Love, we all know the word and know the feeling. But do you understand love? And more specifically, do you understand your child’s experience of love?
It is well known that no two children are the same, not even when from the same parents. The same is true for the love language of your child. Every child perceive, understand and show love in different ways. What is important for one child, may not even be noticed by another child. And that is exactly where miscommunication and misunderstanding easily happens.
The concept of love languages was introduced by Gary Chapman, author of the book The 5 Languages of Love. Later the concept was applied to children, where he discussed how to identify and understand the love language of your child, in order to create and foster a healthy relationship with your child. When speaking the “love language” of your child, thus showing and giving love in the manner in which your child understands love, can be compared to filling up an emotional tank.
There are thus 5 different ways in which children, and all people for that matter, speak, understand and show love. The 5 love languages can be described as:
1) Physical touch
Physical touch is probably the strongest voice when it comes to love languages, and the easiest to speak. As the word describes, physical touch entails physically touching your child through hugs, kisses, cuddles and snuggles. We all know that it is impossible to hug and cuddle all the time, but a pat on the back, holding a hand, reading a book together in bed, playing physical games together all contribute to the physical touch language. Another great physical touch bonding activity is sitting with your child on your lap and eating something sweet together.
2) Words of Affirmation
Words of affirmation entails genuine verbal messages given your child. Whether in the form of praise and affirmation or messages such as “I love you” and “you are special to me”. The most important aspect to remember is that the message should be genuine, and your child should be able to believe you. Cheering your child at sport events, telling him you are proud of him, or proud to be his parent or even a note in his lunchbox all contribute to this specific language.
3) Quality time
Quality time means UNDIVIDED attention. Not just tagging you child along to grocery shopping or running errands, but spending time with your child, on their physical and emotional level of development. To give the gift of time literally means devoting some special time to you child, where you make eye contact and focus your attention on your child. Being a mom, with a job and a family means time is limited, but a child speaking the language of quality time, needs those special moments to fill his love tank. Dedicate a few minutes of the day to your child. Focus on playing a game, chosen by your child, with him. Sit with him before bedtime, and really engage with him, make a snack and sit and eat together, or even book a date night with your child. By listening to your child’s needs, you will get a feel for the type of time your child needs from you.
The language of gifts is probably most often used as an easy way out, as gifts can easily become a symbol of love, replacing love itself. For the language of gifts to work, your child must feel genuine love from you, and the gift then contributes to the ‘specialness’ of that feeling. It is so easy to replace time, words and physical touch with love, where in essence the language of gifts should only compliment all the other love languages. Gifts should never just become payment for something your child did. For gifts to be an expression of love, your child needs to feel special. Furthermore, a gift from love is not necessarily an expensive object, just a small gesture like cooking your child’s favourite meal, a small special gift in his lunchbox or even planting a tree together is acts of love in the language of gifts.
5) Acts of Service
Parenting in itself is one big act of service you may feel. There are so many daily thing you do for your child, cooking, packing the school bag, washing his clothes to ensure he goes to school clean, bathing, homework, and the list can go on and on… But this language is more than the daily necessities of parenthood. An act of service is something you do freely and willingly, giving some of your energy to something your child asks (or not even asks for), without it being a ‘must-do’. This language does not imply that you should do everything for your child, to a point where they won’t know how to do anything for themselves. It means being there to ease the burden where your child needs you.
In reading through all these love languages, you will notice that they all flow into one another. It is important to focus on the prominent love languages of your child, but always remember that all 5 love languages are important and that they work together. For any person to feel loved, attention should be given to all the mentioned languages, with the main focus on your child’s primary language. But how do you know what that language is?
How to identify your child’s love language:
- Notice how your child express love to you – does he come for a hug or a cuddle, does he draw you special pictures or write special notes to you? Does he pick you a flower, or bring you a rock he likes? These are all small hints to how he shows love, and that is most probably his way of telling you how he understands love.
- Notice how your child express love to others – grandparents, friends, family or even pets.
- Listen to what your child requests most often: will he ask you to read for him, make him a snack, play with him?
- Notice what your child complains about.
- Give your child choices and see what they most frequently choose to do.
Always remember, your child needs you to fill his love tank – irrespective of his age. And the manner in which you fill that tank may change over time as your child grows older. It is hard, and it will always be hard to be the best parent, but the time you have with your children today, is time you will never have again – use it wisely…