Emotional Support
Raising Tough Kids: How to Toughen Up Your Child

Raising Tough Kids: How to Toughen Up Your Child

We all want our children to be strong, to be able to withstand difficult times and to face life’s obstacles.

How can you properly toughen up a child without breaking their spirit?

Let’s look at what research has to say about raising challenging kids.

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Why Do Parents Want To Toughen Up Their Kids

The term “tough” appeals to us because it sounds, well, tough.

We learn in elementary school that the antonym for tough is frail or weak.

Nobody wants to be frail or feeble.

So we’re going to be harsh.

We want to practise tough love parenting because it sounds like it will toughen up our children.

Children who are toughened become powerful. Doesn’t that make sense?

But what we truly want is for our children to be psychologically strong enough to face life’s challenges. Parents want their children to persist and recover from adversity rather than crumble.

This is the type of “tough” we’re looking for.

But there’s a better word for it: we want our children to be resilient, not simply tough.

Building A Strong Kid

Consider constructing a vehicle.

Automotive manufacturers and engineers devote a significant amount of effort and money to improving car designs from generation to generation.

Aside from performance and vanity, the most essential aspect of building a new automobile is ensuring that it can protect the driver and passengers inside in the event of a car accident.

So we want powerful automobiles, right?

Does this imply that engineers will continue to create stronger and stronger automobile constructions and frames?

Yes, they do… to some extent.

However, one of the most essential aspects of designing a sturdy automobile is developing a crumple zone, which is a section of the car that can collapse and absorb energy from an impact to protect the occupants in the event of a car collision.

In the last century, automobile safety has come a long way.

We no longer concentrate just on creating powerful exteriors. We don’t only want the automobile to appear undamaged after a collision. We also want the individuals inside to be safe.

The same idea holds true when it comes to parenting children. We shouldn’t only look at how tough they appear on the exterior. We want kids to be psychologically strong and capable of picking themselves up no matter how difficult things get.

How To Raise A Strong Kid

According to resilience studies, having a warm, personal relationship with an adult is one of the most significant resilience elements (usually the parent).

Authoritarian parents are kind and sensitive to their children’s emotional demands. They naturally form deep bonds with their offspring.

Authoritarian parents, on the other hand, who are cold and unresponsive to their children’s emotional needs, do not generally have as strong relationships with their children.

Contrary to popular belief, harsh love parenting does not produce difficult children. Worse, it generally results in spoiled brats.

A study was performed in Israel where 18-year-old men must serve in mandatory military service. It was found that male adolescents who grew up in a non-nurturing environment coped and adapted worse in the tough military scenery than those who grew up in a nurturing household

Turning Tantrums Into Triumphs

A resilient child does not have to put on a harsh exterior all of the time. They, too, may weep and become emotional (remember the crumple zone?)

A child expressing emotions is not a wimp or a softie.

They are only being human.

When parents allow their children to express their emotions and teach them how to manage them, their children develop stronger emotional regulation abilities, which will shield them and help them weather difficult situations.

Furthermore, emotion suppression has been demonstrated to cause more damage than benefit.

What Kind Of “Tough” Do We Want In Our Kids

So, having resilience indicates that a child is strong on the inside, despite occasionally displaying unpleasant feelings.

But we don’t want our children to crumble in the face of every obstacle, do we?

So we still want tough kids, but with a new kind of toughness.

What exactly does the term “tough” mean?

Weightlifting is an example of a workout that may help a person become physically tough.

You begin with a 5 or 10-pound weight.

Then add 20 pounds, 30 pounds, and so on to progressively develop your muscular strength.

You don’t begin with a 100-pound weight or a weight you can’t bear at first.

You don’t request that someone hurl a 100-pound weight at you.

You also don’t want someone to belittle you because you couldn’t lift a 100-pound weight on the first day.

You desire to praise and recognition as you exercise and lift larger and heavier weights.

Physical toughness is achieved by consistent practice increased tolerance, and increased muscle strength to lift large weights.

How To Toughen Up A Child

We’re not talking about weightlifting here, but the concept is the same.

You begin with something simple that the child can manage.
The difficulty is then steadily increased.

They suffer less over time, have a better tolerance for adversity, bounce back after failure, and get a stronger capacity to solve issues even in difficult conditions.

Toughening up in the true sense is

Enabling children to struggle when they can fairly manage a problem on their own rather than swooping in and doing it for them, teaching children how to handle more harder circumstances and allowing them to practise in a safe setting

What Does Tough Love Mean

Unfortunately, most parents do not harden their children in this manner.

When parents use the phrase “tough love,” they typically mean

They will put a child in difficult situations whether the child is developmentally ready to handle it or not, they are unkind if the child fails, they are callous towards the childrens suffering, they are rude to their child or do not treat them with respect, and they believe that nurturing and supporting a child will result in a weak child.

Tough love has no place in a loving relationship.

Why do such parents toughen up their children in this manner?

Sometimes it’s because we have this picture of a muscular person roaming about being loud, never defeating himself, and being “tough” on the exterior, as shown in stupid movies.

That seemed difficult to us.

Sometimes it’s because we believe we’re providing practise for our children, who will face enough of brutality and harshness in the real world. We want to expose our children to this type of atmosphere now so they are not caught off guard later.

The aim is good, but the technique is incorrect.

But it can also be due to parents who do not wish to respect or be pleasant to their children and use “toughening” as an excuse.

To begin with, these are typically mean individuals.

They can be kind to other adults most of the time, but if they don’t like you, even if you’re an adult, they can be cruel.

Toughening up their children is typically not their true goal.

So, parents employ harsh love for a variety of reasons, some of which are positive and some of which are negative.

What Is Real Toughness

True toughness is having the perseverance and strong desire to overcome adversity while being compassionate and loving in the face of adversity.

True toughness is being strong on the inside and out, not simply acting tough on the outside.

That is the type of toughness we should instil in our children.

Toughening up a child cannot make them tough, as evidenced by the above-mentioned studies.

It is possible to be loving and supporting parents to our children.

A tough and caring parent may produce a lot stronger child than a meek and passive one.

Toughening Up Your Child

There is nothing wrong with trying to raise strong, robust children, but we must ensure that they are mentally tough.


  1. 1.Knafo A. Authoritarians, the Next Generation: Values and Bullying Among Adolescent Children of Authoritarian Fathers. Analyses Soc Iss & Publ Pol. December 2003:199-204. doi:10.1111/j.1530-2415.2003.00026.x
  2. 2.Mayseless O, Scharf M, Sholt M. From Authoritative Parenting Practices to an Authoritarian Context: Exploring the Person-Environment Fit. J Research on Adolescence. December 2003:427-456. doi:10.1046/j.1532-7795.2003.01304002.x
  3. 3.Wenzlaff RM, Eisenberg AR. Parental Restrictiveness of Negative Emotions: Sowing the Seeds of Thought Suppression. Psychological Inquiry. October 1998:310-313. doi:10.1207/s15327965pli0904_15
  4. 4.Brendtro LK, Longhurst JE. The Resilient Brain. Reclaiming Children & Youth. 2005;14(1):52-60. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ713676.

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