80 Tough Love Quotes About Parenting, Learning, and Life

Everyone seems to have an opinion on tough love; as you can see from these tough love quotes from presidents, supermodels, actors, and authors.

Tough love is usually a concept that comes up when people are discussing how to be a “good” parent.

Some are convinced that tough love is the only way to raise children that are thoughtful, moral, and productive members of society.

Other parents hear this phrase and visibly cringe, imagining all sorts of horrible abuse children will suffer under the claim of tough love.

The reason here is that what one person considers tough love, and what another deems tough love, is not the same thing.

There is no real standard.

The actual definition of tough love doesn’t offer much help, either.

It states that tough love is the “promotion of a person’s welfare, especially that of an addict, child, or criminal, by enforcing certain constraints on them or requiring them to take responsibility for their actions.”

Who is this deciding person about what is good for someone else’s welfare?

That is an important distinction in my mind.

Also, the three groups the definition brings up are groups of people who are often the most abused and neglected parts of our society, so I think it is important to monitor what is happening to them under the guise of “tough love.”

Keep reading for examples of tough love and what people think it means with these tough love quotes.

Don’t forget to also check out these discipline quotes to fuel your perseverance.

Check out our most popular quote article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily inspiration.

Our inspirational quote category page has even more inspirational and educational quotes.

Tough love quotes for parents who are wondering which path to take

1. “Your job as a parent is to listen. And to dole out as much love as you can. That includes tough love.” ― Christie Brinkley

Tough love quotes that includes tough love

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2. “It takes tough love to order kids to step away from the iPhone or iPad during dinner or to take the devices away if they’re interrupting and interfering with everyone else’s pleasure at a movie, concert or other public event.” ― Regina Brett

Tough love quotes for parents who are wondering which path to take

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3. “One cannot prevent abuse through discipline when abuse and discipline feel exactly the same.” ― Joyce Rachelle

Tough love quotes about one cannot prevent abuse through discipline

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4. “I mean, most parents would be proud of a kid like that – good-lookin’ and smart and everything, but they gave in to him all the time. He kept trying to make someone say ‘No’ and they never did. They never did. That was what he wanted. For somebody to tell him ‘No.’ To have somebody lay down the law, set the limits, give him something solid to stand on. That’s what we all want, really.” ― S. E. Hinton

Tough love quotes about he kept trying to make someone say 'No' and they never did

5. “What parents need to teach their children is not how to keep from falling down, but rather to understand that, no matter how many times they fall down, they can always get up again! Right! … It’s like that proverb! The one about the lion pushing his own cubs over the cliff to make them tough… Hey! I got it, Mayama!! Next time you see Yamada, drag her up to the roof and throw her over! That’s not tough love, that’s homicide!” ― Chika Umino

Tough love quotes from Chika Umino

6. “I got a lot of support from my parents. That’s the one thing I always appreciated. They didn’t tell me I was being stupid; they told me I was being funny. “ Jim Carrey

Tough love quotes about I got a lot of support from my parents

7. “My parents loved us, but I wasn’t always sure they liked us.” ― Tahereh Maf

Tough love quotes about my parents loved us, but I wasn’t always sure they liked us

8. “Where parents do too much for their children, the children will not do much for themselves.” ― Elbert Hubbard

Tough love quotes about where parents do too much for their children

9. “If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent. “ ― Bette Davis

Tough love quotes about if you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent

10. “Loving a child doesn’t mean giving in to all his whims; to love him is to bring out the best in him, to teach him to love what is difficult.” ― Nadia Boulanger

Tough love quotes about loving a child doesn’t mean giving in to all his whims

11. “The greatest gift a parent can give a child is unconditional love. As a child wanders and strays, finding his bearings, he needs a sense of absolute love from a parent. There’s nothing wrong with tough love, as long as the love is unconditional.” ― George W. Bush

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Tough love quotes about the greatest gift a parent can give a child is unconditional love

12. “It takes tremendous strength and resolve to allow your kids to suffer the consequences of their decisions.” ― Smart Money, Smart KIds

Tough love quotes about it takes tremendous strength and resolve

Tough love quotes about relationships and friendships

13. “You realize that tough love is also tough on the lover.” ― Julian Barnes, The Only Story

Tough love quotes about you realize that tough love is also tough on the lover

14. “An acquaintance merely enjoys your company, a fair-weather companion flatters when all is well, a true friend has your best interests at heart and the pluck to tell you what you need to hear.” ― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

Tough love quotes about relationships and friendships

15. “Tough love and brutal truth from strangers are far more valuable than Band-Aids and half-truths from invested friends, who don’t want to see you suffer any more than you have.” ― Shannon L. Alder

Tough love quotes about tough love and brutal truth

16. “And at the end of the day, we all just want someone to tell us when we are heading down the wrong path. That is true tough love.” ― Unknown

Tough love quotes about that is true tough love

17. “There aren’t really many compliments flying around with me and my friends. It’s a lot of tough love. But you know, that love is there and if you need to have a serious conversation, you just gotta wait for the right time to do it.” ― Mark Wahlberg

Tough love quotes about a lot of tough love

18. “If someone offers you ‘tough love’, run screaming for the door.” ― Marty Rubin

Tough love quotes about if someone offers you 'tough love', run screaming for the door

19. “Once someone’s hurt you, it’s harder to relax around them, harder to think of them as safe to love…” ― Skylar Blue

Tough love quotes about it's harder to relax around them

20. “Gotta love a woman that can hand you your own ass.” ― Penelope Douglas, Until You

Tough love quotes about gotta love a woman that can hand you your own ass

21. “It’s tough love. They know I care.” ― Leo Nesmith

Tough love quotes about it’s tough love. They know I care

22. “Love isn’t about rules. It’s a feeling. You know when it’s there and when it’s not, and it can be brought on by different things for different people. That, that’s truth. One’s truth leads to God. Some people see it in kindness, others in tough love, like you’re showing me. Someone’s truth is in what they love.” ― A.D. Aliwat, In Limbo

Tough love quotes about love isn’t about rules

Tough love quotes about certain situations and whether it is good or bad

23. “I believe in tough love. But for tough love to work, love must come first. We must love tough to bring out the best in those who lead.” Jon Gordon

Tough love quotes about certain situations and whether it is good or bad

24. “Sometimes giving into that tough love is exactly what you need.” ― Anonymous

Tough love quotes about sometimes giving into that tough love is exactly what you need

25. “I am tough, and sometimes I tell it like it is. Tough love can work wonders.” ― Bikram Choudhury

Tough love quotes about I am tough, and sometimes I tell it like it is. Tough love can work wonders

26. “In a world that has gone soft, tough love is a necessity.” ― Asad Meah

27. “Tough love will either break you or it will make you into the person that you can truly be.” ― Asad Meah

28. “If you listen long enough, you can hear my skin grow tough love is painful to the touch must be made of stronger stuff.” Tom Petty

29. “Sometimes you must seem to hurt something in order to do good for it.” ― Susan Cooper

30. “Receiving tough love is never easy, especially when you know the person is right.” ― Anonymous

31. “Tough love is just the right phrase: love for the rich and privileged, tough for everyone else.” Noam Chomsky

32. “What’s the difference between tough love and acting like a jerk?” ― Ricki Lake

33. “No, I don’t believe in tough love. I just believe in love.” ― David Sheff

34. “This tough-love, winner-take-all narrative dominating policymaking is far too limited a way to think about how a complex, modern, diverse economy like ours expands and thrives. The strongest periods of economic growth in the 20th century were also times when incomes rose across the board.” ― John Podesta

35. “Tough loveI’m kind of weary of that. I don’t think it’s so effective.” ― Marguerite Moreau

What is ‘tough love’ quotes and how to describe what it means

36. “Tough love means being firm but kind while setting boundaries and sticking to them.” ― Unknown

37. “Tough love does not mean to be mean. It’s called tough love because accepting the impossibility of changing someone else’s behavior is tough to do.” ― Unknown

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38. “Real love is tough love.” ― Unknown

39. “Tough love is what we need to really ask ourselves, ‘What am I even doing?’” ― Anonymous

40. “Real love is tough love. Why? Because it’s never easy. It hurts the giver far more than the receiver.” ― Bobby W. Miller

41. “Tough love is the hardest to give.” ― Octavia Spencer

42. “Words ride on the energy of tone, its warmth or coldness; think of tone as the music of how words are expressed. You want this music to be soulful, whether you’re giving sweet talk or tough love.” ― James Cook

Tough love quotes on growth and success

43. “Tough love may be tough to give, but it is a necessity of life and assurance of positive growth.” ― T.F. Hodge

44. “Hope is important. It allows you to survive. But there’s a point where tough love is required if you want to change. Action is necessary. It allows you to live.” ― Brittany Burgunder

45. “You must show tough love to yourself so that you get to the next level.” ― Asad Meah

46. “Over the years, I’ve grown more comfortable with making people uncomfortable because that is when growth can happen. You need a little conflict. You need a little tension. And that is part of my calling. A little tough love goes a long way!” ― Mark Batterson

47. “By not standing firm and by not exercising tough love, we often cause the figurative ‘death’ of others and sometimes ourselves, our goals, our destiny.” ― Deborah Smith Pegues

48. “Tough love makes you tough.” ― Asad Meah

49. “Tough love builds character.” ― Asad Meah

50. “Tough love makes you grow stronger from within.” ― Asad Meah

Tough Love Quotes For Parents Who Want Their Children To succeed

51. Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” — Anne Frank

52. “Parents must get across the idea that I love you always, but sometimes I do not love your behavior. — Amy Vanderbilt

53. “If your child has a weakness, teach them how to turn it into a strength! The only Failure is not trying.” — Kevin Heath

54. “When a child hits a child, we call it aggression. When a child hits an adult, we call it hostility. When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault. When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline.” — Haim G. Ginott

55. “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” — Robert Fulghum

56. It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” — Frederick Douglass

57. “I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside.” — Whitney Houston

58. A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone.” — Billy Graham

59. “We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt

60.”Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” — Maria Montessori

Best Tough Love Quotes To Inspire Parenting

61. “It can’t be done for you; tough love must be done by you.”― Frank Sonnenberg

62. “It’s good to learn early that every show is a family – complete with dysfunctional relationships, tough love, and plenty of occasions for forgiveness.” — Kristin Chenoweth

63.“Nothing glows brighter than the heart awakened to the unseen light of Love that lives within it.” — Guy Finley

64. “Sympathy constitutes friendship; but in love there is a sort of antipathy, or opposing passion. Each strives to be the other, and both together make up one whole.” — Samuel Taylor

65. “The world has already been too tough on her, the least she needs is tough love. Be tough when you need to be, but always be soft with her. She has thorns, but she is a flower.” — L. Figaro

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66. “You can’t stop loving or wanting to love because when its right, it’s the best thing in the world. When you’re in a relationship and it’s good, even if nothing else in your life is right, you feel like your whole world is complete.” — Keith Sweat

67. “Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.” — W.E.B. DuBois

68. “If you can give your son or daughter only one gift, let it be – enthusiasm.” — Bruce Barton

69.“Encourage and support your kids because children are apt to live up to what you believe in them.” — Lady Bird Johnson

70. “When we don’t allow others to suffer the consequences of their actions we cripple them emotionally. We deprive them of the ability to learn from their mistakes. We also take away their ability to overcome their problems and change their life for the better.” — Randi G Fine

Thought Provoking Tough Love Quotes About Life

71. “I’m a disciplinarian. I’m the tough love pet owner. I believe in very well-behaved animals.” — Jamie Lee Curtis

72. “When we first sort of break in or bust into the house, if you will, there’s some tough love.” — Thom Filicia

73. “If you love deeply, you’re going to get hurt badly. But it’s still worth it.” — C. S. Lewis

74. “We strive to find love and happiness. Life can be tough at times. I know that life can knock you into the dirt. I try to live each day as if I was going to die at the end of it.” — Jeremy Limn

75. “Hearts are tough, Most times they don’t break. Most times they are only bend.” — Stephen King

76. “Life is rough so you gotta be tough.” — Johnny Cash

77. “Life is tough, my darling, but so are you.” — Stephanie Bennett Henry

78. “When we first sort of break in or bust into the house, if you will, there’s some tough love.” — Thom Filicia

79. “You said you wanted the truth. Now what are you willing to do with it?” — Monika Zands

80. “Love is tough. Love survives through the worst of situations, and thrives through hope. Even when things seem hopeless love will find it’s way.” — Malika E Nura

What did you learn from these tough love quotes?

So, what does tough love actually mean?

Again, it is different for everyone, but I certainly agree that people should know and accept the consequences of their actions.

Not just addicts, children, and criminals, but the privileged businessman who cheats the government out of money, too.

People should always understand the ramifications of their words and actions and if they don’t I am ok with others letting them know what those would be, and calling it “tough love.”

However, when dealing with children, who are literally learning how to be people, anything that harms them, doesn’t teach them a real-world lesson, or is outright mean, is not tough love.

Children should absolutely learn that not doing their best doesn’t get them a perfect grade.

Or not practicing their sport or instrument will affect the way they play.

They shouldn’t learn that they need to be perfect, or worse, get physically punished for not doing those things.

When was the last time your boss hit you for not getting something done?

Never should be the answer, so that type of punishment doesn’t teach your child a real consequence of their actions.

A parent’s job is to love, teach, and guide, and sometimes that is very tough.

Especially watching your children struggle for something, and if that is what we are referring to as tough love, then so be it.

Anything else becomes a troubling grey area.

Now, sure, in a friendship or relationship, and even with your own personal growth, there might be a time where you have to get real and look a part of yourself in the eye.

Figuring out how to grow and develop is tough, but no one should need to belittle you to make that point.

What did you learn from these tough love quotes and sayings?

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