Speaking Your Child's Love Language
By Lori Radun
Just like some of us speak English, other people's native tongue is Spanish. My housecleaner speaks Polish, and although she does a great job cleaning my house, it is often difficult for us to understand one another when we attempt to communicate. I remember the first time she arrived at my home and I had to explain how to use our complicated Kirby vacuum. If you've ever used a Kirby vacuum, you know exactly what I am talking about. There are separate settings for carpet and hard floors. Another lever makes it easy or hard to push the vacuum. If you want to use a hose attachment, it takes a rocket scientist to explain that process. After several minutes of pointing to the floor, the carpet and several gadgets on the vacuum, while using as simple words as I could, I finished my explanation to Lena. She nodded and smiled, but to this day, I can't be entirely sure my message was actually heard or received by Lena.
This same situation I experienced, while trying to communicate in a different language than my housecleaner, could be happening between you and your child. It's possible that you are communicating love to your child in a way that is familiar to you, but your child might not understand you if her language is different than yours. Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell wrote a book titled "The Five Love Languages of Children." In their book, they explain that everyone has a primary love language in which they communicate and receive love. The five love languages are quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch and gifts.
- Quality Time
Children and adults with a love language of quality time like to spend time with their loved ones. They want to do things together and they feel most loved when people make time for them. My primary love language is quality time, and if I don't spend time with the significant people in my life, I feel disconnected from them, and sometimes even empty inside. Children with a love language of quality time need for you to play with them, do activities together like cooking or running errands, talk to them about their day, or even make special "date nights" with them.
- Acts of Service
People with the love language, acts of service, feel most loved when you do something for them. Moms are normally very service-oriented so it's not difficult for us to express love in this way. You can make a special breakfast for your son, help your daughter study for a test, teach your child how to ride his bike, or surprise your teenager by doing her laundry for a week. With acts of service, there is a fine line between doing too much for your children and serving them as an expression of love. We want to let our children do for themselves what they are capable of doing, but it's also okay to be flexible with help.
- Words of Affirmation
Does your child thrive on words of praise, hearing "I love you", and other affirming words? If your child's primary love language is words of affirmation, the words you use can make or break his spirit. Just like kind and encouraging words can lift your child up, harsh words spoken in anger will significantly wound a child whose love language is words of affirmation. To express words of affirmation, you can stick sweet notes in your child's lunchbox, highlight her accomplishments, express gratitude for all the things you like about your child, or have a special nickname for him. I have called my six year old "sweet pea" since he was in my womb.
- Physical Touch
Ever notice how some kids are touchy and cuddly, while others don't want to be bothered with hugs and being held? Some children have physical touch as their primary love language. These children need physical contact to feel loved and connected to their loved ones. Some parents did not grow up with physical touch and therefore, it can be difficult for them to be physically affectionate with their children. A child who hangs on you or is constantly touching you can be uncomfortable and annoying if you're not used to expressing love in this way. Physical touch can be satisfied with hugs, kisses, pats on the back, hair tousling, and even wrestling.
The last love language is gifts. A lot of children appreciate receiving gifts, but a child whose primary love language is gifts, will express much appreciation when they receive gifts. Their face will light up; they may become very animated and the gift will be cherished for a long time. This child might even have a special place in their room for all their gifts. When I was a young girl, my father would give me a special stuffed animal every year for Christmas. One year I received a big purple pig; I named her Violet. Those stuffed animals still hold a very special place in my heart because I know they were an expression of my father's love. A gift does not have to be expensive to be special. You can keep a collection of small, meaningful items around to surprise your child. Make a special gift that expresses your love, or pick some flowers from the backyard to give as a gift.
- A child's primary love language will probably not be evident until they are at least five years of age.
- When a child's emotional love tank is full, he will be more responsive, more cooperative and much happier.
- Although a child will have a primary love language, it is still important to speak all five love languages to your child.
- Introducing your children to all the love languages will teach them to love others in different ways.
- You can figure out your child's love language by the way she expresses love to you and others, listening to what your child requests most often, paying attention to what your child complains about, and giving your child a choice between two of the love languages.
- Teenagers are going through tough times internally so they may have a hard time expressing and receiving love using any of the love languages; they can be moody so be patient with them and pay close attention to what they might be needing from you.
- You and your husband have a primary love language as well. Learn to speak each other's love language so you can experience closeness in your marriage.
When you learn to speak the right love language to your child, he or she will feel loved, without a doubt. And love is the foundation of every happy and secure child.
Lori Radun, CEC is a certified life coach for moms.