Benson: ...*sigh* I don't hate you guys. I just hate some of the things you do...Okay 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 a badass unable to display casual affection. If this is taken too far, however, the kid could end up an emotionally disturbed Woobie or, even worse, a 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 Un-Favourite 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 justification 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 to 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. In the Gentle Touch vs. Firm Hand philosophy, this trope definitely leans to the latter. Can lead to Was Too Hard on Him.
Expect much Angst resulting from this trope.
- Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple 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 push 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. That said, they have been known to kill him a few times; fortunately one of his masters can heal just about anything short of decapitation.
- Guy's training methods in Naruto. Not to mention Itachi's behavior 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 from losing control of his powers to a scene between himself and Mana in a hospital, its fair to say that Tough Love must be part of the school curriculum.
- In the third arc of Higurashi: When They Cry, Satoko believes that her Evil Uncle abusing her is this. Or rather, 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 she hates 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 Coby from cowards into legitimate badasses after taking them under his wing. It is also part of the reason why Luffy 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.
- Zeff gives this to Sanji to make him a better chef and fighter.
- Ranma ½: Genma Saotome absolutely loves doing this to Ranma by way of Training from Hell. The most infamous of which is teaching him the Cat Fist, which involved tossing him into a pit of hungry cats while covered in sardines. On the upside, it granted him an invincible Super Mode. On the downside, it gave him a phobia of cats.
- 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 complicit with the Training from Hell his son keeps getting put through. Ryuuken Ishida is an aloof father who belittles his son Uryuu 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.
- InuYasha: Very little is known about Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru's father as he died long before the start of the story. However, his presence permeates the entire story as he left a legacy of tests for his two sons that very often seem random or cruel to onlookers, but which always have the best interests of both his sons at heart. This went to such extreme lengths that at one point, Sesshoumaru was left feeling like the outcast son while Inuyasha and Myouga desperately tried to raise his spirits. Sesshoumaru's mother also seems to be this type as well as her single appearance in the manga is to enact a plan she and her late husband had concocted together to execute against Sesshoumaru in order to teach him the value of nurturing such attachments.
- 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.
- Cross Ange: Ange gives her bratty (and sadistic) little sister Sylvia some potshots after shooting a civilian in the face. This makes her walk again and realize her own mistakes to the point that she ends up earning her royalty by butchering all the other bandits in the post-apocalyptia with some former royal staff, instead of bitching and whining like she did from episodes 9 to 23.
- Izumi Curtis doles this out regularly to Ed and Alphonse in Fullmetal Alchemist. She does this so they fully understand the laws and risks of alchemy, and so they won't be completely lost in the world now that their father's missing and their mother's dead.
- In the 2003 adaptation, Roy Mustang pulls this on Ed, bluntly telling him after Nina's death that it's too late for her, bringing her back wouldn't be a good idea even if it was possible, and he needs to keep his eyes on the prize rather than chasing every doomed but noble cause.
- In Ginga Densetsu Weed: Orion (the manga sequel to Ginga Densetsu Weed), at one point, Gin has had it up to his muzzle with Orion's bad attitude and foul mouth. What does he do? He picks the pup up and dangles him over a cliff as a warning, telling him that he needs to grow up and be more mature. When Orion promises that, Gin puts him down beside him, telling his grandson to behave as a true leader should, using Weed (Gin's son and Orion's father) as an example.
- In Bloom Into You, after the School Play ends, Touko joins a theatre troupe. The director of the troupe of the troupe, a woman named Nara, is impressed enough with Touko's skill that she's honestly surprised that the play is Touko's first time acting, but is also shown to be highly critical of Touko, and harshly lectures her for seemingly minor mistakes. One of Touko's new colleagues reassures her that Nara is only tough on people she sees potential in.
- 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.
V: You said you wanted to live without fear. I wish there'd been an easier way, but there wasn't.
- 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.
- In The Unbroken Saviour Sirius gets this from his parents.
It was a brutal regime that punished failure... and also punished success. The house of Black always believed pain strengthened the mind.
- 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 .
- Gayle in SAVE ME really, really believes she's employing this trope. It's, uh, a little more complex than that.
- Character: Evidently Dreverhaven's whole motivation in how he treats his illegitimate son. Having not been involved in his son's life, he resolves to continually screw with him, apparently in the belief that it will make Jacob stronger. And it works, as Jacob becomes a successful lawyer largely to spite his father.
"I'll strangle him nine-tenths, and the last tenth will make him strong."
- Wonder Woman (2017): Diana's Cool Aunt Antiope disobeyed her sister's orders and started training her niece in secret, and when Hippolyta finds out, she gives this as her reason. Antiope loved Diana as much as Hippolyta did, but knew that, regardless of what they wanted for her, a confrontation with Ares was inevitable. Antiope felt the best way to protect Diana was to teach her how to protect herself. Hippolyta sways to her way of thinking and subsequently demands that Antiope train Diana harder than any Amazon before her, and won't settle for anything less than her daughter surpassing her sister as the Amazon's greatest warrior.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has several examples, played straight, subverted and even averted at times.
- 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!
- Monster Hunter International: Owen Pitt remembers himself and his brother enduring this as a child. Because their father knew one of them would give his life for the world.
- Private: Noelle Lange's grandmother employed this in Vanished. Knowing Reed to be her granddaughter, she decided to test her loyalty by faking Noelle's kidnapping and giving Reed a series of challenges to perform in order to save Noelle's life. At the end of Vanished she and Noelle come clean to Reed about the whole thing. Grandmother Lange's entire scheme in the book was to test that Reed was worthy of being a Lange. And that's not even the whole story...
- 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 Herbert loving parents (italics his) treat their offspring harshly to give them the strength and will to survive in a hostile and unforgiving world.
- Baloo the bear from The Jungle Book (not the Disney one) is the teacher of the young wolves of the pack (and Mowgli), and he'll often cuff the wolves on the head or spank Mowgli for misbehaving. When Bagheera the black panther objects to the bear's stern methods towards Mowgli, Baloo remains firm in his belief of discipline.
"Better he should be bruised from head to foot by me who love him than that he should come to harm through ignorance."
- In The Divine Comedy, the audience is made to expect Lady Beatrice to be graceful and lovely as any pure damsel could be, only for her to express her love to Dante by drilling him on his sins until he bursts into tears. The angels pity the poet, but Beatrice remains stern as an admiral while maintaining only tears can allow Dante to survive the entry into Paradise.
- Was the title of a Season 5 episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Attempted by Angel's father. He took it rather badly.
- Also the case for Dean's upbringing by his father in Supernatural
- 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, it's 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.
- Titus: Ken Titus's 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.
- Bart Bass' parenting style of choice on Gossip Girl.
- Scrubs: Dr. Cox loves doing this with almost all his interns.
- Malcolm in the Middle: Lois and Hal's plan 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 to 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
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend kind of deconstructs this. Apparently, all of the behavior that Rebecca's mother showed her all of her life was to toughen her up for the real world. Considering how messed up Rebecca turned out in the end, it may have backfired.
- A sub-premise of the short-lived I Hate My Teenage Daughter.
- In the first episode of Conviction (2016), Hayes' mother warns her that if she blows off the Convictions Integrity Unit, then the family plans to turn her cocaine-possession charge into possession-with-an-intent-to-distribute, in order to motivate her to actually work.
- Johnny Cash: "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 badass 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.
- With Persona 4's Social Links, the player is encouraged to do this with the use of Dialogue Trees - the Social Links all revolve around helping a person overcome their own issues, and the protagonist essentially serves a role like a therapist. Being blunt and honest, but also fair and not belittling or insulting, is generally considered the best option, and will result in the most positive response and allow quicker progression through the Link. Many of the more blunt options require a certain amount of Courage, Expression, or Understanding to perform. By contrast, coddling or ignoring the problems will result in the worst responses, and make the Link slower to complete. This tie's into the game's Central Theme of uncovering truths both about the world and about yourself, no matter how terrible they may be.
- Persona 5
- The player gets this from Sojiro, his guardian while he's on probation in Tokyo. Since the protagonist's situation is extremely precarious and any trouble will result in him going to juvenile hall, Sojiro is quite strict at first and is hesitant to trust the protagonist. Furthermore, since the protagonist got in trouble while saving a woman from a drunk man who happens to be a very powerful politician, Sojiro insists that the protagonist keep his head down. Late in his Confidant, Sojiro admits that he may have been wrong about this approach.
- Sae Niijima, a prosecutor who ends up looking after her younger sister Makoto after their father's death, does this with Makoto. She's fairly strict with Makoto and often insists that Makoto focus on her studies, but it's shown that this is because Sae believes that the world is a harsh and competitive place, especially for women. Unfortunately, while Sae does love Makoto, her intentions are tainted because of her obsession with getting a promotion and her jealousy of Makoto, desires that are distorted enough for Sae to have a Palace of her own.
- In the backstory for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, King Rhoam treated Zelda with this as she strove to awaken her Royalty Super Power that she needed to defeat Calamity Ganon. On top of pushing her to undergo Training from Hell that involved extensive prayer at sacred springs (including one icy spring in which she had passed out), he also became a Fantasy-Forbidding Father, denying her the opportunity to study the ancient Sheikah Magitek that was being uncovered at the time so she would concentrate more on her training. Not only did Rhoam realize and deeply regret how this was ruining his relationship with his daughter, he also started slowly realizing that it was not helping her unlock her powers. Unfortunately, the very day he resolved to start treating her more kindly and maybe even let her study the Sheikah tech is the day Ganon returned, killed him, and destroyed Hyrule.
- In Fallout 4, Strong the super mutant has a rather twisted (yet well-meaning, in his mind) way of this trope: by fighting and killing.
- In Psychonauts, it turns out that rather than putting Raz through acrobatic Training from Hell in a bid to quash his psychic powers or kill him, his dad, Augustus, actually did it to make absolutely sure Raz could survive whatever dangers came his way, as their family has, as he puts it, "a lot of enemies", as evidenced by the Gypsy Curse put on them regarding water. However, Raz didn't see it this way and saw Augustus as a Boomerang Bigot who hated psychics despite being one himself, leading to a mental version of Augustus being one of the final bosses. It takes Augustus showing up in the Meat Circus and bestowing an 11th-Hour Superpower onto Raz to convince him otherwise.
- In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Adam Jensen can use this trope in certain instances of Talking the Monster to Death - it's literally one of the selectable options in the case of Sandoval.
- Girl Genius:
- Klaus Wulfenbach 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.
- Klaus Wulfenbach 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.
- Eric Sakai from Soul Symphony, a sophomore in high school, was forced to start learning 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. Later chapters show that a lot of the above was Dave sugar-coating and thinking up justifications for Bro... after spending some time with people who honestly do care about him he comes to the conclusion that Bro was an abuser obsessed with "looking cool" to the detriment of all else. It is suggested however that Bro may have been affected by the presence of Lil' Cal being around him all his life... Lil' Cal had by this point been revealed to have been possessed by the spirit of the incredibly sadistic and evil Big Bad.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: This was Fire Lord Ozai's excuse for burning half of his son's face off in a duel:
Ozai: It was to teach you respect!
Zuko: It was cruel, and it was wrong!
Ozai: Then you have learned nothing!
- 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 average The 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 center 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.
- Brian in Family Guy takes this approach after Peter injures himself by turning the stairs in his house into a waterslide.
Brian: I'm not gonna call the hospital because you won't learn anything if I do.
- King of the Hill: Hank Hill goes through this with his son Bobby. At one point, he even says "I tried being nice, but now it's time for tough love." Oddly enough, despite his backward views on parenting, he draws the line at spanking.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The Pie parents may be dead-serious, strict, prone to anger and totally willing to let their fillies work all day long with rocks, not to mention their preference to speak in archaic English (they're based on the Amish, after all). But, deep inside, they truly love their four daughters equally and are very proud of them, and care a lot about Pinkie too, even if she's not the kind of mare they wanted to have.
- Steven Universe: The Maheswaran parents firmly believe this is the perfect way to raise their daughter Connie. They love her but are usually quite strict, demanding and forbidding to set her on the right track so she can grow up to be a decent woman. That is, until the events of "Nightmare Hospital" when Priyanka Maheswaran realizes she's been way too strict with Connie to the point the poor girl feels rather afraid that her mom's harshness may never let her live her adventurous double-life with Steven. Priyanka has a My God, What Have I Done? moment and decides to be a more loving, supportive and less harsh mother for Connie. While Connie's dad didn't show up in the episode, it's likely he may have experienced a change of heart as well.
- 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.
- One might consider this as Simon Cowell's raison d'etre.
- This Guardian article describes the positive and negative affects of this trope.
- 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."