Understanding Your Child’s Love Language

I wrote about the 5 love languages some time back and even though it made sense at the time, the concept still sounded like one of those airy fairy self-help stuff that is easy to sniff at. But after asking Aristotle to take the test (and taking an assessment myself!), some of Aristotle’s behaviours are beginning to make sense. In fact, a number of things are beginning to fall into place…

I used to be confounded when Aristotle complained I didn’t “pay enough attention” to him. I had always assumed that this was because he was used to having 100% of my time and the arrival of his baby brother meant I could no longer do that. Whatever attention I give him now is divided so it would never be “enough” when compared to what he was used to. While that might still be the case, the severity of the effect of it would be lessened if I “spoke” in his love language more.

The disconnect we have is the fact that our love languages differ. Aristotle’s primary love language is “touch”, followed by “acts of service”, while my primary love language is “words of affirmation”. Having less time to devote to him, my instinct to bolster our connection was to demonstrate more love using my primary love language. While I thought I’d been demonstrating a lot of love, Aristotle still felt neglected because I hadn’t been speaking in his love language.

The other thing that used to bother me with Aristotle was his constant desire for me to do things for him that I know him to be fully capable of – to feed him, to put his socks on for him, etc. I had associated it with the fact that I do all these little things for his brother (since Hercules is still young and requires the assistance) so Aristotle wanted a share of it, too. However, it makes a lot more sense now that I realise these things to fall under “acts of service” – his secondary love language. While it might be frowned upon that a boy of 5 would still want to be carried, to be fed, etc. when he really should be doing these things for himself, it helps to know that occasionally doing some of these things communicates love for children like Aristotle. Knowing that when a child is asking for these simple tasks to be done for him, he’s really saying, “I don’t feel loved right now” allows us to do something to change how he feels rather than get annoyed that a boy of 5 is still asking to be babied.

Learning that “touch” is Aristotle’s primary love language has also helped me realise where I’ve been going wrong in the matter of discipline. When Aristotle misbehaves, I have a tendency to withdraw and reduce physical contact, while piling on the lectures and the stern voice. Although not a full-proof method for securing obedience, I have noticed that maintaining physical contact during discipline helps Aristotle comply more readily. Even when I’m too angry to remember this, reconnecting with him using hugs and kisses afterwards always helps to foster our bond.

And speaking of reconnecting with our children, there is a great article on PhD in Parenting on 9 Ways to Meaningfully Reconnect with Your Child. It is easy to forget to reconnect with our children, especially as they grow up, and yet, reconnecting is no less important the older they grow as it was when they were toddlers.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

2 thoughts on “Understanding Your Child’s Love Language

  1. Hi Shen-Li, do you mind sharing how do you usually react if your child gets physical (eg. hit, pinch, pull etc) with you? My usually gentle 2-yo toddler picks up this habit recently and seems to enjoy the lecture/physical withdrawal given everytime he ‘attacks’ me. It seemed that he was anticipating my reaction, although he very well knows it’s wrong to do so. We have been repeatedly telling him “Hitting hurts”, “We don’t hit” and “Patting is nicer” but they don’t seem to work.

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    1. Hey Joey,

      I’m afraid at this age there is not much to do but repeat, repeat, repeat. In one of the books I read about child development, they said something about children being able to understand “no” but not really being able to act on it so just because you said “no” and they still hit doesn’t meant they aren’t listening or that they are ignoring you. It’s just at this age, they do not have full control over their impulses yet.

      For me, I make sure he knows I think it’s wrong and I make him say sorry or hug the person he’s hurt just so he knows he’s hurt them. I can’t remember where I read about it but sometimes I growl to show him I’m not happy with his actions because it communicates better that it is a negative reaction. I find that growling usually works better for me because he doesn’t respond to my voice the way he does with Daddy when Daddy reprimands him. Maybe it’s the deeper sound of the growl which he responds to because Daddy’s voice is obviously deeper than mine.

      The other thing that I’ve tried which really helped was something I read in Harvey Karp’s book “Happiest Toddler on the Block”. He recommended using “gossiping” as a means for encouraging good behaviour. You can do this by telling someone else about good behaviours that your toddler has done that you’re really proud of and making sure your toddler is within hearing distance. You can even tell his soft toy, for example, I once told his Mickey Mouse toy while he was playing nearby, “I really like it when Hercules says “please” when he wants something.” Even though he hadn’t really said “please” very often. In fact, whenever we prompt him to say “please” he would go into a tantrum. After that one incident of “gossiping” with Mickey, he said “please”! It didn’t happen right away but it happened shortly after which quite a surprise because saying “please” is such a hard word for him.

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