Tough Love vs. Child Abuse

A few months ago Dr. Phil had on his show a woman who used hot sauce and cold showers to discipline her young son whom she had adopted from Russia.  Her 10 year old daughter, 1 of the 6 children she has, video taped this as well as her screaming at and berating her son for lying to her about receiving a discipline report in school that day.  The mother was clearly not in control and the son was visibly upset, crying, voice shaking, etc.  It was difficult to watch and the majority of Dr. Phil viewers seemed appalled by this mother's behavior.  I have to say if I was that son I'd lie to that mother, too. 

I often wonder what happens to the families featured on such shows.  Who follows up to ensure the safety of the children?  Isn't Dr. Phil, as a therapist, a mandatory reporter?

The Today Show featured a follow up on this mother at the top of their 8 o'clock hour this morning.  Apparently she lives in Anchorage, AK and the state has decided to charge her with child abuse.  Both the pediatrician and psychiatrist who appeared on the Today Show classified the mother's behavior as abusive.  I agree.  Although it saddens me that child abuse is a misdemeanor in AK.

I don't think this mother set out to be intentionally abusive.  She admitted on Dr. Phil to being overwhelmed and overcome by her parenting responsibilities.  She was asking for help and she was the one who approached the Dr. Phil show for help.  That being said I hope this charge of abuse does lead to someone overseeing the care of these children and assisting this mother in learning some positive parenting skills. 

Some people may discount my opinions on parenting and discipline because I am currently awaiting the birth of my first child and have no real life experience parenting; however, I have taught parenting classes and counseled numerous couples and families in the use of appropriate discipline and parenting skills.  I also worked in child protective services.  My professional opinion counts for something in this matter. 

So, where does tough love cross the line into child abuse?  I think anytime that you are disciplining your child out of your own anger, your own need to control that child's behavior, and your own need to punish your child for whatever they did wrong or that you perceive they did wrong crosses that line.  Parents should never discipline their children when they are angry if they aren't able to put that anger aside for that moment.  Discipline should be about protection and teaching a lesson to your children.  Your children should learn to respect you from the discipline you provide, they shouldn't live in fear of you.

I am curious to hear other people's opinions on tough love vs child abuse.  What do y'all think?


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