Tough Love

Tough Love

How do I Set a Bottom Line for Tough Love?

A Bottom Line is a small step that makes your tough love stand a reality and moves you toward your goal.

Bottom Lines are new behaviours for you.

Avoid trying to do everything at once. Look to achieve small changes in how you and your problem person have been living.

Bottom lines are the hardest job you will undertake.

Not doing anything will keep you trapped.

You will need support to adhere to your Bottom Lines.

Work out something that you are willing to try – for just this week – not forever.

When you take a stand and establish a Bottom Line, your problem person will react to your new behaviour.

Give the Crisis Back to the Person Who Created it.

Your problem person has a choice how to respond; make choices available to him or her. They have the choice to respond positively or not.

They must take the Consequences.

Tough Love

  • Make real demands with real consequences
  • Communicate and share with other families
  • Refuse to live in ways you do not want
  • Refuse to live with people who mistreat you
  • Be tough with yourself

We are not advising you to stop loving or caring about your problem person, but suggest that you stop treating your destructive problem person like a poor, helpless child. You are a person of worth whose feelings and goods are valuable. Your problem person must start to see you as a person whose love and respect must be earned.

Tough Love

  • Require them to earn money which we give them.
  • Refuse to buy them anything this week.
  • Take them for a drug test when you suspect them of drug use and seek help of appropriate professionals.
  • Action plan must be specific, such as – “I will contact …….. about admitting them”.
    • Take their phone privileges away until they have improved their behaviour.
    • Don’t engage when they start arguing with you.
    • Discuss your feelings about their behaviour with close family.
    • Buy an alarm clock for them and allow them to get themselves up and ready.
    • Write a positive letter to them in treatment.
    • Do something special with them on weekends.
    • Refuse to clean up their room.
    • Let them prepare their own meals if they won’t eat when you eat.
    • Require them to arrange their own transport.
    • Whisper when they try to argue with you instead of yelling at them.
    • Prepare a list of things they do that ‘push your buttons’ (causes you to give them what they want against your better judgement).
    • Arrange for a family member to go to school and sit with them in class (if in school).

Tough Love

  • I will not accept rude, abusive or uncooperative behaviour – including verbal abuse
  • I will not accept violence
  • I will not accept the blame for my problem person’s problems or listen to accusations
  • I will not accept lying
  • I will not accept stealing
  • I will not accept them taking the car without permission
  • I will not accept school failure (skipping classes or school; not doing schoolwork)
  • I will not be manipulated
  • I will not accept them running away
  • I will not allow my problem person to live at home until we have worked out a code of conduct
  • I will not accept my problem person going to places which we don’t consider to be suitable
  • I will not pay fines, hire lawyers or go to court to get my problem person out of situations s/he has created
  • I will stand back and allow my problem person to deal with their own problems


Your role as a helper is not to DO things for the person you are helping, but to BE things; not to try to train and change their actions, but to train and change your reactions. As you change your negatives to positives in ways such as these, you change the world for the better:

  • fear to faith
  • contempt for what they do to respect
  • to fit a standard image or expecting them to measure up or down from that standard – but giving them the opportunity to become themselves
  • to develop encouragement
  • panic to serenity
  • false hope – to real hope
  • driving to guidance
  • self-justification to self-understanding

Self-pity blocks effective action – the more we indulge in it the more we feel that the answer to problems is a change in others or the world – not a change in us. Thus we become a hopeless case.

Exhaustion – is the result when we mull over the past with regret, or in trying to figure ways to escape a future that hasn’t even come yet. Likewise, setting up an image of the future and anxiously hovering over it for fear that it will or won’t come true uses all our energy and leaves us unable to live today. Yet living this day is the only way to have a life.

Love alone can create. Love and let be…

Remember: all people are always changing – when we judge them on what we believe we know of them, failing to realise that there is much we do not know and that they are constantly changing as they try. Above all, give them credit for having had many victories which are unknown.

Remember you too, are always changing – and you can direct that change constantly if you so desire.


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