February 24, 2018

A Different Way to Look at Tough Love

A new added definition for tough love has taken form in our household. My 16 year old daughter has always danced to her own music. So when she asked and asked to have a nose piercing, it was no great surprise. We had been saying no to tattoos and piercing for over 4 years. However, what did surprise me was her dad said yes. You see, he told me, we have to pick our fights carefully.

We have started looking for ways not to fight with kids and to avoid power struggles. We have known our whole parenting career that our place was teach them to become independent, successful adults. And letting them go as they grow. This looks like letting kids make decisions on things we maybe didn’t like but could live with. James Lehman, MSW has a good word picture. “If you picture decision–making as a room, imagine that in the middle of the room are all the “soft” decisions—including what kind of music your child likes, what kind of clothes your son wears, who your daughter’s favorite movie star is. The walls of the room are the hard decisions around things like health, safety and academic performance.” So the “soft” decisions are ones we may not like but can live with.

However, our daughter starts pushing on the walls, we must stand and fight. We state the rules very clearly: “No, you can’t use drugs or drink or stay out all night.” And we stand firm on these house rules for all our kiddos. Things like drugs and alcohol, shoplifting, damaging people’s property and assault are easy to define—these types of behavior are very black and white. And there are laws to prove it.

We also stand on some of the “soft” issues if there is a moral problem with it. Like modesty in clothing or if  their choice in music is offensive or violent. We do say “You don’t have a right to listen to this music in my house,” and have found many parents do say that. But we have to make our family’s values and positions very, very clear so that when she looks to find solid ground later, she’ll know where to look.

We know our daughter may not do the things we want her to do—and she may do things we don’t want her to do. We also know we want to keep the lines of communication open either way. And have ultimately found that in choosing our battles, saying yes or using tough love, things are calmer around here and she is talking to us more and more kindly!

For many more tips and techniques to deal with tough love and choosing your battles, check out The Total Transformation. It’s one of the best child behavior programs I’ve ever seen – it worked for our family, I’m sure it can work for yours!

About the author: By

Julie is an awesome parent (along with her husband Matt) to five adopted kiddos and the owner of the Parenting Allies website.

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Disclaimer: We are not psychologists, counselors, or therapists. We are parents of children with special challenges, and the techniques, tools, and programs we recommend on this website have worked for us on our parenting journey.

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