When it comes to parenting, most mums and dads have shown their children some tough love during their lives.
Whether it’s not giving them a toy after they’ve misbehaved as a kid or not helping them financially when they get older because they’ve failed to save, most parents agree that setting up certain boundaries is important for their children to grow and learn from their mistakes.
But where should parents draw a line when it comes to tough love. How tough is too tough?
The question arose after a mother in the UK wrote a heartbreaking letter urging the public to ignore her homeless son.
The 22-year-old’s life has spiralled out of control since he became addicted to drugs, she said, and despite doing everything in her power to help her child get off drugs, nothing has worked.
Writing an open letter on Wales Online, the mother, who wished to remain anonymous, said she’d offered to pay her son’s rent if he stopped using drugs and offered to help pay for rehab to help him do so. She even sent him photos of his earlier years, to remind him what he’s missing out on now.
She said she had also followed advice from local drug support agencies and avoided giving him money because of the risk he’d spend it on drugs.
Now, she’s encouraging the general public to follow suit if they saw him begging in the street. Even giving him temporary assistance with food and clothing risked helping him put off getting help for his addiction, she argued.
“When you give my son clothes, you are keeping him warm for that day and the next,” she wrote. “When you give my son food, you are feeding him for that day and the next. When you give my son money, you are feeding his drug habit for that day and the next.
“But none of this will help him in the long term as none of these are a long term fix. You are in effect helping my son to meet his short term needs with quick fixes.”
The mother encouraged people to give to charities rather than to the homeless directly.
Many people shared their own experiences online in response to the story.
One person on Facebook wrote: “You did not fail your son as a mother. He was born with an addicted personality. When he does get clean, he will himself tell you that it was nothing you done.”
Some didn’t agree with the mum’s tough love stance, however, with one person writing: “How can u say don’t feed or clothe them … would you rather him cold and starving? Most people on the streets choose this life … we don’t know who your son is … so I will continue to help.”
Another added: “I’m sorry. But I won’t sit by and let someone go hungry. I won’t let someone be cold. I will continue to give food and clothing to those who don’t have it.”
A third message read: “I feel for this woman, her son & the wider family but don’t think it helps the wider homeless community telling people not to give to those on the streets. I sincerely hope her son gets the help he needs and returns to his family.”