Our parental instincts dictate that we protect our children at all times —at all costs. To shelter them from harm or even from momentary discomfort and, possibly, from all the harsh realities of life. To shield them from the bullies, the predators, the traitors, all the scumbags in this world. We are even ready to sacrifice our life for them, if it comes down to it.
That is what being a parent is all about, I guess.
We have to remember, however, that we cannot always be by our children’s side. We cannot constantly keep watch over them. We cannot be around forever to guard and protect them and to catch them after every fall.
But there is one thing that we can do that will definitely help them go through the bad times later on in life with as little trouble, difficulty and pain as possible.
WE CAN PREPARE THEM by loving them, not with tenderness, but with uncompromising toughness. Yes, this is what the professionals refer to as the Tough Love parenting.
Here are some tips on how to go about this.
1. Let them “bleed” a little. Don’t come to them running or give in to their every whim just because they won’t stop crying until you do. Letting yourself be manipulated that way by your little tykes would inadvertently give them the impression that, whenever they turn on the waterworks or throw a tantrum, they can get away with anything. Consequently, they will grow up with a deep-seated sense of entitlement. Exposing them to certain levels of disappointment early on, on the other hand, will teach them to be patient and be mindful and considerate of others.
2. Let them suffer the consequences of their actions and learn from their own mistakes. Teach them that breaking rules always has its natural and inevitable consequences. Don’t make the habit of cleaning their mess. As young as toddlers, children should know that it is their responsibility to put away their toys after playtime. If they fail to do so, you can hide the toys until they promise to put those back in their proper boxes and bins when they are done playing. That will instill in them obedience and a sense of responsibility.
3. Let them explore and navigate their little world on their own. Give them freedom to run around and try new things with other children their own age. Don’t be afraid to expose them to a little dirt, bacteria or germs —which, according to expects, could help them develop a healthy microbiome and immune system. They will learn to be independent and adventurous, and will grow up with stronger wings and a fearlessness to fly and soar high.
4. Let them be aware of their imperfections, flaws and shortcomings. As parents, we want to believe that our children are perfect creatures –that they are the epitome of beauty, brilliance, wit, compassion, and of every positive trait in the book. We tend to put them on a pedestal. This, however, would give our children the idea that they are better than everybody else and, as such, are beyond reproach. Let them earn every compliment and word of praise you give them. And you need to call them out on their mistakes and indiscretions if you want them to learn humility, tolerance and acceptance.
5. Let them face their fears and fight their own battles. When they fall flat on their face, don’t let them stay there. Make them get back on their feet, dust themselves off and start all over again. They should learn to test their limits, to develop the courage to pursue their dreams, and to stand up and speak their minds. They will grow up into men and women of courage, resilience, independence and strong character.
6. Let them earn their keep. They would soon realize that free-riders never get far in this world. Assign them tasks and chores that they should accomplish with due diligence. This would teach them the dignity of hard work and the values of excellence and discipline.
7. Let them know who the boss is in your family —and, definitely, it is not them. As parents, and the real bosses in your home, you should set rules and a corresponding set of rewards (for obedience and compliance) and punishment (for offenses and misbehavior) for your children that you will strictly and consistently impose. Rudeness, dishonesty and cruelty should never be tolerated in any home. Help raise a generation of citizens that holds in high regard such qualities as respect (for rules, the authority, other people and other people’s time, the elders, the environment and themselves), honesty, integrity and compassion.
8. Let them see the plight of the poor, the sick, the refugees, the orphans and the other less-privileged members of society. Make them realize that whatever hardship or challenge they may be going through at the moment, there are more people out there who suffer worse conditions. Show them how to give and share to the needy. This will teach them to be appreciative and grateful for whatever they have, and to be giving and generous to the less fortunate.
9. Let them discover their interests, joys, talents, passions and potentials. Let their creative juices flow freely. Provide them with free time to play, daydream and roam around in the backyard. Never, under any circumstance, impose your unrealized dreams on them. Let them think and make their own educated choices and opinions. Make them feel more in control of their world. This will promote love of learning and education in your kids. They will grow up with that ingrained thirst and hunger for knowledge.
10. Let them hear the stories of how people throughout history have been persecuted because of their religious beliefs, of how people of faith have been made martyrs, and of how large groups of believers are discriminated against, imprisoned, tortured, raped, harassed, murdered and even annihilated. But let them also hear the stories of God’s mercy, goodness and boundless love for all of us. This will teach them the value of our spiritual liberties and to have strong faith both in humanity and in God.
Studies show that the tough love approach to parenting, as compared with the other parenting styles, is the most effective as it is more likely to produce “rounded personalities with well-developed characters.” You need to be cautions, though, in toeing the thin line separating firmness and harshness. Advocates of the Tough Love approach show their love for their children through a combination of parental warmth and discipline. They strive to be firm without being harsh.
Finally, it is best to remember that each child is unique and, as such, the type of discipline that he/she would most likely respond to could also be unique.