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Benson: ...*sigh* I don't hate you guys. I hate some of the things you do... I really hate some of the things you do... I know you don't mean them, but I'm your boss. It's my job to set you two straight.
A variation of parenting which believes that love can best be provided via schooling them in life's hard knocks. This is believed to make said offspring stronger. Sometimes it works and the kid grows up to be Bad Ass but unable to display casual affection. However taken too far and the kid could end up an emotionally disturbed The Woobie or even worse Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds for the supernaturally powered variant.
If dished out to one particular child in the family, expect said child to feel like The Unfavourite compared to their other siblings. Can lead to a "Well Done, Son!" Guy moment if this turned out not to be the case.
This trope is frequently used as justifications for the actions of a Knight Templar Parent or sometimes the Sink-or-Swim Mentor if the relationship is neither familial nor quasi-parental. There can be a thin line to walk between practicing this trope and just coming off as another example of Abusive Parents. Expect a parent who Had To Be Sharp while growing up regard doing this as passing on vital experiences to their children, regardless of whether such skills are necessary in the current day. The Other Wiki has its own definition here. See Cruel to Be Kind for this trope taken to its extreme.
Expect much Angst resulting from this trope.
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Anime and Manga
History's Mightiest Disciple Kenichi gives poor Kenichi six masters, all of them incredibly brutal in their own way. All of them care a great deal about their disciple but still put him to the point of nearly dying from his training on a daily basis. As the story continues, the teachers increase the training for him to survive just the ruthless delinquents that come after him. When the Yami organization appears, however, the training continually increases. However, the masters only go so far as they know Kenichi can take: if he's ever up against something that he honestly cannot handle, they will step in to save him.
Guy's training methods in Naruto. Not to mention Itachi's behaviour towards Sasuke.
Tenjho Tenge is the absolute master of this trope. From Mitsuomi's Aloof Big Brother status, Dogen's intention to create a "true warrior" using his eldest son, Shin being locked up by his father to prevent him losing control of his powers to a hilarious scene between himself and Mana in a hospital, its fair to say that Tough Love must be part of the school curriculum.
Well, not really... She uses this as an excuse against her friends' rightful concerns but no one believes it, not even her. He is only looking for her late parents' money and plans to leave town as soon as he finds it, because the cops are after him due to his involvement in Rina's death. She's trying to hold off suspicion from social services and the police until he's done, but it's clear shehates and fears him.
The Emperor has this as his excuse for the way he "raises" his kids in Code Geass. According to him "people only become stronger through struggle" and he actively encourages his children's infighting to decide who will succeed him on the throne of Britannia.
Vice-Admiral Garp of One Piece is a firm advocate of the Tough Love principle. Just look at how he changed Helmeppo and Koby from cowards into legitimate badasses after taking them under his wing. It is also part of the reason why the hero is terrified of him.
Regarding Luffy and Ace, this was mainly done in order to protect them from a world that would only ever want to see them dead, even if it meant forcing them into a life they don't want. This backfired tremendously, as it made him a poor Parental Substitute, and only caused them to want to become pirates even more, if only to get away from him. While the brothers recognize that their grandfather loved them, it wasn't enough to sway them from pursuing the lives they wanted.
In Digimon Tamers, Juri's father raised her this way after the death of her mother. Unfortunately, this accidentally made her into a Stepford Smiler who broke before she came home from the Digital World.
Bleach: Isshin Kurosaki regularly randomly attacks his son to teach Ichigo combat readiness. He is also complict with the Training from Hell his son keeps getting put through. Ryuuken Ishida is an aloof father who belittles his son for not achieving his full potential. When accused of having faith in his son's fighting ability, he claims he merely doesn't care if his son's below-par performance gets him killed. Isshin and Ryuuken end up debating who the worst father is; they both agree it's Isshin.
In Medaka Box, this is Medaka's modus operandi. People are just problems that need solving to her, and that usually involves defeating them in some way. Usually violently. Taken to new heights in chapter 118: it doesn't get much tougher than beating the crap out of a guy and mocking his weakness to motivate him further.
Tiger from Monster Rancher is a firm believer of this, acting harsh and strict around his younger brother Gray Wolf to make him stronger. However this backfires as Tiger's well-intentioned attitude ended up giving Gray Wolf an inferiority complex. When Moo captured Gray Wolf, he magnified Gray Wolf's insecurities to a full-blown Green-Eyed Monster, to the point Gray Wolf wanted to kill his brother, much to Tiger's horror.
Pokémon Misty would often encourage physical pain on her Psyduck in order to make it have a headache. That doesn't mean that she wanted to hurt it, but rather activate its psychic powers, which is a result from powerful headaches. However, she would be a little excessive when trying to do so.
In Fables one of the "gifts" Santa gives to a character is forcing him to face his traumatic past so he can move with his life.
In V for Vendetta, V uses a rather extreme version of this to help Evey become unafraid. Extreme like black-bagging her, shaving her head, imprisoning her, torturing her, and making her think she's going to be executed. Yeah.
In Change for Good one of Harry's aunts was taken from the hospital shortly after birth by a woman who, in addition to raising her, subjected her to curses and hexes she was expected to learn to heal on her own and Auror-level training scenarios from the time she was ten.
When Robin refuses to acknowledge his emotional issues when called out on it, Chrom forces him to show his suicide injuries to confront the problem in Pretender
Legends Of The Fall has the Ludlow brothers who at first are rivals for their father's affections and then later on over the token chick.
A mild version of this is in McLintock! when John Wayne gives his daughter and her husband a small ranch as a wedding present in the hope that they will be comfortable without forgetting how to be Determined Homesteaders .
This is also possibly the only explanation for the way Lord Asriel treats his daughter Lyra in the His Dark Materials trilogy. He even tells his former lover and mother of his daughter that he does not love his child; describing the girl as a "spoiled brat with dirty fingernails"
However it is later revealed that he does indeed care for his daughter, he expresses admiration in The Amber Spyglass for her exploits in Svalbard and for successfully tricking the former bear-king into a duel for the throne. In one of the standalone supplementary guides to the whole trilogy it is mentioned that the author's notes have him keeping a framed portrait of Lyra in his home. All this is masked by showing outward contempt for the poor girl when she finally comes looking for him. And by killing her best friend!
Michael's father in the Knight and Rogue Series is a firm believer of this. To give his son the steady, comfortable job of a steward, he's willing to crush Michael's dreams and even strip him of legal rights so he'll have no option but 'the best'.
In The Dosadi Experiment by Frank Herbertloving parents (italics his) treat their offspring harshly to give them the strength and will to survive in a hostile and unforgiving world.
A memorable example occurred in a season 6 episode of Friends with Bruce Willis's character demonstrating Manly Tears whilst reminiscing with Rachel over his relationship with his father. Too bad this led to an excessive display of tears leading Rachel to dump him.
Flashbacks in Psych explain that this was how Shawn was raised by his dad after his mom left the family. His dad a law officer raised Shawn to have perfect eidetic memory, allowing him to recall objects and events to minute detail but this had the side effect of leaving Shawn socially awkward. However its not played for audience sympathy, Shawn is most definitely NOT The Woobie; being a prankster to the highest form. In fact he uses his eidetic memory to run a scam as a fake psychic.
Actually, Shawn's mom didn't leave until he was a senior in high school. Presumably she agree with Henry that training Shawn to be a detective was a good idea or at least didn't want to argue the point.
Ken Titus. His trademark phrase was "Stop being a wussy!"
The original British version of What Not to Wear had Tough Love as its basic premise. The two show stylists; Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine would take one hapless woman each week and insult her dress choices until she finally gave in and wore what they told her to.
Dr. Cox loves doing this with almost all his interns.
Lois and Hal'splan for Malcolm puts them squarely in this category. They plan on making sure that Malcolm never has a happy life as they think that this will give him the qualities needed for him to be America's greatest president.
More pointedly, the final episode of the series sees Malcolm on the brink of becoming independently wealthy only to have his parents effectively stab their son in the back and refuse to sign off on the business deal (being under the age of 18, Malcolm requires their consent) because it doesn't conform with their plans for him.
In Skins Season 5 both Alo and Nick's parents seem to believe that being tough on their sons will prevent them from becoming tearaways.
On an episode of House Cuddy realizes that her mother pushed her to succeed because she saw potential in her more than her sister.
Lorelai Gilmore of Gilmore Girls says that using tough love is the best way to get Rory to go back to Yale.
In How I Met Your Mother, this is what Robin calls her father's parenting techniques, which include making her burn her clothes and shipping her to a boys' military school, sending her to a foaling farm after she was caught kissing a boy, and abandoning her in the wolf-infested woods for three days on her fourteenth birthday.
Robin: I did almost die from malnutrition on that wolf hunt last year.
Robin's dad: I had to almost kill you for you to learn how to kill.
Rita from The Fosters is this trope personified. She cares for the foster girls in the group home she runs, but she takes not shit from them and breaking the rules gets privileges taken away. Although some of the girls begin resistant to her authority, they mostly seem to realize she actually does have their best interests in mind
"A Boy Named Sue", anyone? The song is all about the trope, with the titular Sue being landed with the name to ensure that he grows up to be Bad Ass after a childhood of bullying over his name. The song ends with "Sue" confronting his dad, learning his intentions, and deciding to avert this trope if he ever has a son.
Arguably Hamlet is using Tough Love to persuade Ophelia to leave him. "I am only cruel to be kind" indeed.
This may have been the Witch's excuse in Into the Woods for how she treated Rapunzel.
The Witch: I was trying to be a good mother.
Klaus Wulfenbach in Girl Genius orders his son around much like minions and (unlike minions) constantly gives him hard and sometimes sneaky tests. Then the Baron is wounded and vultures circle around him, his reaction on seeing Gil defeating a mechanized army single-handedly? Unholy glee.
Klaus: Now. Get me back to bed. [...] Aargh!
Dr. Sun: I hope it was worth it.
Klaus: Anything—being paralyzed for life—would be an acceptable price for seeing what I have seen my son do today. Oh, yes.
Shortly thereafter, Gil has a plan that will work only if his father loves him. Troops show up to return him to his father's castle by force and Gil thinks — oh yes, he loves me! Which proves quite justified.
This may be the case for how Quaintana views how she raises her children in Drowtales. However her children (not to mention readers of the comic) view it as quite the opposite.
Eric Sakai from Soul Symphony, a sophomore in high school, was forced to start leaning to play violin by his grandparents when he was seven, was doing solo recitals at concert halls by twelve, and forced to start learning MORE string instruments by thirteen. He didn't want to, but it made him a prodigy.
Homestuck: This seems to have been the relationship between Dave Strider and his Bro. Bro didn't go easy on him, and the one major interaction we see between them is Bro kicking Dave's ass in a fight. But on the other hand, it is shown that the two of them did care for each other quite a lot, and it is heavily implied that the reason Bro trained Dave so harshly was to prepare him for the rigors of the game.
Adventure Time: The aim of the videos left behind by Finn and Jake's father in "Dad's Dungeon" was intended to make Finn tougher (he calls Finn a whiny baby and also makes Jake do the same). It is only revealed at the end of the episode that Finn's father does in fact love him and was trying to make him tougher so that he may be stronger when fighting evil.
In the above averageThe Lion King sequel Simba's Pride; Nuka is this to his mother Zira thinking that she favours Kovu as Scar's "Chosen One". This leads to an intense rivalry with Kovu eventually leading to Nuka's death when he tries to gain Zira's affection by killing Simba, only for him to be crushed by the falling logs that were meant to kill Simba. This is followed by Zira's first and last act of affection for Nuka when she frantically tries to save him and holds him as he dies.
An episode of Batman Beyond had a variation of the trope; here unruly students at Hamilton Hill High were sent to a reformation centre in the hope of turning them into model citizens. Unfortunately the center didn't distinguish between budding criminals and peaceful dissenters, and the methods being used also involved brainwashing and mild torture. Naturally a riot breaks out.
Parental interventions can be seen as this, usually these occur as a last ditch attempt to put troublemakers on the right track. Examples include drug addicts, compulsive gamblers, shoplifters, truants etc. This is the premise of the TV documentary of the same name. When people talk about tough love in real life, they usually mean this.
Several real life boot camps also employ tough love to make their objectives heard. See Celebrity Fit Club and its drill instructor Harvey Walden IV for one example. Walden is part of the team of experts (also including a nutritionist and psychologist) and usually means well but has often reduced contestants to tears with some of his comments to those who apparently cannot maintain their targets.
This is probably the kindest way to describe Amy Chua's approach to raising her daughters.
Arguably the concept behind Montessori educational schools.
The difference between disciplining via tough love and simply being an abusive parent is well demonstrated here
To be more specific, two parents made their very young son walk/run around in the cold in his undies to strengthen his immune system.
Charles Bufe, an anarchist writer, once deconstructed tough love as "Abuse of a type particularly gratifying to the abuser, in that it combines the pleasures of sadism with those of self-righteousness."