The Reality Behind “Tough Love”
By SIMONE YU
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this piece are not a reflection of the views of Paw Prints Weekly as a whole. They are the sole views of the author. Paw Prints Weekly celebrates a diverse audience and staff, and it supports the declaration of the duties and rights of a Journalist per the U.S. Constitution.
As children, we have often heard, “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you!” That is nonsense.
Throughout the years, many parents have been choosing the stick over the the carrot—using punishment rather than encouragement—when it comes to raising their child. The media has called this negative parenting method “tough love,” in which parents use distressing, firm words to help their children learn from their mistakes and “thicken their skin.”
In reality however, tough love is just a facade, burying the much more sinister signs of emotional abuse and a traumatic childhood.
In a society where the ideal motto of tough love supporters states that “children should be seen and not heard,” parents who do not value the voices and thoughts of their children are setting a harmful path for them. Children may be verbally attacked for making minuscule mistakes or given the silent treatment to feel guilty. Society unfortunately allows this destructive way of parenting so, we focus more on physical rather than emotional abuse. Nevertheless, emotional abuse is more psychologically damaging.
In a 2017 study from the Child Protection Register, 12% of children who were abused emotionally had a more “damaged mental state” than children who were abused physically. As society disregards the children who are in a tough love relationship, we disregard the harmful mental impacts of emotional abuse.
Furthermore, parents often attempt to demean their children, putting them down to control their every move. This results in the child not knowing how to express his/her opinions, ask for help or even disagree with a person.
Additionally, being constantly looked down upon at home can make the child believe that others will treat them like that as well, leading to multiple behavioral problems such as aggression and profound mood swings. To make matters worse, children also lose their self-worth and trust for others when being constantly picked on and put down at home.
In fact, a study conducted by Kids At Risk Action indicates that about 80% of 21 years olds who were emotionally mistreated met the criteria for at least one psychological disorder. In a recent study from Child Protection Register, over 19,000 children identified that they needed protection from the abuser. The severity of the problem can even extend to needing to remove the child from his/her parents; causing frightening changes for the child, as well as long-term trauma, such as PTSD.
By no means is an emotionally abusive parent merely a “strict” parent. While a strict parent always considers what is best for their children, an emotionally abusive parent disregards their wishes and only want things to go their own way, blaming the children when it does not.
Contrarily, children who are treated with decent respect and love are much happier than children verbally shamed everyday. We tend to trust people who understand our situation and shows empathy. We always want to be treated how we treat others. This phrase definitely applies to the respect and unconditional love in a family; it is the key to a loving relationship.
Nonetheless, a study from the 2013 World Family Map found that only about 20% of family members in the U.S. have a loving, connected relationship. The study also concluded that positive encouragement from parents enhances creativity and social skills, confidence, trust and focus. Consistent negative and constructive criticism on mistakes and flaws only increase feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety.
While tough love in society is seen as an acceptable parenting method, it does not change the fact that verbally shaming your child daily has detrimental consequences. Instead of shrieking at your child for dropping that nice vase, lighten up and forgive your child; believe it or not, it makes a huge difference.