Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Mother of a Man-Child: Tough Love – does it work? April 8, 2011

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heartI am a firm believer in Tough Love.  As defined by Wikipedia, “tough love” is an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run.   Of course tough love is infinitely more palatable when sprinkled with doses of good old-fashioned TLC.  A good mix is probably the ideal.

On reflection I would say I was brought up with a mixture of both.  I certainly have wonderfully happy memories of my childhood, but I also recall being brought up by pretty strict disciplinarians, and tough love when required.  It was a case of “you do the crime you pay the time” in our household and if you stuffed up then there were always serious consequences – pretty devastating ones when you’re a teenager and your social life is curtailed!!

The other day Man-Child II left his lunch at home.  We knew that because we found it sitting on the bench, and shortly afterwards he sent me a text message: “I forgot my lunch” (NO, really?).   Father of a Man-Child, being far more sympathetic and kinder than Mother of a Man-Child, instantly offered to take it to school for him.  “Absolutely NOT” I replied, he can go without.  And then I proceeded to text back man-child “Tough shit.  Buy your own or go hungry.”

On a roll, I added a few more messages about the mess left upstairs, no pocket-money being paid, etc as my usual frustrations set in.  Just what you need to start the morning off isn’t it?  Now before you think I am a very mean Mother, the reason he forgot his lunch is that he turned on the TV whilst waiting for his school shorts to dry (yep, I admit due to a rare backlog of washing) rather than packing his bag, making his bed, picking up a bathmat and towel off the floor etc.  So then in the ensuing rush to get out the door, he forgets lunch.

I think Tough Love teaches him that we won’t come running after a 15-year-old every time he forgets something, and hopefully he’ll be sure to remember it next time.  In the same way telling me 5 minutes before the first footy match of the season that his footy socks don’t fit drew very little sympathy.  I said “Oh well, we can’t buy them now.  You’ll just have to wear those and buy some new ones next week”.  Emphasis clearly on him, not me, to organize it.  If he can’t manage to get there after school one day, then bad luck I say.

And tough love extends past home on occasion.  Man-Child II also refused point-blank to wear white footy shorts last week for the “away” game.  No amount of insistence by me would convince him why he should, nor reasoning about rules, regulations, respect for team mates, the club etc.  And so he didn’t and he got away with it.  Apparently he never has worn them (no idea why).  Well tough love is telling his footy coach that next time he decides to flaunt the rules, he doesn’t go on the ground.  He doesn’t play by the rules, he doesn’t play period!

To be fair to Man-Child II, I’ve let him know that we’ve asked his coach to enforce this.  And when he came home from school on the day he forgot lunch, I did say I was sorry about being so angry, but did he understand that I was annoyed because he was disorganized yet again.  That’s when he admitted to turning on the TV.

So there you have it.  Tough Love.  I’m sure people who know me won’t be surprised that I endorse it.  It’s not always easy to do, but I’m convinced it’s worthwhile.  And hopefully deep down our men-children understand our motivation, if not now, then one day in the future.

Do you think I’m too tough?  Or not tough enough?  I promise I can take a stern talking to. 🙂

 

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