Using Tough Love Without Destroying Kids’ Mental Health


I remember being upset with my parents from the later part of my childhood up to young adulthood. The reason was that it felt like they were nicer to my younger sister compared to me. They always helped with her homework and exam preparations while I was always told that I should learn how to do it on my own. It got to the point where I willed myself to keep a poker face around my family to prevent showing any sign of weakness.

The thing was, my parents never admitted to favoring my younger sister when it came to who got tough love more. Mom often insisted, “It’s just the same for you both. But sometimes, we give in to your sister and help her more because she is weaker than you.” To that, my typical reply was, “Then, you should have pushed her harder instead of babying her.”

Nonetheless, my resentment melted away when I realized that my folks give me the biggest favor of all time when they gave me tough love.


How Did That Happen?

Even though Mom and Dad pretty much gave me free rein to decide on how to run my life from a young age, I still received scolding from them due to my actions. Because of that, I quickly figured out that failing hurts and that I didn’t want to experience it repeatedly. I learned to be careful with my decisions and consider possible ways to attain my goals so that I wouldn’t always give my parents the satisfaction of telling me what I was doing wrong.

I could honestly say that tough love played a significant part in my success as it made me wiser than my peers. I knew that holding a grudge to anyone would have never let me get where I am now; instead, I needed to prove to myself that I could do things without my parents’ help. And it happened — all those years of looking out for myself paid off.


How Did Tough Love Not Ruin My Mental Health?

You might not be able to imagine how many times I told people about my life story and how many of them asked, “But are you genuinely okay, mental-wise? Don’t you need to see a therapist?”

I guess their queries are understandable since plenty of individuals who received tough love from childhood ended up with depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders. However, as shocking as it may sound, the experience has not caused me to lose any of my marbles. It may have fortified my mental resilience because other life obstacles that I have dealt with ever since have failed to compare to it.

The more I chatted with the people who felt victimized by their parents’ tough love, the more I realized what Mom and Dad did to ensure that it won’t ruin my mental health.


They Never Used Corporal Punishment

Corporal punishment is a traditional method of disciplining children. Back in the day, if the child cheated on an exam or started a fight at school, for instance, their mother or father would smack them on the head or shake them hard. Some parents even used belts, brooms, and various household items to hit the kids’ bottoms, legs, thighs, or hands. They most likely thought that discipline could be beaten into a child (literally).

Since Mom and Dad never used corporal punishment on me, though, I did not experience the physical pain that came with it. My chances of having repressed anger towards my parents or impaired emotional or mental development were low, too.

Giving Empty Threats Wasn’t Their Cup Of Tea

I had always been weirded out by moms and dads who uttered empty threats to their growing kids. They could say, “If you don’t behave, the police will arrive to get you” or “If you don’t wash up now, I will call the monsters and let them eat you.” Without sounding like a prejudice, who could do that to their children?


Although dishing out empty threats is common, I’m glad that my parents have never been into it. Whenever I was misbehaving, they merely uttered, “You can’t play video games all weekend” or “We will cancel your playdate.” Then, if I still didn’t straighten up, they would do what they just said. Missing playdates and losing access to video games one too many times could make any child like me realize that parents weren’t to be messed with.

They Always Scolded Me In Private

Another thing that made me grateful for my parents was their decision to scold me away from prying eyes. My sister or anyone else in the family never saw or heard them talk my ears off, claiming that they wanted to teach me a lesson, not embarrass me. Although it took some time before I understood it, my parents’ thoughtfulness allowed me to be mentally stable.

Final Thoughts

My relationship with Mom and Dad officially improved when I started raising my firstborn. I realized how much pressure they were likely under to make sure that I was growing up well. So, to keep me from going out of line, they taught me how to be resilient and decisive. Could there be a better gift than those?