I was never good at tough love. When the kids were little I had a terrible time letting them suffer consequences. But I have learned over the years, to my deep chagrin, that if you do not let them learn the hard way when they are young it is a hundred times worse when they become teenagers. It is hard to look at that sweet little child, not wanting them to hurt. I understand wanting to jump in and circumvent when something bad happens in their lives. But I can also tell you from experience, as a parent who has gone through hard teen years, it would have been far easier to take the pain then as opposed to now.
In this country when your child becomes a teen and they hang out with the wrong crowd, the police are involved. If they don't want to go to school, the courts step in and you as the parent are fined. If they get into to trouble they go to a juvenile detention center. In many states when they turn seventeen they are considered an adult, and they go to the county or city jail with any and every kind of law-breaker there is.
This will break your heart, all of it.
I have one daughter and one son, seven years apart. My daughter has always been a people pleaser; she got good grades and was obedient. She was an over-achiever and has worked hard all of her life. My son was a happy child but he never wanted to work, sit still, or do anything that took structure. I was a working parent and I left my children with my mom. She always made the kids do their chores and be responsible.
The problem arose when I came home and it was time for homework and bedtime chores. I missed the kids so much, and when my son would drag his feet I helped him out more than I should have. I coddled him because I felt bad I wasn't there all day. I was tired and it was easier to go ahead and do it myself.
He wasn't doing anything really wrong, but he certainly was taking advantage of his mother’s love. After awhile he knew if he put up a big enough fuss, I would take over. His dad left and we got into a routine doing things in a way which did him no good. I would call it a co-dependent relationship. He didn't think he could do it on his own and I didn't want to see him fail.
When he wanted to ditch high school, I fought to move him to a place with a smaller class size. He finally made it to graduation, only by God’s great grace. Since high school he has gotten into trouble several times with the law over the use of marijuana. He didn't seem to care what he was doing with his life. As a mother, it was almost too much to bear.
Seeing him so unhappy, I knew I had not done my job adequately as a parent.
I had always prayed for my children but at this point I began to pray for not only them, but myself as well. I asked God what to do to turn this bad situation around. My son needed help and I, too, needed forgiveness for failing him when he was young.
True Love is Tough
Slowly, God has been teaching me the meaning of tough love and rescuing my son. It is oh so much harder now than it would have been when he was little. Take my word for it: when the law comes in and you have absolutely no way to help your child you wish with all your heart that you had equipped them never to get there in the first place.
God is faithful to help you at whatever point you turn to Him. For parents who are just starting out or have young children, I urge you to love your children for their good and not your own. It's tempting to do what is easy, but we need to look into the future and see the tough world we live in. Equip them to be strong and hold fast to what is good. It is not easy for kids today, and if we don't teach them to find the strength to persevere then we are not helping them.
I had to learn this lesson the hard way, by living it, but by the grace of God we are coming through it as stronger people. Avoiding this in the first place is a much easier, less painful option for you and your kids. Love them with the kind of love that will help them in any situation in life. Make them strong so that when they do not have you to lean on, they can still be victorious.
That is true love, and sometimes the toughest of all.