Quote: “Most parents love their children and also want their children to feel loved, but few know how to adequately convey that feeling.” – The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell
As we think about February as the “month of love,” we wanted to discuss the different ways to communicate love to our children. Chapmen and Campbell, the authors of The 5 Love Languages of Children, emphasize the different communication methods of 1) Physical Touch, 2) Words of Affirmation, 3) Quality Time, 4) Gifts, and 5) Acts of Service. Keeping your child’s “love bank” full might be something you’ve always wanted, but as parents, maybe we have never really thought about how to convey that feeling. The authors further add that children will begin to develop one primary love language (even though they will still need the other 4 in one way or another) usually by the time they are five years of age. What do these 5 love languages “look” like in application? Let’s examine each one as you can apply them to your own parent/child relationships.
#1: Physical Touch – No matter how young or how old your child is, physical touch is an area that all children need to feel loved. Young children might sit on your lap, be held, tickled, hugged, and kissed. As children get older, the touches might change, especially for boys and girls. For example, boys might like wrestling, high fives, tickling and bear hugs. Girls, on the other hand, might like more softer touches. Please notice the use of the word “might” because we all know, every child is different. The point here is that physical touch has been found to drastically help in the development of self-esteem and growing into mature adults.
#2: Words of Affirmation – The authors make an important distinction in this section that should help us in choosing our words of love and affirmation. Affirmation means “expressing appreciation for the very being of a child.” Other positive expressions might be in the form of praise, sometimes confused with affirmation; however, showing a child praise focuses on what the child does. Words of affirmation, such as “I love you,” should never be stated with conditional statements, but should “stand alone in reality or by implication.” Other words of affirmation might be through encouragement and telling your child what you like about him/her. Our words and our tone in which we communicate have a huge impact on our children. We can practice showing our love to them by being conscientious of using positive wording rather than condemnation or negative undertones.
#3: Quality Time – In today’s world, where so many activities are competing with our time, spending quality time with your child can be very difficult. Furthermore, if you have more than one child, finding one-on-one time with each child is even more challenging. Making the extra effort to spend quality time with your child will help not only in the current relationship, but it will build a relationship for his/her future and teach him/her how to spend quality time with others as adults. As parents spend this special time with their child, they should focus on making eye contact, getting to know their child better, and doing activities that will strengthen this bond. These activities don’t have to be extravagant, but ones that will be enjoyable for both the parents and the child. Remember, it’s more about making these memorable moments that make your child feel loved.
#4: Gifts – Buying gifts for one another might seem like the easiest and most common way to to show our love for our children. We seem to celebrate gift giving almost every month by our culture’s marketing strategies – via Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Birthdays, Christmas, etc. The authors explain the difference of giving a gift because it’s “to be expected” and giving a gift as an expression of love. What is a gift as an expression of love? Let’s think about it – why are you giving the gift? Are you buying it simply because you are supposed to – or are you buying it because it’s something that will add value to their life, meaningful to the child, and bind you more closely together? Also, gifts don’t always have to be bought; sometimes making something for your child can be even more meaningful than any store-bought gift. Let’s put the meaning back into our gifts and show them the joy it brings us to give.
#5: Acts of Service – This kind of love language is best demonstrated by serving your child through acts they cannot do themselves. For example, model for your young children how you serve them by cooking, cleaning, or helping them get ready for school. As they get older, they do not need as much help and should start to do these acts of service for themselves. They will learn that our acts of service – laundry, dishes, helping with homework, cooking, playing catch, etc. are because we love them – only if we truly do it with the right attitude. If we do them in resentment, they will know. If we do these acts out of love, they will want to do the same for others as well. Responding to your child’s service requests will either keep their love tank full or deplete it. Let’s make every effort to demonstrate acts of service in a loving manner.
The book continues through this discussion in the topics of discovering your child’s primary love language, discipline and love languages, learning and love languages, anger and love, single-parent families, and love languages in marriage. While we aren’t going to elaborate on these topics here, we wanted to list them to let you know that this book truly covers so many areas of this topic that will definitely help our families learn more about positive communication.
As a mom of three and another one on the way, I have found that reading this book (and now vowing to re-read it every year), has helped me become a better parent. My three children are so different in their communication styles, and I learned that they all still need to feel loved through these 5 unique ways. It’s not just about buying them a gift for every holiday, making them dinner most nights, helping them with their homework, telling them “I love you,” or giving them a hug every day. While I think I’m doing all of these things well because I love them, I don’t realize until I hear and see their reactions that they might not be feeling loved. Sometimes I get too busy with checking things off my list or doing things out of habit, rather than loving my children through conscious efforts.
Am I keeping my children’s love banks full? That’s the real question. Being a parent is definitely the most difficult task I could ever do, and it’s not one that can be “checked off the list.” My kids have taught me to slow down, look at my values, and make sure my actions are coming from my heart. They know when I’m rushing and saying “uh huh” in my responses. They know when I’m buying a gift that really has little meaning. They know when I’m reading them a bedtime story and rushing to say goodnight. They know. Period. They know.
We have a heart, and they have a heart. I’m vowing to make connections more real today and more real every day in the future. I love my children and more importantly, always want them to feel loved. Happy Valentine’s Day – today and every day!
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