Since the 1970s, tough love has gotten a lot of attention. Its all about creating tough consequences for teens when they make irresponsible or dangerous decisions. Sadly, the term has been used to describe a parenting style that often resembles bully behavior. Parents are struggling with their parenting voice - trying to find a way to be effective parents with teens who are making poor choices. They need help practicing tough love - creating healthy boundaries and external controls for children who are unable to do this for themselves.

The danger is that parents will cross the line from effective mindful parenting, into bullying behavior. Tough love isn't about a parents' convenience. Its not a 'style' to practice when teens makes choices that are different, when they say "no" to parental demands, or when they embarrass the family. Difference is not defiance.

Warning signs of bully parenting.

You frequently raise your voice when communicating with your teen.

**Do you meet your child at the end of the day with a lecture? Holler when your teen won't get going in the morning? Do you yell, telling yourself that your teen knows you love them anyway and this is just your style?

You find yourself reminding your teen of his failures.

**Do you ever say, "I knew you wouldn't remember to do what I told you to do"?

Your voice is loud, and you use put-downs when you're frustrated with your teenager.

**Have you said, "Well what did you expect? An A? I've told you a million times you won't get good grades when you never study"?

You are impatient with your teen's self expression, and take his differences from you as a personal insult.

**Parents can feel threatened when their teen changes their hairstyle, gets tattoos or piercings, or reject the parent's religious beliefs.

You threaten "consequences" if your teen doesn't comply with your demands.

**"If you're not home in ten minutes I'm calling the cops!"

Sometimes you're nice, other times you're not nice at all. You justify this by saying that everyone has bad days sometimes, that your teen pushes too hard, or that part of life is that they won't always be treated well and they need to toughen up.

Do you justify rude statements and put-downs of your teen by telling yourself (and them) that they're just too sensitive?
You blame your teen for your bad moods.

**"I wouldn't have to yell if you would just pay attention / listen to me / follow direction / stop arguing / do what you're told...!"

You expect your teen to "bow to your wisdom".

**"Why don't you ever listen to me?"

You and your teen frequently get into arguments, and you usually win...

Parents who want to guard against the dangers of bully behavior may get insight into their unconscious parenting style by getting in touch with the way they were parented. Parents who received bully parenting are more likely to bully their own children.

What does REAL tough love look like?

Even with the dangers of moving too far toward bully behavior, the basic principles of tough love are sound, so long as it is practiced within a framework of respect and personal awareness on the part of the parent. Here are some pointers for guarding against bully parenting while making use of the principles of tough love.

Yelling, blaming, and using put-downs don't work and should never be used.

Teens expressing themselves can bring up feelings of insecurity in parents, who may need professional help to deal with these feelings.

Each teenager is a person with their own opinions, beliefs, interests, and bad days.

The sound of a parents' voice can be healing or damaging.
Talking less and talking softly is most effective.

Have consistent expectations and predictable consequences for teen's choices that are clearly communicated and make sense.

Tough love is not about forcing teens to bend to their parents' will, comply with parents' preferences, or not embarrass the family in public. Parents can effectively make use of the principles of tough love without resorting to bully parenting, by remembering that tough love is about finding the most effective way to guide their teens' development.

Author's Bio: 

Ronae Jull writes from Washington State, where she is pursuing a graduate degree. With over 20 years experience coaching families, she remains ridiculously optimistic about teens, and passionate about transformational change. You can read more by Ronae Jull, the HOPE Coach, on her website

"No matter how discouraged you're feeling right now about the challenges with your teenager, there is always HOPE."