Posted by: Sue Atkins
How to spot your child’s language of love
In our modern society raising happy, confident, well balanced and emotionally healthy kids is often increasingly difficult. Kids seem to speak a completely different language when they are texting or chatting on the internet that is sometimes hard to understand yet one really important aspect to parenting is to meet your child’s need for love. But did you know there are actually five primary ways in which your child expresses and receives love? And did you know that every child has their own unique way of perceiving that love?
As you know, children need to know that they are loved for being themselves-it is otherwise known as unconditional love. This helps them to develop self-esteem and self-confidence and allows them to grow into responsible, well-balanced and happy adults, free from resentment, guilt, fear and insecurity.
But did you know there are five styles of communicating love that each of us responds to more naturally? Each one of us has a primary love language that we prefer and that helps us to make sense of the world. Conflicts or misunderstandings occur when as parents we don’t use or understand our child’s primary love language.
Every child has an emotional tank, a place of emotional strength that can fuel them through the challenging days of growing up and just as cars are powered by reserves of petrol in their fuel tank, so are children fuelled from their emotional tanks. So it makes sense for us to fill our children’s emotional tanks for them to reach their true potential.
So, how do we do this?
It helps to know to know that there are five basic ways to show love.
Physical Touch – hugs and kisses are the most common ways to express this kind of love. Tossing your toddler in the air or spinning them round, reading a story with them sitting on your lap, rustling a teenager’s hair, or touching them affectionately on the shoulder are only a few examples of showing and expressing physical love. Physical touch is one of love’s strongest voices. It shouts “I love you” yet many parents or adults now fear calls of sexual abuse, so they hold back from what is one of life’s most natural expressions of affection. So just relax and express your love appropriately and naturally.
Words of Affirmation – our words are powerful. Words of praise, affection, endearment, encouragement and guidance are ways of really saying, “I care about you.” Words can nurture your child’s soul and give them a deep sense of security. So, if this is your child’s primary love language, choose your words carefully and be gentle in your tone of voice. Appreciate, don’t criticise and look for lots of ways to be positive in encouraging your children.
Quality Time – this is basically receiving your undivided attention. We have all heard about “quality time” over the years, and we all beat ourselves up about not doing it enough-but it doesn’t mean playing endless games of Ludo or cricket in the garden. It means focused attention for as long as you feel comfortable. 10 minutes talking with your child and doing nothing else at the same time, is quality time, 15 minutes doing a jigsaw together is quality time, singing on the” Sing Star” with your daughter for half an hour is quality time. It’s the gift of being present in a moment and not reading the paper or looking at the TV or preparing dinner. It’s just being together-not scaling Everest or going to “Disney World”
The giving and receiving of gifts – giving and receiving gifts has long been a natural human activity. The word “gift” comes from the Greek word meaning “undeserved gift.” A true gift is freely given and is not a pay back or bribe. It is more a way of saying. “Thank you.” The act of giving actually has little to do with the size and cost of the gift. It has everything to do about love. So don’t let the TV advertisers coerce you into bigger and bigger presents. It’s not about falling into the trap of giving a gift instead of spending time with your child or giving your child a reward for tidying their room or coming off the computer as this is really a manipulative tool to control your child’s behaviour. This type of “gift” is really a bribe and can send out a mixed message which can confuse a child. But a surprise special little gift for your child, like a buttercup when you’re out walking or an unusual pebble, speaks volumes to a child whose primary love language is the giving and receiving of gifts.
Acts of service – parenting is by its nature, service orientated. It is physically and emotionally demanding. The ultimate purpose, for doing acts of service for children, like making their bed, washing their clothes etc is to help them emerge as mature adults able to do things for themselves and to become independent. This area of a parent’s love needs to develop as the child develops. It also teaches children to be helpful, kind and to go out of their way for others. It requires a parent to be sensible and not to overdo the cosseting. It really doesn’t help your son not to teach him how to use the washing machine or the iron! But by fixing a bicycle, mending the dolls dress or picking your teenager up from a disco you’re showing your child that you love them.These are invaluable ways to show your child you love them, yet by remaining sensitive to your child’s needs for growing independence you are teaching them to become responsible for their own lives.
Be on the look out for your child who shows you they love you by the things they do for you. This could be their primary love language.
How to work out your child’s primary love language:
Notice this week how your child expresses love to you, other children, other family members or friends – do they give you little gifts, ask you to listen to them, hug you, do something for you, or want reassuring words from you? These are all signs of how they would like to receive love from you. Most children aren’t shy about voicing their requests, preferences, and desires. If you also learn to listen “between the lines” to the things your child is requesting, you may hear his or her primary love language.
Listen to your child’s most frequent complaints – when you stop to look beyond their whining and grumbling the results may surprise you because their complaints may fall into a category corresponding with one of the love languages that they don’t feel is being met.
Every day can really be a new beginning and an opportunity to develop your parenting to become the parents you really want to be. So this idea must be worth a go! Perhaps to be a really effective parent we need to speak all five love languages regularly!
Learning to understand your children’s primary way of feeling and experiencing love is the key to helping to bring up happy children with great self esteem and also a very easy way to improve your relationship with them.
So think of it as a new adventure while learning to speak your child’s love language and to enjoy having fun experimenting with it.
To read Dr Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages of Children