When I was younger, I was prone to tantrums. I’d like to think all the kids were at that age. I was a child who felt like I wasn’t getting enough attention and demanded it from my parents who were probably busy with other things. I cried when I needed help with homework, or wanted someone to talk to, or wanted to be congratulated for earning top honors in my class for the nth year in a row. But when I repeatedly didn’t get them, I eventually stopped expecting.
The one moment in my life when I felt that my relationship with my parents would forever be changed was when I had gained a lot of weight from emotional eating—a result of being a lonely teenager with bad coping mechanisms. I came home from the doctor who informed us that I was nearing obesity for my height and age. I was in despair. And I will never forget when my dad coldly said, “You’re obese. Wala na tayong magagawa dun (There’s nothing we can do about that).”
It put me in such a dark place. I never opened up to them since then. I let myself endure my personal struggles on my own, in the darkness of my bedroom, throughout my difficult adolescent years. My parents were bad at showing love, and so I never sought it from them anymore. I’ve grown to live with it.
Tough love. It was better than having no love at all, I thought.
Except, it wasn’t right.
I don’t believe in tough love. It’s hurtful, and it changes relationships between people. People argue that tough love is necessary to make someone strong and independent—in some ways, it does, but you always have to think: at what cost? A life full of insecurity, anxiety, and resentment? Waking thoughts about how we don’t deserve the kind of love we are supposed to have?
In extreme cases, abuse hides behind the veil of tough love, indiscernible by the one on the receiving end who makes excuses in behalf of his or her abuser: “Oh, he’s/she’s like that because it’s my fault.”
In what world is that okay?
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Tough love should never be an excuse to be disrespectful or abusive.
What I do believe in is open and honest communication. If the reason for tough love is to help someone be better as a consequence of their actions, why be tough when you can just talk?
I don’t think that a lack of toughness will bring up a coddled and spoon-fed generation. Not when you do it right. Communication will always trump punishment.
After all, at the end of the day, we all crave love and care from the people we need it from the most.
But what are your thoughts on this topic? Do you believe in tough love? Let’s have an open and respectful conversation in the comments below!
Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of When In Manila