Tough love

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For other uses, see Tough love (disambiguation).

Tough love is an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run. The phrase was evidently coined by Bill Milliken when he wrote the book Tough Love in 1968 and has been used by numerous authors since then.[citation needed]

In most uses, there must be some actual love or feeling of affection behind the harsh or stern treatment to be defined as tough love. For example, genuinely concerned parents refusing to support their drug-addicted child financially until he or she enters drug rehabilitation would be said to be practicing tough love.[1][2] Athletic coaches who maintain strict rules and highly demanding training regimens, but who care about their players, could also be said to be practicing tough love.

"Tough love" boot camps for teenagers have been described as child abuse, and the National Institutes of Health noted that "get tough treatments do not work and there is some evidence that they may make the problem worse".[3][4]

There is evidence to suggest that what the British call tough love can be beneficial in the development of preferred character traits in children up to five years old. However, the British definition used by these researchers is more similar to the concept of "authoritative" parenting, whereas American ideas about tough love are closer to the notion of "authoritarian" parenting, which has been linked with negative outcomes in other research.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vine, Sarah. Tough love or TLC?, The Times, 31 August 2007.
  2. ^ Jardine, Cassandra. "The ultimate betrayal or just tough love?", Daily Telegraph, 4 March 2009.
  3. ^ Szalavitz, Maia. "The Trouble With Tough Love", Washington Post, 28 January 2006.
  4. ^ 2004 Youth Violence Prevention, National Institute of Health.
  5. ^ "Tough love 'is good for children'", BBC News, 8 November 2009.

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of tough love at Wiktionary