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Tough love is stupid and dangerous

Deborah Cruz is a SheKnows parenting expert and blogger at The TRUTH About Motherhood, which she calls a place of "humor, support, honesty and integrity." Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

You can call it trying to teach someone a lesson or tough love; I call it losing the trust of your child and putting him or her in danger.

mother hitting dauther

Photo credit: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/360/Getty Images

I am all for tough love. No, no I'm not. I didn’t Ferberize and I think "cry it out" is inhumane. I don’t spank and I’d much rather kiss boo-boos and coddle my sweet children than teach them lessons the hard way. I am like this because I was the child of an extreme tough-love parent.

I was spanked. I don’t spank. I was thrown into the water to learn to swim. I was pushed off and left to figure things out on my own. I see the merit in teaching children to be independent and go for it. I do. However, I don’t like to watch as my children fail and I would certainly never put them in harm's way to learn a lesson. That is just insane to me. Parenting is hard, and it’s even harder to know when to push and when to pull, but I never think it’s OK to push your kid into metaphorical oncoming traffic.

There have a been a lot of stories in the news lately of parents doing unconventional things to teach their children lessons; a dad who kicked his 6-year-old off of a skateboard ramp to force him to go down the steep ramp when he was too scared to go on his own (yep, he fell), a dad who threw a 1-year-old into a pool without a safety vest just to teach her that water was dangerous (yep, especially when your dad’s a jerk who almost drowns you) and a girlfriend of a child’s dad made a 3-year-old eat her own feces when she had an accident in the bathtub (yep, because toddlers should know better). All of this is wrong in my book.

You can call it trying to teach someone a lesson or tough love; I call it losing the trust of your child and putting him or her in danger. I would never throw my baby who can’t swim into a pool just to teach her that she could drown in water. To me, that seems a bit backwards. Can you imagine? I’ll teach you how dangerous the pool is even if I have to drown you to do so. This is excessive tough love. This is child endangerment and a true lapse in rational judgment and sense. Of course there are instances when we need to stop coddling our children and teach them to be independent but I don't think that has to entail putting them in harm's way.

Our children look to us to care for them, to protect them and to nurture them, not to turn on them and become the source of danger. I can’t even fathom being that source of betrayal and mistrust for my children. We are supposed to be the rock for our children to stand upon, and simultaneously the soft place to land; granted it is hard to find the balance, but we should never be the slippery slope for our children.

Do we cut these parents some slack for making a mistake, or is this one of those instances when nosy neighbors calling CPS might save a child’s life?

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