Why Love Languages Matter
You may have heard of or read the book “The 5 Love Languages, A Secret to Love That Lasts” by Gary Chapman. Many marriages have been saved by his amazing way of connecting individual expressions of love and its impact on our marriages. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommended it! Knowing how you and your spouse receive and give love is a game-changer for improving your marriage. The same is true for our relationship with our kids!
Learning how our children receive and give love will have a formative impact on your parent-child bond. With that said, Gary Chapman has a follow up book on this called, “The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively.” In this book, Chapman illustrates the love languages of children and also shares many useful recommendations for parenting and communication skills based off of your child’s emotional needs.
Kids have various needs from basic to more complex and these can differ from one child to the next. Not only are our kids’ separate individuals from us as parents, but they’re uniquely different from their siblings. You may think you know this to be true, but how many of us feel surprised or even frustrated when we are faced with different challenges after our second (or third/fourth) born? I know I caught myself feeling a little confused when I noted some early differences in my second son: between different a sleep pattern, personality, and general health issues, he took me on a little rollercoaster. After reflecting on my comments with doctors and family, I soon realized I needed to recommit myself to not comparing them to each other or myself.
A Personal Note
Back to the point: through reading the “Love Languages” book I was able to pick up on my two sons’ separate personalities and unique expressions of love. If there’s one thing my time as a Community and School Counselor showed me, it’s how problems in a child’s behavior or academic performance is often due to the child’s unmet emotional needs.
Oftentimes we think that we are showing love by meeting their basic needs (i.e. food, water, shelter) and may not realize that there’s so much more involved. Also, sometimes we think because we show love in one way (usually our own love language), that our child’s love tank ought to be full, but this couldn’t be further from the truth if their preferred love language is something else!
This isn’t meant to make it seem impossible, but rather, it’s meant to show that having an understanding of how your child shows and receives love is a useful way of creating and maintaining the very important parent-child bond. A strong parent-child relationship leads to a reduced risk in academic and behavioral issues.
Love Languages “Cliff’s Notes”
Before diving into a summary of each, I would like to add that all of these “love languages” are present in most people. However, the general preference for how we communicate and feel love MOST would usually be characterized by one or two main preferences. While these may be hard to determine in very small children, being aware of the love languages as they grow and develop can be very helpful in creating and maintaining a strong connection between you and your child.
I’m going to provide a brief cliff-notes style summary of each one and if you want to learn more, I urge you to read the book or listen to the audio version. Both of these options are available for purchase on Amazon.
The Love Languages:
Little kids whose love language is quality time will often ask you to play with them. Your time and presence fill up their love tank as you share meaningful moments together. It’s important to note that these kids will often act out by misbehaving when not receiving adequate attention. Any attention is better than none for them. If you’re dealing with behavioral issues, consider carving out some quality time for your child. Also note that punishing with time outs or isolation (i.e. going to their room, separating from friends or classmates) can be especially hurtful for these kids.
Acts of Service
These kids are the ones who will make you breakfast, bring you something you need without complaining or prompting, or are generally more service-minded and thoughtful. It’s great to respond in kind and surprise them with things they’re in charge of every once in a while- offering to complete one of their chores shows them a love that fills their hearts.
Some kids tend to demonstrate this by rough housing, or, like in my three-year-old, snuggling. Chapman notes that girls who don’t receive safe physical touch, especially from dad, are prone to search for this in unsafe ways from other boys and can make them emotionally codependent. Additionally, it’s important to be mindful when spanking kids whose love language is physical touch as this can be very damaging to their sense of trust- physical punishment is quite devastating for these kids in particular. (I highly recommend the book, “No Bad Kids” for additional parenting techniques in place of spanking and time-outs.)
Words of Affirmation
These kids enjoy being praised and acknowledged for their specific gifts and talents. Kids with this love language will feel affirmed and more willing to try new things. They won’t shy away from challenges or new experiences because their sense of self is secure. Kids who don’t receive much-needed verbal affirmations will feel timid and more unsure of themselves. They will display reduced self-esteem.
This one is pretty obvious, and while many may assume that all kids love gifts, this may not be true. For those that do, gifts represent special connections and memories. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying gifts, these kids should be carefully taught the importance of the various other love languages.
Again, all of these are important in showing love to all children, but it’s important to be aware of your child’s (and spouse’s) primary love language as you seek to establish and maintain a meaningful relationship within your family unit. Taking the time to be intentional in fortifying your relationships is a powerful way to strengthen your connection which will, hopefully, last a lifetime.
Interested in connecting and learning more about parenting, kids, and mental health? Follow me on Instagram @melirentas