Tough love is often defined where a child receives negative emotions from the parent as a result of their own choices. Some parents express tough love through unorthodox boundaries, authoritative styles, abusive, belittling or physical violence to control the child. The aim is to change the child. Well, it does change the child, but not in the way a parent originally desires. The problem with tough love is it lacks grace. It only humiliates and pushes children toward anger and permanent separation from family.
Grace love walks with a child from where they are to where they should be; it uses positive emotions that embrace them into a world of biblical boundaries filled with empowerment. It seeks to change the heart not destroy the spirit. With careful and loving guidance, the child chooses to change not the parent for them. No abuse, belittling or physical violence is even considered. Instead prayer, bearing and hoping all things coupled with tenacious perseverance is the backbone of parenting with grace. Hope draws the prodigal back.
I must make one point for the sake of clarity. Grace love does not deny discipline; nor does it remove the withholding of rewards; instead these are seamlessly used with the keys of mercy, evenhanded boundaries and hope to turn a child around.
Never fight the fire of a wayward child with the fire of tough love. It only ends in a forest fire of damaged relationships. But when grace meets this fire, sacrifice brings mercy, reconciliation and life to the child. To love our children with grace is to meet their bad behavior with good will; this often means we lay down our own rights of anger for the sake of bringing our children to repentance.
Let us never forget the grace love our Father in Heaven has lavished upon us…
“But God shows his great love (good will) for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners. So through Christ we will surely be saved from God’s anger, because we have been made right with God by the blood of Christ’s death. While we were God’s enemies, he made friends with us through the death of his Son. Surely, now that we are his friends, he will save us through his Son’s life” (Romans 5:8-10).
Take note of the positives in this passage:
- God shows great love.
- Christ died while we were sinners.
- We are saved from God’s anger.
- We have been made right with God by the blood of Christ’s death.
- We have been made friends through the death of His Son.
- We are saved through the Son’s life (resurrection).
I see nothing negative in this parenting style. We don’t see that…
- God withheld His love
- Death was demanded of sinners.
- God’s anger was poured upon us.
- We’ve been isolated from God.
- We’ve been denied relationship with God.
- Salvation is conditional upon our changed life first.
I see no tough love dished out to us. All sacrifice was placed upon our Father in Heaven through His Son. Jesus (the embodiment of grace love) is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is our positive example when it comes to loving our wayward children. Praise you, Jesus!