Proof: tough love is a good thing

A recent study shows that the principles of “tough love” lead kids to be more successful throughout life. The study done by a parenting “think tank” says that a balance of warmth  and discipline improves social skills more than  a laissez-faire, authoritarian or disengaged upbringing. We’ve said it (and lived it) for years, but finally there is proof.

The study done by Jen Lexmond, says that children, aged 5 years, with warm/disciplining parents are 200% more likely to display good character attributes.  Lexmond said: “It is confidence, warmth and consistent discipline that matter most.” According to her report, qualities such as application, self-regulation and empathy were more likely to be developed in children whose parents employed a “tough love” approach. It found that these qualities made “a vital contribution to life chances, mobility and opportunity”. The report said these characteristics were profoundly shaped in pre-school years.


The Building Character report analysed data from more than 9,000 households in the UK. It found that children from the wealthiest families and backgrounds were more than twice as likely to develop the positive key characteristics compared to those with the children with the poorest origins. Obviously there are a welath (pardon the pun) of opportunities that higher income families have in comparison to lower incomes but the study added that when parental style and confidence were factored in, the difference in child character development between richer and poorer families disappeared. The report concluded that this indicated that parenting was the most important influence. The report said that other positive influences included the main carer’s level of education, and breast-feeding. Two topics that could start a whole other post, but again were obvious to most people.

Girls were more likely to develop positive character capabilities by age five, while no connection was found between paid employment of either parent and children’s characteristics. The authors urged for more support and information for families, and for children with disengaged or low-income parents to be given particular focus. Granted the report was based out of the UK but it echos the need for the same type of support here in the states.

There is some evidence that lower-income households face more difficulty in incubating positive character capabilities,” the report said, but the most important influence is the quality of parenting. “Confident, skillful parents adopting a ‘tough love’ approach to parenting, balancing the warmth with the discipline, seem to be most effective in terms of generating the key positive character capabilities.”

At Gymfinity we have always acted under the philosophy that children need and seek out boundaries. They want to be told what is acceptable and what is not. Without that guidance children feel lost and un-supported. The Lexmond study confirms that this is true.  We continue to be a place where children come to have fun and learn great skills in sports but we  are also a character education site. We pride ourselves in being a positive place for kids, physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially. There is a reason why parents value us and have voted us the “Best” time and time again. It’s because we take your children seriously and our part in helping you raise them pretty seriously too.


  1. Cliff on January 2, 2010 at 12:46 pm

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