Often times when people think of the concept of tough love, it can have a very negative connotation. Especially when raising children today, people put such a high emphasis on caring about how a child is feeling all the time and guarding those feelings. I think this is healthy and this is necessary for their emotional well being but at the same time, tough love also needs to be implemented for the greater good of the child.
What is tough love exactly? Tough love is the ability to say no, give consequences, apply discipline, and hold someone accountable for their actions.
It may sound counterintuitive that being tough on a child will build their confidence because aren’t their precious little souls going to be crushed if they do not get what they want and if life doesn’t go their way? In that immediate moment and the short term, yes the child is going to be upset and most likely react unfavorably. However, life isn’t fair all the time right? Why do adults create a false sense of reality for children that they can do whatever they want and get away with it? This is not how the real world works and for this reason a good dose of discipline should be enforced even if that means it is going to cause pain, emotional discomfort, and perhaps negatively affect their self esteem at that given moment. But guess what, they get over it. They cope, they adapt, and they move on with a life lesson. It ultimately builds their strength, character, and confidence.
People mistakenly seem to think that over validating a child will build their confidence. I do not agree with that approach unless a child earned a reason to be validated. Simply telling a child they are good at everything or shaping their mentality that they can do no wrong has the opposite effect by creating a sense of entitlement, laziness, and yet again, a false reality because no one is truly exceptional at everything. Sure they might be feeling good (maybe a little too good) about themselves but it will only last for the short term. If children are wrongfully taught they are “the best” at all times, it is a really rude awakening once they are out in the real world and realize they are not so perfect after all. They actually have to apply themselves and compete for things like everyone else in this world. Ouch–confidence shattered.
At the end of the day, it is okay to point out when a child is not good at something and to put them down with constructive criticism. Why? It provides them a sense of self awareness, a much needed reality check, and [hopefully] motivation for self improvement. They strive to get better at whatever it is that they are not good at or proactively find the things they naturally are good at. They work harder towards achieving excellence rather than falsely believing they are excellent for no real reason.
Tough love will hurt at times and it might also not feel good to make someone feel bad, especially a child because they are very impressionable and might not have the capacity to manage their feelings very well. However, you need to trust that you are actually building them up in the long run even if that means there are times that you are bringing them down. They become more aware of their weaknesses and limitations which provides them room to grow into stronger and more confident individuals.