by Emily Suggs, LPC
In the 1990's, Dr. Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages changed the way many couples communicated love in their relationships. This simple yet powerful book empowered couples to discover the love language of their spouse. By understanding each other's language, couples are able to communicate love to one another. The same concept was later applied to parenting in Dr. Chapman's book The Five Love Languages of Children. Dr. Chapman believes that love languages begin to form and develop at an early age. He teaches parents that by speaking the love language of your child one is actually strengthening the bond between a parent and a child.
Parents can underestimate the power feeling loved has on a child’s behavior, self esteem, and ability to function in society. The above diagram demonstrates that there are five love languages of children. Every child has one language that is the dominate language or need. When a child’s love language is not met he may feel empty and unloved.
Words of Affirmation
Words of affirmation refers to words of encouragement. It could be a simple “I love you” or a “you are so special”, whatever the words, they must be verbal and they must be encouraging. For a child with this love language just hearing his parent encourage him or express love verbally “fills” his love tank and allows him to function at a greater potential in school, home, and life in general.
Acts of Kindness
Helping with your child with homework, packing her lunch, or helping her learn to ride her bike are all examples of acts of kindness. These gestures for some children communicate love and respect. By helping, fixing, and doing the child who experiences love through acts of kindness will feel happy and understood.
Every child loves birthdays and Christmas because of the gifts, but this love language is not about receiving "toys." Often "receiving gifts" is misunderstood with being materialistic, however, a child with this specific love language it is more about the thought or the effort. It may not be an expensive item or even a toy. It may be a simple gesture or homemade gift that communicates "I was thinking of you" or "I made this for you."
Quality time is sometimes the hardest one for parents to communicate. The daily lives of most families are so busy and hectic that finding 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to spend with your child seems next to impossible. However, for a child who needs quality time it is extremely important to give him your undivided attention in order for them to truly feel loved.
Does your child embrace you with hugs and embellish you with kisses? Does she love to snuggle and beg for you to lie down with them at bedtime? If this is the case then your child may feel loved best by physical touch. A hug or simple pat on the back can communicate care, concern, and love.
We all experience the love languages in different ways throughout our lives. However one or two specific languages will usually make one feel more loved than another. For children, the same is true. After reading about the five love languages of children, which one or two best describes your child?
Over the next week, ask yourself the following questions to help you identify the primary love language of your child.
- What is it my child is always asking me to do? (to play/talk, to hug, to help, to give, to encourage?)
- When does my child appear the happiest and most fulfilled?
- When does my child tend to misbehave the most? (when I don't spend time with him? when I don't show her affection? etc.)
Once the love language of your child has been determined, look for at least one way to communicate that love towards your child. Allow for time before bed to talk to her about her day. Schedule a time to take your son to get ice cream. Surprise your daughter with a note of encouragement in her lunch box. Snuggle up and read a book together before bedtime. All of these are examples of ways to show love by speaking the love language of your child.