July, 20 2018

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What is Tough Love

TOUGHLOVE is a behavior modification program for parents. It teaches parents how to change their behaviors in order to effect positive change in their kids. With the TOUGHLOVE program you begin to make changes at your very first meeting.

The Three Phases of the TOUGHLOVE® Program

1st Phase: Awareness. Become aware of the negative influences that adversely effect families and the destruction that ensues.

2nd Phase: Taking Action. Parents understand and accept the fact that the most effective way to help their family is by changing their own behavior immediately. Parents allow other responsible adults to enter their life and accept the support needed to assist change and follow through with their goals.

3rd Phase: Continued Growth. As parents gain a better understanding of the program, they are able to give support to others and thereby develop a better understanding of their own emotional triggers and behaviors.

Following is an article about the Tough Love program, describing it's characteristics and it's history.

"We're glad to see you . . . We're sorry you had to come."

The above statement is the welcoming phrase of the TOUGHLOVE ® International program. Its simple message both reflects hope for the future and acknowledges the pain of trying to parent an out-of-control youngster.

Although TOUGHLOVE ® is firmly rooted in psychological principles, it does not conduct therapy sessions. Rather, groups are parent-run and offer support to members as they determine and apply individual boundaries and limits to their children.

"We are families helping families, not counselors. Our common experience is that we are in situations where kids are exhibiting unacceptable behavior, and we will no longer stand for it " said one program veteran.


TOUGHLOVE ® was founded in 1979 by Phyllis and David York, two family therapists from Pennsylvania who were struggling to raise an out-of-control teen daughter. They explored traditional strategies including individual and family psychotherapy, changing schools, and trying to raise her self-esteem through judo and riding lessons. In their words, they tried "getting tougher, more permissive, more understanding" and nothing worked.

Despite expertise as mental health professionals, the Yorks – as parents – felt as frustrated, angry, helpless, and inadequate as their clients. And their daughter continued to get worse.

When she was arrested for armed robbery the couple was faced with the dilemma that while they loved their child unconditionally her behavior was unacceptable and could no longer be tolerated. They also knew they could not deal with this situation alone.

In desperation they took a "stand" that they would not tolerate a criminal in their house and created a series of "bottom lines" their daughter had to meet in order to return home. These included going through drug rehabilitation and getting a job. They used support group members to deal directly with her until she met the bottom lines.

Basically, the Yorks detached from the situation and allowed their child to determine the pace of her recovery. They concentrated on regaining their own emotional and physical health and prayed for the well-being of their child. Eventually, the family was reunited.

Out of this family's solution to a seemingly impossible situation emerged the principles and guidelines of TOUGHLOVE ®, a nonprofit international self-help program with more than 700 groups. Membership involves a one-time fee of $30.00 for materials and a $5.00 per week fee for each family that may be waived if a financial hardship.

How it Works

The program does not work instant miracles. Rather it offers strategies and supports that break the cycle of parental helplessness often accompanying a teen going out-of-control.

In the words of a fairly new program participant.

"Before coming to these meetings, I had forgotten that I was the adult and my son was the child. I would feel waves of fear when he came home and helpless anger when he didn't. It was when he put his face next to mine and called me a bitch that I knew we both needed immediate help. Fortunately, the school guidance counselor recommended TOUGHLOVE®. Although my son is still fighting our rules, I feel stronger and no longer get daily migraines and stomachaches."

TOUGHLOVE ® meetings are highly structured with parents sharing their "stand" (a long-range goal) and "bottom line" (action they will commit to enforcing that will facilitate achieving this "stand").

Each week, participants discuss how well they achieved last week's bottom line, set new weekly goals, and listen as other parents give feedback. Later in the meeting, discussions are held on parenting topics.

During the week, members are in contact with one another and offer encouragement and support.

"When I started this program, my ‘stand' was that my daughter had to go to school every day" said one father. "She was staying up all night and talking to her friends on the phone and sleeping through morning wake-up calls. So my first ‘bottom line' was that she had no phone privileges until she put together thirty days of consecutive on-time school days. That eventually meant removing all the phones in the house so that she could not make calls and turning off phone service to her room. I expected her to either run away or pound holes in the wall. She did neither. It took a few months to accomplish this ‘stand' but it did happen!"

Take a Closer Look If you are the parent of an out-of-control teen, it is worth spending some time at the TOUGHLOVE ® website located at http://www.toughlove.org. Not only will you find the vision and mission of the organization but also a "Parent's Bill of Rights" and the ten beliefs forming the basis of the TOUGHLOVE ® program.

Most helpful is a Crisis Assessment form for parents of kids age 8 to 18. It asks hard questions about the effect of your child's behavior on the relationship between you and your spouse, your work life, and on your own emotions. It also lists extreme behavior your teen may have engaged in at home, school, and with the legal system.

It concludes with a critical question: "Are you satisfied with the way things are?"

If the answer is "no" then it is time to act. Whether you join TOUGHLOVE ® or another program, double your efforts using psychotherapy, or simply resolve to find an answer, this awareness will change family life as you know it.

And that is a good thing.

Copyright 2002 Judy Shepps Battle

Tough Love International is a trademark of Tough Love International

Following are some excerps from Dr Ron TOUGHLOVE America, Chairman about the Tough Love Program

"The TOUGHLOVE® Program will show you how to change your actions to achieve successful outcomes. The program will teach you how to develop rules and non-abusive consequences based on your own values to create a more harmonious and cooperative environment. "...

"TOUGHLOVE® trains parents to take a stand and hold fast. Setting limits and expectations is the most loving thing you can do for your child, even if it means that you cause them discomfort. Of course, it never includes abuse; TOUGHLOVE® does not mean throwing your kids out on the street to solve family problems. TOUGHLOVE® is all about having a plan and the active support necessary to follow through with that plan."...

"TOUGHLOVE® is action oriented. Therapists are an important element in family health, but they can’t be there with you 24/7 to help you the way fellow TOUGHLOVE members can.

A wonderful thing about the TOUGHLOVE® Program is that it is not only for families with children who are seriously acting out with drugs, sex, self-injury, crime or running away. The TOUGHLOVE® Program can be used by all families. Parents who have successfully used the program often say something like, "TOUGHLOVE® as intervention works, but TOUGHLOVE® as parent education and prevention is a blessing!""...

"The TOUGHLOVE® Program is not a quick fix. Plan to attend one of our Parent Support Groups for at least eight weeks to get the basics. Give the group a chance to educate you, energize you, motivate you and support you in order to help your family. With time you will learn how to communicate more effectively with your kids, spouse and others in your life. You will learn how to set and enforce proper limits and effectively communicate your expectations.

The TOUGHLOVE® Program has helped millions of families worldwide. It can help you too.".

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