Latinos Need to Re-Examine the Effects of "Tough Love"

Updated on October 29, 2018
ViieraMonica profile image

My name is Monica and I graduated from CSULB in 2013 in political science. I write about social issues primarily in the Latino community.

When does discipline become child abuse? And what are the ramifications?
When does discipline become child abuse? And what are the ramifications? | Source

Latino Parenting Attitudes Can Border on The United States' Definition of Child Abuse

First off, let me start about by saying that in this article and other similar articles I've written, I don't respect or even love my Hispanic roots. A large part of the motivation to write this article comes from my anger regarding my own experiences and the hopes that it happens less often.

I also think it is healthy to challenge notions of what our community has done for generations and ask ourselves if that behavior is useful moving forward. So in this article, I'll be addressing the Latino tendency towards "tough love" and its consequences.

The Overlap of "Tough Love" and Child Abuse

If you are Hispanic/Latino, what was considered normal in your household growing up?

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The Origins of "Tough Love"

Of course, not EVERY Hispanic family uses "tough love," but I would say from my experience living IN a Hispanic family and witnessing my Hispanic cousins and friends growing up, it is in many cases, the "go-to" when it comes to parenting.

Why is this? Why are our parents, grandparents, and other family members so hard on us to the point where we question our self-worth and turn to unhealthy ways of coping (joining gangs, using drugs, etc) to self-soothe?

1. Machismo

I think that in the specific case of Mexican-Americans, machismo (a Spanish word that basically translates to male dominance veering towards sexism) is one of the root causes. The father is the man of the house, and if you in anyway disrespect him, question him, or rebel, there will be consequences to endure. This serves to prove to his wife that he is indeed, the man of the house, and to serve as an example to his other children what can happen when they get out of line.

2. Not Knowing Any Other Way

Another explanation for "tough love" is simply not knowing any other way. Older generations have taught our parents this kind of parenting, and some of them just repeat the pattern, blindly, even if it was hurtful to them. In fact, they may be living with so much anger and resentment that's been suppressed in them since they were oppressed as children that they may fly off the handle unnecessarily when their own kids act out.

3. Religion

And then finally, there's the whole notion of many Hispanics forgoing birth control due to Catholic beliefs, so there are so many kids in the house that put a strain on finances and make the parents feel they have to be overly controlling to manage their own stress.

Here's a picture of a frustrated mother screaming at her child. As the child develops, she will either internalize the pain and it will manifest itself as depression, or she will turn that anger outward (which could involve crime).
Here's a picture of a frustrated mother screaming at her child. As the child develops, she will either internalize the pain and it will manifest itself as depression, or she will turn that anger outward (which could involve crime).

Personal Ancedote

Let me try to relay the effects of tough love by sharing a memory that comes to me. Although I'm obligated to say my parents tried their hardest, there were moments where their anger was expressed in ways that completely destroyed my self-worth. As a kid, I had depression and anxiety, which only frustrated my parents more and caused them to be more dismissive. As a result, a few things happened.

  • I lost respect for them because they didn't treat me with respect.
  • I lost respect for myself because this is what I was taught to do.
  • I lost respect for AUTHORITY in general and started acting as a criminal at a young age. I had all this misdirected rage I couldn't act out on towards my parents for fear of being homeless, so I started shoplifting thousands of dollars worth of clothes in my teen years to get some messed-up sense of redemption. Luckily, that's where my crime stopped, but I have other peers who have gotten into even more trouble and have done jail time for aggravated assault with deadly weapons. Do you think if their parents would have been more compassionate with them for being "different" when they were younger, things could have played out differently?

Moving Quote by Judith Lewis Herman

“Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom. But the personality formed in the environment of coercive control is not well adapted to adult life. The survivor is left with fundamental problems in basic trust, autonomy, and initiative. She approaches the task of early adulthood――establishing independence and intimacy――burdened by major impairments in self-care, in cognition and in memory, in identity, and in the capacity to form stable relationships."

It is my hope to not have offended but to have expanded your mind if you are a Latino and witness others or even yourself being unrightfully cruel to children to establish your dominance. It only brings our community down as a whole and is scientifically proven to increase the rates of substance abuse and crime.

George Lopez on Tough Love

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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