decent moral compass in place. Once upon a time, when the Internet and its various media weren’t born, parents were free to raise their kids the way they wanted to. Now, even if you sternly tell-off your child in public, you become the face of bad parenthood and people are free to troll you for you non-existent and horrible parenting skills.

So frankly, many of us have become so fearful of a public backlash that we have softened the tough love stance and are turning into jellyfish parents with no backbone but those who can sting when in a temper, especially in private! We are sending disjointed signals to our kids—and this is perhaps the worst parenting skill of ours. So here’s what I have seen and learned from tough love parents over the years, and understood that every parent-child combination and relationship is as unique as a human fingerprint—plenty of whorls and dips, as well as high-points and joy. Let’s stick to raising our children to the best of our abilities, and stop shaming people we have no idea of and about. Unless you see a child in danger, leave mum and dad be, please…

  1. Remember Your Values & Pass Them On: Each of us has a unique value set that we believe in even more than the sun itself. These values need to be passed down to our children but not by preaching—by setting an example of how and when to practice it. I’ll give you an example: most people would find my husband and I are more than generous with toys when it comes to our two kids. We buy them stuff, yes. One of my core value systems is that when a toy is not played with for more than 6 months, it goes into a charity box. Every six months or so, we clean out the charity box and give away these toys to the underprivileged. And we take our kids along to show them what the real world is like for some people.

  2. Nip The Pity Parties In The Bud: Sometimes my husband cannot believe that I am low on empathy when any of our boys comes bawling from school after “losing” at something. I tell them to grin and bear it and remember to learn something from this failure so that they can work on themselves, or rather we all can work together to try that they do better the next time. But before this, the bawling has to stop. No pity parties in this family, please. Oh, and no pitting the siblings against each other.

  3. Burst That Protective Bubble: The moment your baby is old enough to start crawling, he’s old enough to get boo-boos. And you cannot encase your child in a protective film to avoid all those physical bruises, mental setbacks or emotional hurts. You can and should encourage your child, kiss away the tears, and hug away the pain, but tell them that they have to be strong enough to deal with it. Give your own childhood examples to work in the fact that hurt and pain are as big a part of life as happiness and joy. Everything has to be taken into stride.

  4. Sometimes, Many Times, All The Time – A No Always Means A No: Children are badass psychologists. They are born with the knowledge of how to twist their parents to their tune and lead them to a merry dance. No tantrum can ever end with your ceding to their wishes. This tells them, very strongly, that bad behavior means they get to have their way. Nope. No can do! A tantrum can be soothed with a hug, or with sheer ignoring when they are older. Bad will never be appreciated, now or ever. So if you have said no to a particular thing, steel your resolve against all smiling, hugging, begging, crying, bawling, and head-banging fits, even in PUBLIC. Pack them off in the car and go home till the storm has passed.

  5. Don’t Punish, Discipline Instead: One thing you have to remember: children are not adults. They cannot sit quietly or calmly. They will fidget and create a mess. They will fumble and break things. They will scream and break the sound barrier! So keeping in mind that they are kids, don’t punish them for the mischief committed, especially if you are angry. Discipline them instead—the difference lies not in the duration of the timeout or the grounding but that one mistake is forgiven and explained as to why it should not be done. The second mistake demands further enforcement to make sure the third time simply never happens.

  6. Do Not Expect An Einstein: Kids are kids and all kids are different. You may want your child to have rock star aspirations but he may be happier reading a book or doodling pirates. As parents, we put our children in the best of schools, have them attend expensive hobby classes and indulge them with buying the latest techno-toy around. And then we sit back and expect them to excel. Wrong! Let the kids just have fun—don’t expect them to turn into Yanni or the Big Lebowski. Let them figure out the world first; excellence came come later.

  7. You Cannot Prevent The Falls Or The Fails: Despite all that you do, all that you teach your kid, and all that you think he or she has managed to learn from you, your child will still stumble and fall on all the planes of life, multiple times. Why? Because it’s natural for everyone to make mistakes and learn from them. You are not responsible for the mistakes your child makes. He or she is an independent being, and a separate entity from you—he is not your mirror and will not take on your personality. Be there to pick your children up, dust them off and show them your undying love. But never ever try to take the mantle of responsibility off of them and onto your shoulders. Their mistakes and the consequences are theirs—you can help them get through it and learn from it.

  8. Stop Feeling Guilty: I am extremely nearsighted. So is my husband. For the longest time, I would wring my hands as to how both of us having myopia significantly raised the chances of our kids getting glasses at an early age. Well, tough luck and so what! Yes, they might get glasses. Will their world end? Can they not cross the hurdle like we did? As parents, we not only blame ourselves for the mistakes the child makes or the hurt that comes their way, but also carry around a heavy shroud of guilt. Well, time to shuck it off. We are no idols ourselves; as parents, we too will make mistakes. Then we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and soothe any and all boo-boos as need be. Guilt has to be discarded else we’ll end up trying to “make up” for it to our kids and spoil them silly instead.

  9. Your Child Is Not The Start All & End All Of Your Being: Yes we all love our children. To the point that we cannot even begin to describe the love. It’s something fierce. But as parents, we have to remember that our children will have a life separate from us, sooner or later. Mothers and fathers the world over need to start weaning themselves away from our children from the day they are born. So that our children become self-sufficient, self-reliant, and independent human beings. And so that we don’t have sky high expectations from them. We don’t want to be the parents who keep nagging our children to spend time with us; we don’t want to be burdens on them later. So from now on itself, we need to steal a few precious moments to carve out a life for us without them—which we can fully throw ourselves into when the hatchlings have flown the nest.

  10. You Love Your Child Unconditionally. Tell Them That: There are two parts to tough love. And love is a very big part in it. You have to tell your child that no matter what it is they do; your love will never change. Because that’s the truth. You will love and worry over your child from even beyond the grave. So encourage your child to be truthful and honest and own up to any mistakes they make—because the discipline you dish out, the stern truth you may bring home, doesn’t change the fact that your love is more constant than the sun that rises from the east. And your children should know that – the one thing that they can always count upon is their parent’s love, even if it is tough love.

It’s tough saying these things, and tougher doing them when you encounter teary eyes and heartbroken wails. But it is a tough world out there and your children need to be made strong, inside out, so that they can live life fearless and joyous. Tough parents may be the villains of the moment, but they are also the heroes of the lifetime. Remember to stand your ground when need be. But fill those happy moments with fun and laughter and impromptu jigs. Go for picnics and walks. Spend time with your children and they’ll surprise you every day. Believe them and believe in them. They are not you; they are little humans you are raising. Raise them with joy and love and some tough love! Happy parenting to you!