Tough Love: Tips for Parenting Teenagers

Get Information About this Unique Parenting Style

Teenage discipline

"Tough love" was coined the 1980s by a couple in the Philadelphia area after dealing with their teenage daughter. Phyllis and David York founded the Toughlove Network and the term "tough love" began to be used.  One great resource for dealing with teenagers who are out of control is My Out-of-Control Teen - this e-book has lots of tough love-inspired methods you can use to communicate with any difficult teen.

Tough love is a strategy and parenting style developed for parents of out-of-control teenagers. But it's hard to know what the symptoms of out-of-control teenage behavior are, since it varies depending on the child and its parents. For some teenagers, mouthing off and spending their time in their bedrooms or out of the house are as bad as their parents see. Other parents know their teenager's behavior has changed, but refuse to consider that their child is using drugs or alcohol. Some signs of a troubled teen include secrecy, grade dropping, out-of-proportion emotional outbursts or a sudden change in friends and interests.

In most definitions of this parenting style, parents take a stand against their children. They stop covering for their behavior and let their child accept the consequences. Sometimes these consequences are minor -detention for skipping a class, for example. Other times, the consequences are more severe and may involve the authorities. Often, tough love refers to sending your child to a drug/alcohol treatment program or enrolling them in a military-like school or a wilderness training program. If you feel your child would benefit from one of these programs, speak to your child's school counselor or pediatrician for recommendations. Some of these programs can be a little extreme, so make sure you've done your research before sending your child to one. 

Sometimes the term "tough love parenting" is affiliated with some Christian religious philosophies. It's basically made up of positive parenting tips for dealing with difficult situations that require a larger, more serious consequence. Keep in mind that this guide should only be used when parenting teenagers, not younger children.

  1. Check out the Toughlove program. This program offers teachings and parenting skills through meetings. The meetings will help you meet others going through what you're going through, give you tips and advice to create boundaries with your child, create expectations, and help you communicate better with them. The meetings work to fix the problem, not to assign blame or talk about what has happened in the past. This program is not affiliated with religious or boot camp types of programs. In fact, they are opposed to boot camp programs.
  2. Go to your local bookstore. There are many books about tough love that claim to help you learn how to communicate with your teen. If you feel overwhelmed by the selection, find reader reviews of the books, like those on Amazon, to help you make your choices. Some examples of books about tough love include Toughlove by Phyllis York and Ted Wachtel, and The Toughlove Prescription by Ron Zodkevitch, M.D.
  3. Compare other methods. There is a great deal of opposition to tough love parenting. Many experts feel that it doesn't work, or is too harsh on teenagers. Books that teach other discipline options include Parenting Teens With Love&Logic: Preparing Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood by Foster W. Cline and Jim Fay and Positive Discipline for Teenagers by Jane Nelson and Lynn Lott.

Whether you decide to go with the tough love program or another option, all of these methods offer tips for helpful and effective parenting skills. The fact that you are researching these techniques means that you are on the right path to achieving a closer connection with your teen.


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