Real stories from parents (click to read)

From walking on strength and confidence

When I first came to TOUGHLOVE nine months ago I was so desperate and so low I didn't even know if I could go on, or if I had enough fight left in me to follow through with the program. So I took it one day at a time as I have been doing since losing my husband two years previously.

My daughter was smoking pot, stealing money and things from me to hock and verbally abusive towards me, it was a daily occurrence and I was constantly walking on eggshells frightened of saying or doing something that would set her off. The only time she showed me any affection was when she wanted either money or to be driven somewhere; I felt used and abused and I didn't know where to begin to make things right.

"I began by not allowing pot to be smoked in my home, so out to the back shed they went summer or winter, mossies or cold".

TOUGHLOVE taught me new skills on how to deal with her, how to set boundaries and stick to them. I began by not allowing pot to be smoked in my home, so out to the back shed they went summer or winter, mossies or cold, if that's what they wanted to do then so be it. The next thing was the abusive behaviour, which was hard, but I did it by refusing to listen. When she started I either drove off and went to the beach or hung up; even when I was driving her somewhere if she started I just switched off and concentrated on driving, she soon got the message and stopped as soon as she knew I'd stopped listening and it was no use and she soon learnt that I would not argue with her or listen to her abuse.

It was about that time that she informed me that I'd turned into a "real bitch" since going to TOUGHLOVE, so I knew then it was working even though some days I found it hard. She told me one day that she didn't want to grow up and as she was 20 yrs old I thought if I don't act on this she is going to be with me forever along with her boyfriend and my house is not big enough for all of us - since moving in with me I have had huge electricity and phone bills not to mention the stuff of mine that was taken to the hock shop so they'd have money for pot! So I thought it was about time they found a place of their own and took on some responsibility and learnt to stand on their own two feet.

Today my daughter and her boyfriend live in their own place, the abuse is down to almost non-existent, and apart from a few hiccups from time to time things are a lot quieter. I also use TOUGHLOVE in other areas of my life as it has helped me to become a stronger and more confident person. The next thing I am going to work on with my daughter is to go to mother - daughter counseling, because even though things are a lot better between us I feel we need to still work on our relationship together to get it back to where it should be.

I love my daughter dearly and was using the death of her father, the teachers at school not understanding, to even having a tough time with her exams to excuse her for all the horrible things she did and said to me over the years, but now through TOUGHLOVE I have learnt that there is no excuse for it.

My daughter said to me only the other day "now that we don't live with you any more you don't have to go to TOUGHLOVE". Not so I told her, as I still need the support for things that crop up between us now and again and it is my turn to give something back to help other parents who are in my situation.

Jeannette M.

Back from the gutter

By S. M. S.

Raising children can be the most rewarding job you'll ever have to do, but it can also be hell on earth. 'Children are perfect little angels and a constant joy to their parents'. But like all things make believe the story must come to an end. Television is a classic example of how children are portrayed to be something they're not. Take for example a recent hit show called Seventh Heaven. Yes their kids were naughty but their responses were unrealistic. Not at all like that of children in the real world. In the real world there is a fine line between love and war. That's why we have TOUGHLOVE.

TOUGHLOVE is an internationally recognized program whose unique approach to child rearing has been an inspiration and literal lifesaver to countless parents over many years. Its success in turning problem children into cooperative adolescents is nothing short of astounding. Here is one of the many success stories to come out of the phenomenon known as TOUGHLOVE.

To all the parents out there who feel powerless, and who have lost all hope and control over the destiny of their children, don't despair. There is hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Tamsin and her husband Keith loved their daughter Michelle. She was a good student and a loving daughter. Then came adolescence and university, mix that with borderline personality disorder, whip in some drugs and you have classic recipe for a time bomb of self-destruction.

Michelle left home to enter university and study welfare, specializing in the area of youth. She met a boy and moved in with him. They resided in a seedy inner city motel. It was when Michelle began her practical placement at a youth drop in centre, when things started to go horribly wrong. Emotionally Michelle was not strong enough to cope with the problems of these troubled adolescents: and although her intentions were good, her adopted strategy to help these kids failed dismally. She became caught up in a world wrought with drugs. Michelle's life spiralled out of control. Things went from bad to worse when her boyfriend left her. Michelle had failed her work placement, she'd lost her boyfriend, and her self worth was at an all time low.

Michelle's problems soon became apparent to her parents. Boyfriends came and went. Then came an unwanted pregnancy which was aborted. School was put on the backburner. Drugs such as speed, Valium and ecstasy became a regular thing in Michelle's life as did self-mutilation, a side effect of borderline personality disorder. Tamsin and Keith tried the usual avenues, such as family services and psychiatrists but nothing seemed to work. Michelle just continued her drug abuse and dead end relationships. She started to estrange herself from Keith and Tamsin and acquired a job as a stripper.

Tamsin and Keith were fighting a lot because Keith just wanted to give up on her but Tamsin could not desert her daughter. Then one day while they were visiting Keith's sister, she told them about the TOUGHLOVE Program. They had nothing to lose and attended an orientation session. Almost immediately they felt at home. The TOUGHLOVE Co-ordinator was very friendly and understanding to Keith and Tamsin's problems. What most impressed them is that they weren't judged. Although they weren't convinced this program would help them with Michelle, everybody else at the meeting seemed to have experienced similar problems. They thought "why not give is a try".

For the first time they felt a sense of control with their situation. TOUGHLOVE also challenged Tamsin and Keith to look at their parenting strategies. Slowly they began to apply what they had learnt. Tamsin was also forced to look at her own emotions.

Their first bottom line was that they would not tolerate Michelle disrespecting their boundaries.

Michelle didn't like this TOUGHLOVE program. In her eyes it was anti- children but she soon realized that was not so when Tamsin and Keith took in a TOUGHLOVE teenager for a while. For the first time ever Michelle distanced herself from her parents, although that didn't stop her climbing a ladder to get into her parents home to take food and cleaning products. Tamsin and Keith soon put a stop to that by locking away the ladders and making sure the windows and doors were secured.

Keith and Tamsin went away to Victoria for a few weeks and coming back was like meeting a new daughter. Michelle had become nicer. Mother and daughter started communicating and even went out together on outings. Finally the turn around came when Michelle broke down crying in front of her parents telling them that she was sorry for all the things she'd done and for the pain she'd caused. She vowed never to take drugs again, her life is back on track and the family unit of Tamsin, Keith and Michelle is stronger than ever before. The only thing different is that Michelle is self-reliant and makes her own path in life.

When asked if she would recommend the course to others Tamsin said she'd recommend it to everyone and her lesson was that you can always learn and grow through others. TOUGHLOVE is a great promoter for that. When push comes to shove as a parent all you want in life is to be happy and for your children to be well-adjusted and happy.

Never give up. Never never give up


My daughter was just 12 years old when she first tried drugs. The next five years were a nigare. As she is an ADHD child with considerable learning difficulties most of her erratic behaviour was wrongly attributed to this disorder.

She was asked to leave school after the first term of Year 12 for truancy and unacceptable behaviour. She briefly obtained a part time job which didn't last as she slipped further into drug use.

Just prior to Christmas that year was our lowest point. She had started using heroin and was addicted to speed and marijuana. There was little attempt made to hide her drug use. Drugs and drug paraphernalia were left openly around the house. At this stage, she was beginning to stay away from home for brief periods of time and had stolen money from family members' Efpos cards. She was also getting into more and more trouble with the police and had faced court for possession of drugs and stealing from cars.

Our initial reaction was to seek help from any source we could. We contacted every organisation we could think of to get help. We were continually told that we did not have "a bad enough problem" and that there was no rehabilitation programme available to her. We were told to try TOUGHLOVE.

I have been going to TOUGHLOVE meetings for just over 12 months now. My initial stand was not to tolerate drugs in the house. Privileges were removed until the house became drug free. These privileges included telephone, bedroom door, money etc. She also had a curfew or she would be locked out of the house. She is due to get her bedroom door back next month as it will be six months from the last time I found drugs in her room. My daughter was on probation for 12 months and attended court order drug counselling which she considered a joke and a waste of time.

The heroin stopped immediately. She admits she didn't like heroin. It took about four months to stop using speed and another six months to stop using marijuana. She still smokes cigarettes but has now stopped substituting alcohol for drugs.

At the present time she is working part-time and is trying to decide whether to obtain full time employment or resume her education at either a flexi-school or Tafe. She is learning to drive and is ready to try for her licence.

For my part TOUGHLOVE has taught me to stop blaming. I am focusing on how I respond to my daughter and learning to detach. I no longer rescue her when she has a problem and I no longer think of her as a victim.

As my daughter tells me, it is she who made the decision to stop using drugs and me who made the decision not to tolerate drugs in our home. She is responsible for her own behaviour and I am responsible for my own behaviour.

My motto and advice to other parents is: Never give up, Never Never give up.


By M. J.

The Corinda Group was very privileged recently to have, as guest speaker, the TOUGHLOVE kid of one of our members. This young person has finally given up using drugs after a six year involvement beginning in primary school.

Sam (name changed to protect confidentiality) generously offered to answer any question we might have and in the course of discussion managed to scare the daylights out of this parent. We were told just how easy it is to obtain drugs of almost every description and how the drug user is completely seduced by the drugs, into ignoring the impact they are having on themselves and those around them.

Sam acknowledged that effective learning cannot take place while kids are using drugs although, amazingly, this kid managed to hang on in school until Year 11.

The turn around for Sam seemed to arise from a combination of factors. It was mentioned that Mum's 'arse hole tactics' (i.e. Bottom Lines), including removal of the bedroom door, when drugs were found repeatedly in the bedroom, and being locked of the house for the night when curfew was violated, did have considerable impact.

Sam, we were assured, was the one who chose to give drugs a whirl and Sam was the one who chose to give them away, albeit after life had been made more difficult by the court, the family, and a valued friend.

Sam is now working at remaining drug free, working at a part time job, working at repairing family relationships and being very real about what has passed and what needs to happen to create a positive future.

The Group was really heartened to speak to a young person who has emerged from the teenage nigare years with confidence, vitality, and dare I say, a little wisdom under the belt. I think it gave us all a bit more hope that our own kids will get there in the end.

Thank you 'Sam'!!!

A success story

By J. M.

This is a success story with a rollercoaster history, as are many of our parents' After reading the next paragraph, some of you may doubt that joining TOUGHLOVE helped at all, but if you bear with me you may begin to understand why I believe it did.

When I first came to TOUGHLOVE my son was 11, and was having serious problems with his behaviour at home and at school. Numerous attempts at counselling of one sort and another had had little effect (sound familiar?). Two years down the track he is also into drugs and alcohol, on probation and doing community service. How can this be a success?

First and most important to me, is that through TOUGHLOVE I have gained the skills and strength to cope with his unacceptable behaviour. I firmly believe without the program's structure and support of other TOUGHLOVE parents, I would be a total wreck by now. My son's behaviour would have continued to deteriorate in any case, but by changing my behaviour I have stayed strong enough to reach the point where I do believe we are turning the corner.

Secondly, with the encouragement of our Rep, Robyn, I reached a point where I took a stand about physical violence in our home, and ultimately charge my son with assault. While far from being an ideal solution (I would have preferred intervention from Family Services without the need to take it into the courtroom), at least once he was placed on probation I began to receive assistance from the Department. It has been a long road though. Ten months later I'm finally starting to get some practical help from them in terms of support for the whole family . . .

The third success which has resulted from my son's many court appearances is that for the first time we were also able to have a support person in the courtroom during the hearing. Normally the children's court is closed to people other than parents or guardians of the child. On top of the frightening atmosphere of the courtroom to a first time offender and his parents, it is also totally disempowering to the parent who is not only copping blame from society in general, but sometimes even from the magistrate and prosecutor. To have another
TOUGHLOVE parent there for support is a wonderful feeling, and we will be following this up in other courtrooms as the need arises.

I said that we were turning the corner, and only time will prove me right or wrong. Whatever the outcome for my son, I feel as if I have regained some of my own life and home, and hopefully that change will ultimately reflect back on to my son. It can be a hard road, but at least with TOUGHLOVE you're not travelling alone.

Parents are people too

By J. B.

I used to think, before I had children, when I saw other people's children playing up that parents were to blame. But, not any more.

I have been blessed with three beautiful children, the eldest of which has been a handful. I have always known - off by heart - the phone numbers of the schools my child has attended, and I am currently on first name terms with her guidance officer as well as several of her teachers. We have been to counseling. We have been to doctors, thinking that perhaps there was a medical reason for her horrible behaviour. We've talked to the police. I've looked to faith and prayed for help. We have tried everything we could think of to make things right. We've had small amounts of success in the sort term, but nothing has been consistently successful.

Everyone has been helpful and very kind especially the teachers and administration staff at her school, who have bent over backwards and tried every conceivable thing to try to get her to settle down and start working towards fulfilling her potential, which the teachers all agree is considerable.

My husband and I are nice people - good people - that love each other and our children. We've been married for ages and have a stable relationship that has been sorely tested during the last couple of years. Mainly because I wasn't willing to let our child stand up and be accountable for her own behaviour. I felt guilty. "Perhaps if I'd done something differently." "If I'd been a better parent she would be different now."

I kept trying all sorts of ways to make things better. I tried groundings, withholding pocket money, being extremely stern, being really soft. I was endlessly forgiving. I listened to her pleas for more freedom to make her own decisions and thought, "yes, that sounds reasonable". I forgot she didn't have the skills to deal with such freedom. I forgot that she was still just a child. I didn't want to lose my daughter's love. I didn't want her to be angry with me, but no matter what I did to try and help her, no matter how much I loved her or how often I forgave her, she was still angry, still difficult. I watched as my normally easy going and fun-loving husband became quieter and more serious with the onset of each new drama, and I wondered how much more we could endure. I felt alienated from my family, friends, and neighbours.

And then I found TOUGHLOVE. I found other parents like myself, from all walks of life, struggling to come to terms with adolescent behaviour which seems to be appearing in children at a much younger age these days. Through TOUGHLOVE, I have found acceptance and support, and new ways of dealing with problems that work, not overnight, not without hard work and commitment, and not without pain, but slowly, gradually chipping away at problems that have seemed insurmountable, and always with the wonderful support network willing to help with advice, nurturing and hope – which was all but lost.

I have been a member of TOUGHLOVE for just a few months, but already I am feeling stronger within myself. There was nothing out there for me before. I felt that children had all the support in the world, but parents were left out in the cold. When we did seek help we were made to feel that we were, indeed, to blame, which only made us feel more inadequate and insecure, and even more guilty that we were unable to deal effectively with our unruly children. I still have a long way to go before I will feel truly confident in my own abilities as a parent. I still have heaps to learn. It's a matter of two steps forward, one step back, but now I have support when I need it most. I have a little more structure in my life. A weekly meeting to attend where I know I'll be accepted for who I am; where "blame is a dirty word, where there are kindred spirits who know how I feel, who can identify with what I've been going through, who can offer alternatives that have worked for them".


By R. R.

John walked into the bar and ordered a beer. It is the same club he has always been to, except today he was going to experience something very different. After he ordered his usual, he picked up his change and out the corner of his eye, he saw his initials on the $5 note. His memory returned to 2 years ago:

He was sitting in the same bar with his mates discussing how many times a $5 note could pass through your hands and what a story it could tell if it could talk. So just for fun they all decided to initial a note and agreed to let each other know if they came in contact with it again.

After his social drink with mates, he went home to his family to prepare for his normal weekend of being a parent. He sat down in his normal chair, asked Dorothy his wife for his tea and Joshua his second son for a beer out of the fridge. Joshua was 14 then and was at the age where staying home with your parents was a drag and uncool and he could have better fun with his mates.

He asked his Dad for some money so he could go to the mall, so as usual Dad never questioned him and just reached in to his pocket and gave him $20. Amongst the change he noticed the same $5 he had initialled a couple of hours previous. As John handed the money to Joshua he said jokingly, "In a few years that $5 would probably have an interesting story to tell." Joshua just looked at his Dad in his "what are you on about look" and replied, "Yea, sure Dad".

At that time his wife came in with his tea, saw what happened, and again as it has happened may times before another argument started. Just as before, Dorothy was concerned about the friends Joshua was keeping, the late nights, the not coming home at all, the times he came home drunk, the verbal and physical abuse, the failing grades, the change in the attitude etc.

John's argument was; "You're being over protective; it's what the kids do today; he's only having fun; he's allowed to make mistakes; he's not stupid; he's got sense to know when to stop; when are you going to allow him to experience life and grow up."

Later that night the parents received a phone call from the police. Joshua had been busted in a dope raid and was in jail. Dorothy insisted that John leave Joshua in jail overnight, but according to John that was being an uncaring parent. Joshua was probably in the wrong place at the wrong time. So away went John, paid the bail and brought his son home. You can probably guess how the conversation went.

Over the next few months things got worse. Joshua came home when he wanted to, sometimes not at all, sometimes drunk, sometimes stoned, and all the time John turned a blind eye to what was going on. "Not my problem", was his usual comment.

Dorothy on the other hand joined a TOUGHLOVE support group and came home with all these new and revised ways of creating harmony and coo-operation within the family. John just said she was wasting her time, there was nothing wrong with Joshua, she was creating all the problems, and not allowing Joshua to do his own thing. No way was he going to support her in these changes, besides why should she be telling other people about problems that don't exist.

The arguments continued and Joshua soon found out that by manipulating his parents against each other was a sure way of getting what he wanted from his Dad.

One night Dorothy came home from TOUGHLOVE and told John that from now on, he was the person in charge of discipline for Joshua. He just laughed and made the comment that Mum couldn't even make decisions now without help.

Everything went well for a while - no great dramas until John started to receive phone calls at work from the school, police and neighbours. He then started to realise that things weren't as he thought they were. John was taking time off work to rescue Joshua and help him sort out his problems. He took stress leave because he couldn't cope with the added pressure and his performance at work was getting sloppy. But still he allowed his son to do what ever he wanted.

One morning John was called into the office. His boss gave him the ultimatum. "Sort your son's problems out or you could be looking for another job." "He doesn't have any problems, he's just a teenager being a teenager. You just worry about you own problems and mind your own business," was the answer John gave his boss.

So many times when hear and experience denial from people all around us; judges when they hand out the sentences; teachers when they don't inform us of our children's misconduct; shop owners when they don't carry through with shoplifting or stealing charges; influential people in the community who say there isn't a problem with our youth; neighbours who don't support you; relatives who just don't believe it's all that bad – "It must be the way you are bringing up your kids. I don't have any problems with mine; and us as parents, because we love them and we believe it is our job as a parent to help them in every way.

Whatever the blame we choose to use, we cannot help any of our children if we don't allow them to experience the lessons in life, and the consequences of their actions, both good and bad.

As for John, he did lose his job, his marriage was not the same, Joshua overdosed, and his life was starting to fall apart. It was only then did John realise that he realy did have a kid with problems.

As a reminder, above John's TV is a picture frame with the $5 dollar note in one corner and this message

Denial Erases the Nurturing needed In the Accomplishment of true Love.

I shared this story with TOUGHLOVE groups some time ago, and after the meeting a parent came up to me and asked if this is a true story and how the family was now? I told them that the family is working it out. The wife turned to her husband and said "See I told you that TOUGHLOVE works".

Families in our culture

By D. K.

There are two families, Mr. & Mrs. Couldn't Careless and Mr. & Mrs. Decent. Both families have two teenagers and a younger pre-school child.

Mr. & Mrs. Couldn't Careless and their children knew all about happiness. Mum & Dad were out almost every night at the pub, mixing with friends, no early morning getting out of bed to go to work. Master Couldn't Careless was very happy too, each morning spilling the milk, sugar and cereal all over the place. It was fun making your own breakfast every morning.

He was happy alright, not like Master Decent. Mr. & Mrs. Decent would bath Master Decent, strap him into the highchair and had the enjoyment of making a mess taken away by his mother.

The teenagers of Mr. & Mrs. Couldn't Careless were happy also. No restrictions on who they were friendly with, where they were at night, no curfew to be home by. Yes they were very happy.

Meanwhile Mr. & Mrs. Decent are not happy at all. Almost everyday there are fights with the teenagers over curfew, time spent on the phone, boyfriends wanting to stay the night, not helping Mum in the house. Mrs. Decent was at the point of leaving. The teenagers of Mr. & Mrs. Decent were also thinking of leaving.

"How could this be happening" says Mr. Decent. "I know Mr. & Mrs. Couldn't Careless aren't experiencing any of the grief or heartache of seeing their family falling apart".

Both little children ended up in hospital. Mr. & Mrs. Couldn't Careless were not allowed to visit, unless they were sober, because they abused the staff. Master Couldn't Careless was now going to foster care, after his parents were investigated for neglect.

Mr. & Mrs. Decent however, visited every day, brought presents and played with their child etc. Master Decent was happy, but alas Master Couldn't Careless was not. No parents around and being told he is being separated from his sister and brother, and going to a new home was very traumatic for Master Couldn't Careless.

A few days later when Mrs. Couldn't Careless went to the kitchen, she started to cry. There was no mess to clean up from her son, her teenage children were living with drug addict friends and her husband was having an affair. Her family was falling apart.

Mr. & Mrs. Decent were chosen as foster parents for Master Couldn't Careless and things began to change. Both little ones played well together and Master Couldn't Careless enjoyed breakfast and enjoyed helping his foster Mum get the milk out of the fridge, put the jam on the table for toast.

A teenager of Mr. & Mrs. Decent saw an ambulance at school and went to have a look. There was teenager Couldn't Careless collapsed on the ground. He had overdosed. He survived but blamed his parents for not caring enough to stop him taking drugs. He knew all about grief and sadness, more so when no one visited him in hospital.

The other teenager of Mr. & Mrs. Decent, who was a trainee nurse, recognises him from school, befriends him and eventually he is taken into Mr. & Mrs. Decent's home. It was strange at first having a home cooked meal, clean clothes and a clean house to live in. His mates fell away because this was not a cool style of living.

Teenage Miss Couldn't Careless saw her brother becoming happier each day and visited more often. Eventually, she too moved in and later each married the other teenager, had children and brought them up the Mr. & Mrs. Decent way.

Mr. & Mrs. Decent and their extended family couldn't be happier, thanks to their values of honesty, respect and cooperation. They had happiness all along, but had to experience pain, heartache and sadness to find it.

Mr. & Mrs. Couldn't Careless never were really happy but always thought they were.

Life is what you make of it. You can enjoy it if you are honest with yourself first and last. Mr. & Mrs. Decent found happiness because of their love for their children, and having courage and patience to help teenagers Couldn't Careless, where most people would have not given them the time of day.

Most of all the Mr. & Mrs. Decent family knew about the responsibility of raising a family to be decent people, and thereby, repeated the cycle.

I forced myself to go

TOUGHLOVE is not a quick fix, but rather a long term process towards achieving positive changes. Changes, which for some, may take only a couple of weeks, but for others, years of hard work. Our problems have not evolved overnight.

For myself, a Stand I kept for almost two years was "I would not tolerate my son begging off me". In the four and a half years I have been a TOUGHLOVE parent, I have not missed a single weekly TOUGHLOVE meeting, apart from holidays, illness and when supporting other areas of the program.

There were times, especially when after our younger son Jacob lost his life at the age of 17, I felt that I had no strength left to attend the meetings, but somehow I forced myself to go. Why? Because, I knew that these were the times I needed support from the group the most.

Each week I would take a Bottom Line for myself to enable me to focus on my long term goal. There were many times when I felt utter despair for this TOUGHLOVE Kid of mine. He appeared so helpless and self-destructive. Not only did he struggle with similar issues that other
TOUGHLOVE kids are up against, but he had the burden of losing his younger brother and blaming of himself for the accident.

One of the most heart wrenching moments of my life was to say "no" to him, as he stood at my front door with an empty baby formula tin in his hand, and saying that he could not feed his one year old son, as he had no money. I knew that if I gave in to his demands, I would, indirectly, be buying his drugs for him.

It was the constant attendance of TOUGHLOVE weekly meetings, always knowing that there were other parents at the end of the phone line and the support, which gave me the courage to keep working towards my goal.

I am happy to say that all my hard work has paid off, not only for my own sake, but for my son's. It has been nearly six months now since he last asked for money. Although he and his partner are still struggling with financial difficulties, I can see they are not only gaining financial independence, but are beginning to establish long term goals for themselves, which they were not able to do up until now.

It is a joy to have Ian visit and not have the pressure of having to say no to his demands, and for him to achieve the independence where he does not have to beg.

For those parents who for now cannot see the benefits of remaining in the group, stay with the program for a while longer. Begin to ask for the Active, Selective and Confrontive support the group has to offer.

"It takes a strong person to ask for help. Being able to request assistance is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and maturity. People need each other. We are not in this world alone and we don't have to act as if we are". (P130 TOUGHLOVE Solutions)

Parents using the law


I would like to share with you the very positive changes that have occurred in my family life since I joined my TOUGHLOVE Group.

As a last resort and with no more information than a brochure stating that this was a self-help program for parents troubled by teenager behaviour, I went to my first meeting. I was exhausted, disillusioned and dubious after years seeking realistic solutions which would bring about change in my monster.

For two years, since the age of 13, and the change to high school, my teenager had been unmanageable. Truancy, lying, abusive language, physical attacks, and taking my almost new car for a joy ride were the norm. "Pot", seemed to be growing everywhere I looked in the garden and bedroom.

Bongs were being made from every conceivable plastic bottle, and my hosepipe was fast disappearing. I was suffering serious depression, and found no help within the community services, except blame. This was not helping me or my child through these enormous and seemingly unsolvable problems.

Within the last three months - with support I received from my TOUGHLOVE friends, and guidance from the TOUGHLOVE philosophy - I can now see a future for my son and a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the home which I hope and pray will continue to improve.

These changes were brought about by some very tough measures. As so many of my son's problems seemed to revolve around drug taking, I felt the best thing was to approach the Juvenile Aid Bureau.

Actually, it was much against the advice of the young female officer that I insisted that they come around and remove the "pot" plants. As he already had two cautions, he was charged and had to go before the magistrate. This gave me the opportunity to write a letter explaining why I had taken this action, and what I wanted done about it.

The Magistrate agreed and my son was given four months probation with the suggestion that he receives drug counselling.

Two TOUGHLOVE parents were with me at the court, and I must acknowledge my gratitude, as I would not have had any idea what to do without their advice and experience.

I believe this is where our strength lies; that it is in the support we are able to give each other on a daily basis, and also in times of real crises. I was also very tough with myself. Having been a heavy smoker for well over 30 years I decided that it was time to give it up, as many of the fights my son and I had were over cigarettes. It was worth it just to see the disbelief on my son's face for the first few days, until he finally realised that I was serious.

I believe he now has a great deal of respect for me, for the actions I took to change the negative patterns of behaviour that was so disruptive to our lives.

I feel that I still have much to learn about parenting, but now it is something I look forward to rather than seeing each day as something to be dreaded.

Couple creates resource for parents of troubled children (The York's Story)

By Dorothy Cascereri
Bucks County Courier Times

Phyllis and David York's own tough times with their three daughters gave them the idea for ToughLove.

"At home, we had a couple of raging lunatics," says Phyllis. "Well, teenagers."

Adds David, laughing: "We had three rotten kids."

It all began when one of their daughters, who was 18 at the time, was sent to prison for holding a cocaine dealer at gunpoint.

When she was released, she did the same thing again, and the Yorks became desperate for a solution, they say.

A family friend stepped in, suggested they cut off all contact with their daughter and then forced their daughter to earn back her right to contact her parents.

And it seemed to work.

So the Yorks, who live in Doylestown and both have a background in counseling, invited other parents to get together and discuss their troublesome children.

Those informal meetings turned into ToughLove International, a nonprofit organization that includes 200 support groups in North America and all over the world, in places such as Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Singapore.

Allowing outsiders to intervene with family problems has been highly successful in changing the children's view of the situation.

Says Phyllis: "I always say it's like knowing what the kid next door needs. Sure, they lash out, but they don't hit or anything. They don't act the way they act toward their parents."

By removing a layer of emotion from the situation, the mediator is able to connect with the child in a way the parents can't.

"We would have rescued her weeks before, days before," Phyllis admits. "It was so hurtful. We wanted to bail her out. You see the little kid, not just the grown-up."

That position parents take is almost inevitable because they care about the child so much, according to the Yorks.

But at the same time, it also causes more damage - and most parents don't even realize it.

When Dee Dee Tibolla's son was 16, she says she never believed a word he said.

He was stealing from her, getting arrested and doing drugs.

She tried everything from sending him to counseling to asking her local church for help.

And then she heard about ToughLove.

Members of her support group intervened, accepting Tibolla's son's phone calls when he was in jail, as well as visiting him.

And until he agreed to enter drug and alcohol rehab, his parents were kept at arm's length - a tactic that made him want to see and talk to them even more.

The group members who were helping Tibolla's son provided him with a number of challenges, such as meeting them somewhere at a particular time or shaving his facial hair.

The more challenges he completed, the closer he came to getting back in touch with his parents.

"He wanted to get back to us," she says, "so he had to prove to them how wrong we were about him."

In the meantime, Tibolla was doing the same for children of other members in the group.

"It's community support," says Tibolla who lives in Lower Makefield and in the past has worked with ToughLove groups in Sellersville and Doylestown. "People get stronger and better able to handle their own problems by helping others. I was getting stronger, getting tougher myself."

Without ToughLove, Tibolla says, she may not even be talking to her son now.

"I think ToughLove provided me the opportunity to continue to have a relationship with him because it was rapidly coming to an end," she says. "I learned things I thought I was doing to be helpful were actually continuing the situation - and that's pretty devastating.

"I had to change the way I was doing things with him that weren't working - yelling at him and trying to talk to him. I wasn't getting through to him."

Today, Tibolla's son, who couldn't be reached for this article, has his own teenage daughter to contend with.

"He knows where we were then," she says.

He has been sober since he entered rehab 16 years ago, his mother says.

"He has been as stubborn in his sobriety as he was in his youth," she says.

An active member of ToughLove named John, who chose not to give his last name, joined the organization five years ago when his son, who was 16 years old at the time, got involved with drugs.

Being part of the group, John realized his methods of controlling his son were not working.

"I had to change myself before I changed him," he says. "I had to change the way I was doing things with him that weren't working - yelling at him and trying to talk to him. I wasn't getting through to him."

But eventually he did, and his son graduated from high school, found a job and even moved into his own apartment.

Now, John is directing his efforts toward other parents with the same problem.

"Like they helped me, I help them when I come to meetings and give them suggestions on what they need to do," he says. "I'm a parent who knows what they went through, and I try to help them."

Over the last 25 years, the Yorks say ToughLove has grown into more than they ever imagined.

But recently, they've seen a decline in participation.

In fact, the only local group still in operation is based in the Northeast section of Philadelphia.

David says changes in the fabric of society are to blame.

"People no longer put the time in to help other people," he says. "They come in for themselves looking for a quick fix."

But helping others is the cornerstone of ToughLove.

"(ToughLove) really means firm caring," says Phyllis.

"You're seeking help, helping and building your community."