Why You Should Never Get Tough With Your Kids


Why You Should Never Get Tough With Your Kids, And Why You Should Be Gentle, Calm, and Loving Instead.

Why is it that so many parents have the mistaken idea that you’re supposed to get tough with your kids, when you want to get them to behave (or for any other reason)?

Why do we hold on to the outdated belief that the only way to really get kids to listen is to get harsh and tough with them?

They didn’t pick up after themselves like you asked?  Send them to time-out!

They said ‘No’ to your request?  Give them a smack!  (or worse)

They lied to you?  Take away privileges, give them extra chores, make them suffer to learn a lesson.

This is all completely misguided programming.

Getting tough, and making your child suffer only ever makes things worse.

And yet, you see this ‘tough-love’ attitude everywhere.  On social media posts and comments, in advice given to struggling parents.

But I’m here to tell you just the opposite.

You Should Never Get Tough With Your Kids

That’s right.

You should never get tough with your kids.  Ever.

Even in the most trying, desperate moments.

Even when there is an urgent need to get somewhere on time.

Even when you are at your wits end.


Getting tough doesn’t work

The tougher you are, the more your kid becomes afraid of you.  And that is exactly the opposite from what you really want.

By making your children afraid of you, you might get short-term compliance with them every now and then.  You might be able to get them to sit at the table until they are excused.  You might be able to get them to pick up the shoes they left in the hall.

But ask yourself.  Do you really want your kids to be afraid of you?  Do you want them to grow up in fear of your actions, afraid of what you might do or say?

Do you really want the basis of your relationship with your children to be based on fear?

No, you don’t.

The goal that parents really want is to have children who they are close and connected to, and who ultimately grow and mature into confident, happy adults.

Getting tough with your kids results in the opposite.  Kids who you are less connected with, and who grow into insecure and less happy adults.

Getting tough destroys your relationship with your children

When you get tough with your kid, your connection with them erodes.  Your relationship with them suffers.

And you don’t want your relationship to suffer because it’s the relationship with your children that is the real key to success in your parenting efforts.

If you really want to help your children grow up to be happy, secure and confident kids, you must hold your relationship with them in sacred, high regard.

You should be working on building up your relationship with your children, not tearing it down.

By getting tough, you are in fact tearing your relationship apart.

Don’t do that.

What to do instead

Instead of getting tough, get gentle.

Get really gentle, connect with where you child is right in the moment, empathize and show that you understand them.  You can be firm if you think the situation calls for it, and be gentle at the same time.

The 3 things to remember are to:

  1. Get gentle
  2. Connect
  3. Empathize.

Here’s the thing.  Kids actually want and need rules and guidance.  The need to learn boundaries and what is appropriate or inappropriate in different situations.

And they need that guidance from their parents.

But they also need to know you’re guiding and correcting and helping in loving, connected and gentle ways.  (Not by being harsh, demanding and tough)

So how do you get your child to listen when there is an urgent need?  Such as getting out the door and off to school on time, or helping them brush their teeth, or whatever the situation is.

Be Gentle and Connected

By staying connected, by asking gently, and by not engaging in a battle or power struggle.

Asking calmly, gently, and in a connected way will get better results, and has the added benefits of keeping your relationship strong.


When being gentle and connected doesn’t seem to be working, or when you get some oppositional back-talk or a complaint about your request, then you can empathize with your children’s feelings, rather than arguing and engaging in a battle over the requested behavior.

Don’t get into a fight about it.  Instead just say “I’m sorry you feel that way, but let’s get this done now rather than later please,” or, “I know you don’t want to, but we have to go right now.” Or, just “I understand” or “I hear you” or “I see that you are upset about it.”

Keep on empathizing, keep repeating validating phrases such as those, and keep on remaining gentle.

Don’t let up in your gentleness, empathy and compassion just because your child is acting defiantly or is complaining about it.

And don’t get into a battle and start arguing back.

Never get tough

Whatever you do, don’t get tough.

Getting tough doesn’t work.

But getting gentle does.

Eric @1AwesomeDad

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