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How Tough the Love?


“Because they’re your kids.”

After the guest speaker had finished, Michael went around the circle asking each of the students; “What did you hear from him?” and it was at this point that a lively, profitable discussion had ensued. The guest was Darin Craig, DSC_0018a local businessman whose only son has gone through a serious bout of drug addiction, and who had agreed to address our Christian Intervention groups as he spoke of a child’s addiction as seen through the parent’s eyes. The sessions were riveting.

It was the “tough love” issue that aroused lengthy and conflicting views. “Tough love” was not universally endorsed by this group and when it became so obvious, Mike asked for a show of hands. Interesting. About half of the group thought that a child could do nothing that should cause a parent to refuse to support that child. No matter what he does, he should always be accepted back in the parents’ home.

“Why?” Mike asked.

“Because they’re your children,” was the pointed, adamant answer of one young man.

I disagree, as do all the leaders of our group, our thought being there comes a time when parents must be tough, and say, “This behavior is not going on in this house.”After repeated tries, broken promises, defiance, law-breaking, jail time, drugs in the house, drunkenness in the living room–finally, a parent has the right (even obligation) to say, “No more.” Does that mean that parents no longer love the child? Of course not. A normal parent will love his child to the grave–no matter the behavior.

What say you? Are you a “tough love” proponent, or do you agree with many in our Christian Intervention program who say no matter what a child does, the parent should always take him in again, and again?

By Shirley Buxton

Still full of life and ready to be on the move, Shirley at 83 years old feels blessed to have lots of energy and to be full of optimism. She was married to Jerry for 63 years, and grieves yet at his death in August of 2019. They have 4 children, 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren...all beautiful and highly intelligent--of course. :)

12 replies on “How Tough the Love?”

As a single parent of 3 daughters tough love is the way we have to be. Some people say im too stricked with my girls ages 20, 17 ,16. I tell them no,if they had seen what path I made as a young adult, I would wish my parents had a tough love rule in my family. Being a drug addict and becoming pregnat at the age of 19, thinking this was gonna be great. A year after my daughter was born tragic happened in my family ,my brother was shot and killed. Thats when I became more heavely into meth. As a young adult no one was there. Now thinking well maybe have another baby will change, so I did that 2 more time hoping for change, But nothing never changed. So 13 years ago I was sitting at my window asking God please help me,thats when he said You shall follow the shepherd and you will stay. Not knowing what that all meant. God sent me to a beautiful church in chula vista. And now I see why. So being a parent using tough love
and serving the Lord these young adults will grow up and see what a sacrifice and love your parents will go through to see you make it. Well I hope this will help someone .

Lisa, you have made me cry this morning with these beautiful words. How great is our God…has such mercy on us when we are struggling and when we have no direction. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. You have every right to be proud of your gorgeous girls and to guard them.

So glad you’re a part of the wonderful church in Chula Vista.

Thank you for reading my blog. Hope you return and comment often. Love you.


Yes….rock bottom removes you from the equation. Then you have no choice but to accept help from a higher power…. Many call this higher power Christ Jesus. I do. Again just my opinion.

Yes, Dean. The ONLY higher power is Jesus Christ.


I say tough love or “real love,” as Greg calls it, is very key to helping a child in a situation such as you have addressed. Why? Because it requires of an individual an absolute. Children need stability and a parent who is craw-fishing because of emotionalism is not offering a misbehaving child the stability that they need. There are times when a parent cannot be one’s friend, although, they are being a true friend in those significant moments. Quite the conundrum, hmmm? If a parent ever intends to truly help a troubled child, the one thing they can absolutely not do is dabble in making excuses for them. It is enabling and is simply a diversion tactic.

I’m not a parent, so I am definitely not the expert. However, I know when it came to rules for behavior and modes of conduct within the parameters of my parent’s home, there was no question of what was allowed and not allowed. Yes, my siblings and I did try those boundaries to the point of some extremely intense confrontations with my father, and sometimes, my mother. But, the rules still held! My parents did not compromise, they followed through, they were extremely consistent, they stood side by side on the issue with each other and never took our side over the other parent, and they did a whole lot of praying I’m sure. 🙂

It must’ve worked because all 4 of us are serving the Lord, working in different aspects of ministry. One is a pastor, one is a pastor’s wife, one is a church secretary, one is a music director and we all love God to the utmost, love each other dearly and are extremely close to each other, and love and respect our parents fully. No, we didn’t wallow in the lowest dregs of society, although, at different intervals we got seriously close to the edge. Too close! However, because our parents practiced preventative discipline and preventative love from the start, they didn’t have to deal quite so strongly in intervention. We were blessed and yes, tough/real love works.

Hi, Anna. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Agree, totally. What a blessed family you have.


I agree with the tough love concept. Our kids knew the rules from the time that they were small. I feel fortunate, though, that the hubby and I never had to implement those rules. I can only imagine how our hearts would have broken.

Blessed indeed you are, Becky.


Tough love – although I don’t think the language is terribly useful…for me it kind of conjures up this grumpy person who is being mean and nasty but claiming it is all ‘in the name of love’.

I think it is a part of ‘real love’ – a love that holds your life and future so dearly that it is prepared to suffer the hurt, pain and anguish of turning out a beloved child in the hopes that they will come to their senses and turn to the one who can and does redeem and save from even the deepest of darkest holes.

Shirley, I think that ‘rock bottom’ is different for different people; not everyone has the same depths to go to. It is all relative – rock bottom feels the same I think for all who reach it…wherever it is.

Greg, I believe the term Toughlove came from a group which organized 30 or so years ago to encourage parents (and others) to refrain from being an enabler to their addicted children. There have been abuses, of course, with people taking the concept much too far. But it wasn’t meant that way, nor is it meant to imply grouchiness or meanness, I believe. I’ve had no interaction with the organized group.

You’re so right to point out the pain and anguish that comes to a parent who must ask their child to leave the home. Agony of the deepest sort.

You’re may be right about “rock bottom.” There surely are degrees.


Great article Sis Buxton……I believe in tough love very much….but its one thing to believe in it…its another to practice it.

I have 2 great daughters, and it would break my heart to have to take certain actions….if they were to go off the deep end and do the things you mentioned, I know what would be the right thing to do….but oh Lord it would be hard.

I pray that I never have to face that.

Kris, I’ve talked recently to more than one Holy Ghost filled person who is having to take such action. There are surely no words to describe such difficulty, such heartbreak. I’m glad you have been spared such torment. How blessed you are with those two beautiful daughters.


Great question!! No one can recover from any addiction, in my opinion, until they reach rock bottom. When this happens, if they reach up to a higher power, help is available. If TOUGH LOVE is the short cut to a addicted person reaching their lowest point, so be it! Enabling an addicted soul is costly. Great question!!

Dean, I’ve thought about this and hope it is not true that an addict has to reach rock bottom before he can be delivered: I know it is a widely-held thought, and on a daily basis I see evidence for its being so. But what is rock bottom? Does that perhaps vary from person to person?


I was raised in a home with tough love. Interesting enough, out of 4 children, none of us have spent anytime in jail or abused drugs. One sibling is a recovering alcoholic, but they never even tried bringing it in my parents’ home.

Tough love has to begin before the problems start. We knew the rules before we could read. We all tried to push against the rules (I think that’s just what teenagers do!) but we knew No meant No. “No, you can’t” does not mean, “No, I don’t love you.”

If there are no consequences, there is no incentive to straighten up.

Kathy, there will always be exceptions, of course, but I’m convinced that a “tough love” attitude in the main will effectively discipline children. The heart-breaking cases are those in which such consistency has been demonstrated, and still the child “goes wrong.” Sad.


Tough love is the best way to go. From my point of view as a young person, if I was all messed up and rebelious and doing things like that and my parents kicked me out because of it, I would KNOW they still loved me and I’d know I was wrong. If they let me do whatever I wanted it would kind of feel like they didn’t care as much anymore…that’s me. lol Good post!


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