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Tough Love: Is It Good Or Bad?

Rachel Larsen, a certified Love and Logic teacher and mother of four, weighs in on the tough love debate.

Love and Logic Parenting Strategies:

–We need to show MORE LOVE
I don’t mean showing love by giving in to whining, tantrums, or our kids trying to argue us down from limits we’ve set, I’m talking about the art of being empathetic to the situations our kids find themselves in. I mean allowing our kids to make mistakes and learn from them without our interference, and NOT rescuing them from the consequences. Show genuine empathy for the consequences of those mistakes instead of showing anger, frustration, or insulting their intelligence with a lecture. For example, allowing our kids to know what it feels like to be cold rather than physically forcing or lecturing them into their jackets. Then being empathetic to them about being cold, and letting them endure the consequences, rather than the “I told you so” approach whilst giving them our jackets to save them from the consequence of being cold.

–We need to mean what we say without being mean
Meaning no threats, no warnings, no bribes, and NO YELLING! we do this by using statements we can enforce vs. ones we can’t enforce.
Example: Un-enforceable – “Stop whining.” (Whether we like it or not, we have NO control over the tone of someone else’s voice.)
Enforceable – “I’ll be happy to talk to you when your voice is calm and sweet like mine”
You can see how hard would be to say those enforceable words in a less than calm or sweet voice? You’d sound like an idiot. So by choosing words we can own and be accountable for, we decide what we will and won’t put up with, and stand firm to our limit without being a rude, angry, or verbally abusive parent.

–Say YES more
Again, I don’t mean letting your kids do whatever they want when they want, I mean following through on our limits without saying “NO” all the time. Example: “Mom, can I play the X-box?”
“YES, as soon as your homework is done.” Or,whatever the limit might be. It feels so much more as though you and your child are on the same side than if you say things like, “No way, I tell you every day you’re not playing any games or anything until that homework gets done.”
Big difference eh?

–A voice and a choice

This is how we share control in our homes. When we share control with our children on things that matter to them, but don’t necessarily matter to anyone else they feel less of a need to fight us for control over everything. Also, when we try to tell them how they should feel about something we take their “voice” from them. For example, when they say they hate beef stew, and we tell them, “but it’s so good!” we’re criticizing and telling them how they should feel about something. They’ll sense a loss of control immediately, but by letting them have their own voice and choices about things, they’ll fight less for control. For example, letting our little ones choose how we do their hair, or pick their favorite between two outfits, or for the older ones: helping to plan meals or when they’re going to shower (morning or night or which days, etc.). We set the limits, and then give choices within those limits. Would you rather eat breakfast first or get dressed first? Would it be best for you if we wash your hair first, or your feet first (for little ones). Would you like to wear your jacket or carry it?

–Everyone Contributes
Self-esteem and high self-concept is earned through struggle and accomplishment. Opportunities for work and service in the home are not only a gift for your children, they are necessary for them to grow up believing in themselves and envisioning success in life.Referring to these chores as contributions, helps it feel like everyone is needed and we’re all working toward the common good 🙂 I like to tell my kids I’m working on my family contributions when I’m doing the things I do around the house, so they know we’re all on the same team, and we ALL are essential in making our home and family run smoothly.

Rachel Larsen is a certified Love and Logic facilitator. She is also the mother of four children.

Contact Rachel at

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