Tough Love

Teenagers Out of Control

By Eileen Bailey

Teenagers are a handful.  Teenagers with ADHD are even more so, requiring additional monitoring and supervision.  Add into this mix, co-existing conditions, such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Conduct Disorder and parents may be ready to throw their hands up in frustration. 

There are many programs available for troubled teens; some are commonly referred to as “boot camp” or “wilderness camps.”  These programs often have teens that have found themselves in legal trouble and are sent either through the court or as a last resort by parents.  Another option may be residential care.  This, however, is normally a private institution and the costs can be tremendous, leaving out many middle and lower income families. 

The other option is for parents to continue trying and muddling through life, one day at a time, hoping that some day things will get better.  Their days may be filled with screaming matches, or constant worrying about their teen’s actions.  They may feel the stress of having one person control the household and feel guilty about how they are treating the other members of the family.  Almost thirty years ago, a couple in Pennsylvania, both therapists, decided there must be a better way.    They formed their support group on the premise that “holding fast and taking a stand, recognizing that setting limits and expectations are the most loving things a parent can do for a child.”  Understanding that parents need support, they formed a support group that would do just that.  Today, ToughLove support groups are found around the globe. 

When people hear the phrase “Tough Love” images may be conjured up of parents kicking their teenage child out of the house, to fend for themselves.  Or they may think of harsh and unfair treatment, maybe even abusive treatment, all in the name of love.  But tough love is not this at all.
The ToughLove program uses parent education to teach parents to set limits and boundaries for behaviors that cannot be tolerated.  It uses behavior modification, but not for the children, for the parents.  It helps them to change some of the parental negative actions that can be causing disruption in the family life.  Once they change their behaviors to become a more positive influence, the family life becomes more stabilized and parents gain control back over their lives.   The ToughLove program understands that families are not democracies that parents are the full authority and that the parent’s behavior sets the tone for the growth of the family.

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