Many years ago, I stumbled across a book while browsing in a bookstore. It was called “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. The book talks about five love languages – the manner in which we express and interpret love:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
The 5 Love Languages
- Words of Affirmation – Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
- Quality Time – In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
- Receiving Gifts – Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
- Acts of Service – Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
- Physical Touch – This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.
Are you speaking your child’s love language?
Everyone has a specific love language and when two people with different love languages communicate, they can often come away with different interpretations even when they both love each other. When we don’t speak the love language of our partners, they can end up feeling unloved even when we believe we have expressed our affections adequately. For instance, if you are a person where “words of affection” is your way of expressing love but your partner’s love language is “quality time”, even though you’ve constantly told your partner “I love you”, without providing adequate quality time, your partner will still feel “unloved”.
Although the book is about couples, the fundamental concept applies equally well to parents and their children. We know that children often act up when they feel they aren’t getting enough of their parents’ attention. When they don’t get the positive attention they want, they will do something, even if it means being reprimanded or punished, to get their parents’ attention because negative attention is better than no attention. Similarly, parents may feel they give their children adequate attention even if their children feel they haven’t. It all boils down to perspective – just like the love languages. If you aren’t speaking your child’s love language, he can feel neglected and unloved, even when you feel you’ve been showering him with nothing but love and affection.
The original book was written for couples, but Gary Chapman has since written a book about the 5 Love Languages of Children. If you’re not sure what your love language is, you can take an assessment. You can also try out the following game from Right Brain Kids to see what love language your child responds to.
THE WARM AND FUZZY GAME
Here’s a fun way to help you find the best way to convey love your child.
Needed: A pink pencil and a piece of paper.
Directions: Ask your child if he would like to play “The Warm and Fuzzy” game. If so, tell him that you are going to show him how you love him several different ways.
After each action, ask your child to draw a heart to let you know when he feels the “warm fuzzies” of love.
Ask him to draw:
- A small heart when it’s okay
- A medium-sized heart when he likes it
- A HUGE heart when he LOOOOOVES it!!!
- Smile brightly at your child.
- Look into your child’s eyes lovingly.
- Tell your child that you love him.
- Praise your child.
- Sing a love song to your child (If you can’t think of a tune, use “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”)
- Hug your child.
- Pat your child on the back.
- Rock with your child on your lap.
- Turn on a waltz and dance with your child — twirl!
Now you know your child’s love language, you can communicate better!
Update: Notes from our school workshop
Connecting with Your Child and Understanding Yourself
The Love Tank
What is the love tank?
- It is where we draw our emotional strength
- It’s our “go-to” place when we are troubled
- The premium fuel source for the love tank is “unconditional love”
- Find out which love language fills your child’s love tank the fastest
Full or Empty Love Tank
Is your child’s love tank full or empty?
- Full tank: well adjusted, happy, resilient child
- Empty tank: insecure, angry, inaccessible and immature child
If you keep your child’s love tank full, it will help them feel calmer during periods of stress. It is important to remember that love languages can change over time. Find the one that works best for your child and use it as your main love language for speaking to your child. You can sprinkle extra love with other love languages.
- Unconditional love carries the most powerful messages.
- A child’s emotional love tank must be filled before discipline or learning can occur.
- Remember! You can never love too much.
Activities for You and Your Child
- Discover your own love language
- Love languages for children age 5 to 8
- Love languages for children age 9 to 12
- Love languages for teenagers
More Ideas for Speaking Your Child’s Love Language
The following infographics have been created by FTD by Design: