The 5 Love Languages of Children
You may have come across Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages, or even read the summary we published on his thought-provoking concept. This article will help you to apply the 5 Love Languages when raising children, based on the book by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell.
The 5 languages are the same for children as they are for adults. Identifying what your child, nephew or niece, grandchild or Godchild’s love language is, and learning about how to utilize it, can greatly improve these relationships.
In order to understand the languages fully, I have included summaries and actions for each love language, so you can use the appropriate measures to suit the child’s particular needs and essentially keep their ‘love tanks full’.
“I know my mum loves me because she hugs me.”
This is often a language you perform on a daily basis, without even noticing – which is a positive thing. Actions like giving your child a hug and kiss before and after school, kicking a ball around the garden together or reading a story while they sit on your lap all belong to the language of physical touch. Children need to be touched, even if it isn’t their primary love language. One of Chapman’s main concepts from the book is making sure that your child’s ‘emotional or love tank’ is full with love. In this sense, physical touch is the easiest love language to use unconditionally, as parents need no special occasion or excuse to make physical contact.
Of course, as children grow up it is then more difficult to feed their emotional tank. It is important to remember to fuel the tank with love even though they may not give signs or signals of their needs. It is all about the right time and place at this age. Find the opportune moment to do it, as public places and perhaps when surrounded by friends might embarrass them. Respect their feelings or else it will defeat your purpose.
Things to do if your child’s love language is physical touch:
• Hug and kiss your child every day when they leave and return from school.
• Snuggle closely together when watching television
• Stroke his/her hair or rub their backs when they tell you about a difficult day or if they are upset.
2. Words of Affirmation
“He says I’ll do better if I keep doing my best”
As the saying goes ‘children are like sponges’. It often amazes me to hear and see what children pick up on, particularly verbally. These words nurture the child’s inner sense of worth and security – they will be remembered for a lifetime. I still remember phrases of encouragement I used to hear as a child and now that I am older and am confronted with the roller coaster that life is, I can hear my mother’s voice reassuring me that everything will be okay.
Something to watch out for is giving praise when it is not due. If you praise children too frequently, and it is not genuine, your words won’t have the desired positive effect. You do not want your child to get to a stage where he/she expects praise and then when they are not given it – assume something is wrong. Essentially, the goal is to catch your child doing something good and commend them for it. This will ultimately guide your child’s moral and ethical development.
3 things to do if your child’s love language is words of affirmation:
• Put a post-it in their lunch box with encouraging positive words
• Make a habit of saying “I love you” whenever you say goodbye, or leave each other.
• When a child makes a mistake while trying to do something helpful (like washing the dishes) first use words to recognize that you knew of their good intention’s.
3. Quality Time
“He does stuff with me. Things like shooting baskets and playing on the computer.”
This means that what really makes your child or the child in your life feel loved, is someone’s undivided attention. These children can be seen as ‘demanding’ but when a child’s love tank is empty and your attention is the only thing that will fill it, they will go to almost any length to get the reaction they need. This also ties in with misbehavior in order to get your attention that they so badly crave.
As far as the love languages go, it’s easier to give physical touch and words of affection than quality time. Quality time almost always equals sacrifice. It puts across the message “I like being with you” and the child will feel important and loved because he has his parent/loved one often all to themselves.
Something important to remember is that the quality time spent doesn’t need to be anything elaborate or special. To put your phone or laptop away and give your child your undivided attention is all they need. My family always sits together at meal times, discussing the events that happened in the day and I always feel like this is special quality time as many people choose to sit in front of the television.
3 things to do if your child’s love language is quality time:
• Stop what you are doing and make eye contact with your child when they are talking to you.
• Occasionally take family walks or rides together.
• Spend a few extra minutes with your child before their bed time, talk about their day or what they’re excited about for the day ahead.
“My teacher loves me Nana, look what she gave me”
The act of giving and receiving gifts is a powerful love language. However, as parents, grandparents, aunt and uncles, you have to be weary that when giving and receiving gifts, the wrong message is not conveyed.
The most meaningful gifts become symbols of love and when this is genuinely and truly conveyed, the love language is being spoken. This being said, the child’s emotional love tank needs to be maintained in order for the gift to express heartfelt love. Offering a gift, alongside the other love languages, is the idea way to go about expressing your love through giving.
If the child’s emotional love tank is empty then no gift in the world can fill it. The grace of giving has little to do with the size and cost of the gift. It is all to do with love. Many parents mix up buying presents, with actually being present in their child’s life.
3 things to do if your child’s love language is gifts:
• Make a meal you know your child likes, go to a special restaurant or make their favourite desert.
• When away from home, mail a small package to your child with their name on it.
• Keep a “gift bag” of inexpensive gifts your child can choose from, as a reward for doing something positive.
5. Acts of service
‘I remember how my parents would get up early on Saturday’s to take me to my games, or stay up late helping me finish a project.”
Acts of service are physically and emotionally demanding. Therefore, as a parent or whatever roles you may serve in a child’s life, you have a responsibility to make sure your own health is in tact and that you are giving your partner all that they need to be positive, healthy role models in the child’s life too.
Your chief purpose is to do what is best for your child, which essentially means filling their love tank. This happens by using this love language in conjunction with the others. Acts of service can become a model for your child’s behaviour and responsibility. You should do things for your children that they cannot yet do for themselves – like making a bed for a four-year-old is an act of service but eight year olds are capable of doing it themselves. This language comes with
stepping stones and , as your child grows older, they should be able to do more for themselves and it is your responsibility to teach them these things.
Be aware of over-indulging with your service, otherwise they might not think that they can stand on their own two feet – or spite you in their actions and decisions. Chapman sums it up perfectly by saying “the ultimate purpose for acts of service is to help them emerge as mature adults who are able to give love to others through acts of service.”
3 things to do if your child’s love language is acts of service:
• Help your child practice for their sports team
• When running late for an appointment or meeting, help your child quickly finish what they are doing, so you can both be ready faster instead of just telling them to hurry.
• Create flash cards for your child’s upcoming test or quiz. Work together with him/her until they feel confident with the material.
By understanding these love languages and identifying which one links most with your children or the child in your life, you will gain a great deal more from your relationship. Whenever something confuses you or you feel like your child is acting out of character – ask yourself whether you think their love tank is full? Have you been tuning in to their love languages as best you can?
Teenagers often build emotional and physical walls, making it seem impossible to connect with them. If you tap into their love languages, you will find a way to reach them. These concepts are not going to solve every parenting or child-rearing issue – it is simply a method to find a deeper understanding of the person you love and that can only lead to more meaningful and long-lasting relationships.
Written by: Brittney Freese – The Legacy Project