Given that many of you will be drawn to the presidential inauguration
on Tuesday, I’m posting today and I’ll leave it up until Wednesday’s

You’ve all probably heard of tough love before, but what does it mean? 
Does it mean yelling at our kids?  Does it mean pulling the no-flex
authority trip, or copping the “I brought you into this world, I can take
you out” attitude?

Well, no, none of those strategies would be considered healthy
parenting for kids or teens.

An approach that can work effectively AND make the discipline easier
for you as a parent is this one:  Be hard on the problem and soft on
the person.

A similar concept to this is separating a child’s behavior from the child
Does anyone recognize the statement below?  “I still love
you…I just don’t like this behavior, and we need to do something
about it.”  Or this statement, one that Amy, now nine, will say to her
stuffed animals or dolls:  “Just because I’m angry with you doesn’t
mean I don’t love you.”

In other words, don’t let your tween or teen daughter off the hook for
blowing curfew, ditching a day of school, smoking pot, or cracking up
your bumper.  However, don’t make her feel like she is the worst
person in the world for doing it.

My husband modeled this style of tough love well when he found out
how much alcohol our oldest (my stepdaughter) was drinking in late
high school.  Kindly but without any options, he whisked her off to an
awareness and recovery program, followed by family counseling. (Hard
on the problem.)  He explained how alcoholism ran down both sides of
her family, so her behavior could not be taken lightly. (It turns out
that addiction was not her issue, but he didn’t yet know.)  All of his
actions were underscored by the message, “I care about you.” (Soft on
the person.)

Change trap phrases like “What’s wrong with you?” and “You’re trying
to make my life miserable!” to “Tell me what’s going on with you” or
“This is not like you – can you help me understand why this
happened?” or “I know you didn’t mean to upset me.”

AND “we’re going to have a consequence for this.”  (Don’t forget that
part, which is what keeps the follow-through “hard on the problem.”)

Yes, some kids will manipulate:  “If you love me, can’t we make this a
warning?” and the proverbial “I promise I won’t do it again.”  Well,
that’s something you’ll be thinking about while you work some extra
hours to pay for this bumper, my dear!

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a writer, parent, and stepparent located in
Northern Colorado.  For more information on her stepparenting book,
go to



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