5 Love languages of children:
Is your love being lost in translation?
All aspects of a child’s development require a foundation of love. Sure, you love your child… but are you loving them in THEIR language, one they can understand and interpret?
Sometimes, without realising, this can be the reason your child is acting up despite all your efforts to stop them. Their “love bucket” is empty, and even though you are doing your best to fill it, perhaps you are using YOUR love language, not THEIRS which means your efforts go unnoticed.
You can make your job as a parent so much easier, just by making sure you love your children in THEIR language, because when children FEEL loved, they do their best. I must point out that there is a distinct difference between “knowing you are loved” and “feeling you are loved”. A VERY big difference!
So then, why didn’t you feel like that? Was it that they didn’t show you at all? Or was it perhaps, that they DID display it, but just not with a language YOU could interpret?
And the scariest thought is, are you doing the same thing with your children? Despite all your efforts to “love” them, do they really feel loved?
By the end of this article, you will know precisely how to be sure they DO!
One of the most profound books I’ve ever read, that revolutionised ALL of my relationships in my life, was the book called “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary D Chapman. He also writes a book called “The 5 love languages for children”. It is extraordinary, and much of what I will teach you here, I learned from this book, so I must pay the credit to this incredible man! Please, be a blessing to yourself and your child and go and buy that book today and read it!
As a parent, nothing works well if a child’s love needs are not met – if their “love bucket” is empty. In this case, you’ll find your child with low self-esteem, which needs to continuously rebel and defend itself, making parenting more frustrating and discipline almost impossible!
The only child who can do its best, is one who feels genuinely loved. Unless you speak the language that communicates to that particular child, they will not feel loved. They might “know” it, but they will not feel it. This will alter their development. It will change who they are.
In order to be the most effective parent, love alone is NOT enough… you must give each of them love of a particular kind. Love that is specific to them. Loving your child in a language they understand fills their “love bucket” and prevents problems such as resentment, guilt, fear and insecurity, all of which affect their ability to live confident, congruent, authentic, true-to-themselves lives.
The 5 Love Languages:
Physical touch – If their response is “because you always give me kisses and cuddles” or “because you always wrestle with me” or “because you always throw me in the air”, then it is highly likely that their love language is Touch.
No matter how much you TELL this child you love them, no matter how much you DO to show this child you love them, they will not feel genuinely loved. You communicate your love to this child by TOUCHING them, for this is the language that THEY understand.
Your TOUCH will communicate your love more deeply than words ever can! Conversely, touching them out of frustration such as smacking, pulling or grabbing them, is the WORST thing you can do to this child.
You must find a reason to touch them in addition to when it’s necessary… dressing them, undressing them, doing their hair, lifting them into the car or pram, carrying them to bed is NOT enough for this child. You must find reasons outside of these times to touch them.
Ideas on how to love the “touch” child:
- Kisses, cuddles
- Back tickles, massages
- Stroking their hair
- Putting your hand on their shoulder when you talk to them
- Holding hands
- Tossing them in the air, spinning them around, wrestling on the bed
- High fives
- “Group hugs” with the whole family – including the pets to make it fun
- Read a story with them on your lap all snuggled in rather than beside you – no matter how big they are!
Words of affirmation – If your child’s response is something like “because you always say nice things to me”, or “because you always cheer for me at sport and tell me I do a good job” or “because when I make mistakes you tell me not to worry”, then it is highly likely that their dominant love language is words of affirmation.
For this child, no matter how many times you hug or kiss them, or how many favours you do for them, they will not feel genuinely loved. You must use your WORDS to love this child. But “I love you” is not enough.
You must catch them when they are doing something RIGHT and compliment them and let them know you appreciate them. The more descriptive you language is, the more you will fill this child’s “love bucket”. Conversely, using cutting words spoken out of short-lived frustration can really hurt this child’s self-esteem and make them question and doubt their abilities.
However, don’t praise this child without having a reason to do so. They don’t need your empty words… they need you to AFFIRM what they already know or believe about themselves… Don’t tell them it was a “great shot” when it was only an average shot. Your reasons for giving praise must be justified in their mind for it to be effective and make them feel loved.
Ideas on how to love the “words” child:
- Put a post-it-note in their lunch box with encouraging words
- Write them a letter once a month
- Send them a text message or an email
- Notice and praise their efforts “I noticed how you showed so much kindness to your sister this morning. Thank you”, or “I don’t really care too much about the fact that you lost today, what I care most about is how good your attitude was the entire time, and that you were such a good sport when it was over”
- Create a special name of affection that you only use with that child
- Place their artwork in areas they recognise as important to you (office, special scrapbook, kitchen where everyone can see)
- Buy them a book with inspirational quotes, or even better, make some quotes with them to put around their room or the house.
- When they make a mistake trying to do something helpful, FOCUS on noticing and praising their INTENTIONS not the outcome!
Quality time – If their response is something like “because you always do things with me”, “because you jump on the trampoline with me”, or “because you take me for rides on my bike”, then you can safely assume that their primary love language is quality time.
With this child, no matter how much you touch them, say nice things to them, or do favours for them, they will not feel genuinely loved. They need your FULL attention.
This is normally the child that is always nagging you, or pulling at your leg to do things with them… to come and play, or draw, or take them places. And it REALLY offends them when you keep saying “in a minute, in a minute”.
They don’t necessarily need a lot of your attention, but when you give them your attention, you must give it ALL to them, even if it is only brief. Conversely, silent treatment is the worst thing you can do to this child. Even negative attention is better to them than none at all. You are better of to be angry at them than to ignore them.
The good news is, if you give them your FULL attention even for just 10 minutes, it will fill their “love bucket” and they’ll leave you to do your work or chores in peace, until their love bucket starts running empty again, and then the only thing that will fix it is YOUR ATTENTION.
Keep in mind, your time with them can’t be distracted attention where you are on the phone at the same time, or talking to your spouse while you play with them etc. To this child, “quality time” means “I have you ALL to myself”… it sends them the message “you are important to me”.
You can’t just buy toys for this child and expect them to play with them and leave you alone. They won’t care about the toys. They’d rather be with YOU.
Ideas on how to love the “time” child:
- Let them come for a ride in the car with you by themselves, with no other siblings.
- Give them your attention BEFORE you do your chores.
- When they come to talk to you, stop what you are doing and give them your full eye contact (this means the WORLD to them!)
- Make a snack together rather than making it for them.
- Go to the toy store and play with some fun toys with no intention of buying anything (they don’t want the gift, they only want your time)
- At the playground, spend time actually playing with them or pushing them on swing rather than sitting and watching.
- Ask very specific questions about their day that require more than a yes/no answer.
- In the car, don’t just drive, sing with them!
- Surprise them with an outing, or tickets to a game, or go camping.
- Go for walks or bike rides together (and don’t take your phone).
- Eat together, as a family.
- Do homework with them.
- Sit together, doing your own thing, but beside each other (eg. I read a book and my 4 year old plays on the ipad). Have a hot chocolate in bed together.
Gifts – If your child responds with something like “because you always buy me things”, or “because you bought me a racing car”, then you can be assured their love language is gifts.
Often this child will point out what you bought them, and when you bought it, or they show their ‘things’ to visitors such as “look at what Daddy bought me Nanna” or “this is what my friend bought for me for my birthday 3 years ago when I was 5”.
The giving and receiving of gifts is a powerful expression of love to them (which is why they keep everything they ever got given and you can’t throw anything away… because they are all symbols of LOVE to them!)
The worst thing you can ever do is to go away and not bring home a gift. It can be the smallest thing, it doesn’t matter… even just a 50 cent postcard, or a pen, or stickers. Anything.
However, when giving gifts to this child, they cannot be given in response to some kind of service, or it won’t mean the same to them. For example, giving them a gift for cleaning their room will not make them feel loved. But when you give them a gift for ‘no particular reason’, this REALLY fills their love bucket!
When you give them gifts, make a bit of a deal about it… call the family together and present the gift… or sometimes make it “just between the two of you” and give it to them privately.
You can make ANYTHING a gift to them… all the things you need to buy anyway!! All that is important, is that these gifts are given as a genuine expression of love. Not bribery, or just as rewards. Surprise gifts that they didn’t expect mean the most to this child.
NEVER throw anything out… not even when you are cleaning up. Get their permission first, otherwise they feel very violated because these things aren’t just “things” to them. They are symbols of love.
It is hard for them to throw things away, so to make it easier for them, tell them you’re going to give them away to some less fortunate children. Children whose love language is gifts also like to show their love by giving gifts… so make everything you throw away a gift for someone else.
Ideas on how to love the “gifts” child:
- School books at the beginning of a semester – wrap them up and let the child open it.
- School clothes – put everyone’s school clothes in their own little bags and present them as a family after dinner.
- Small gifts such as: toothbrushes (don’t just buy it by default and put it in the shower for them to find. Make a deal out of it. Call them to you as you are unpacking the groceries and hand it to them saying “here, I bought you a little something today”).
- Small gifts like matchbox cars or lip gloss.
- Your old t-shirts to wear to bed. Your perfume you don’t want anymore or that is almost run out.
- Eat at their favourite resturant or let them order their favourite meal every now and then even if it’s expensive.
- Start a collection of unique gift boxes or wrapping papers that can be used to package even the most simple presents.
- When away from home, mail a small package to your child with their name on it, or even a postcard. But don’t make them share the postcard, give them one for themselves because they like to keep things!
- Personalized gifts are their favourite!
- Give a gift that lasts such as a game you can continue to play together or a tree to plant.
- Go for a walk and pick a few flowers and bring them home and put in a vase.
- Create a “treasure drawer” where your child can keep all their little keepsakes that mean alot to them.
Acts of service – If your child responds with “because you always make me yummy dinners”, or “because you always get up early to take me to football”, “because you work really hard so that I can have lots of things”, “because you always look after me”, then your child’s primary love language is most likely acts of service.
No matter how much you buy this child, or what you say to them, they won’t feel genuinely loved. The might “know it”, but they won’t “feel it”.
Acts of service is all about how you serve the child, which can make it feel rather physically and emotionally demanding at times as the parent.
The worst thing you can do to this child is “be too busy” to do something for them.
If you have a small child, you must be careful to get balance with this one. They will feel loved when you do things for them, however, you still want to raise an emotionally healthy, confident, independent child. So doing too much for them will diminish that. It is best to find things to do for them that they are not yet able to do for themselves.
Serve them, but as they are ready, teach them how to serve themselves, and others. Don’t let your service become slavery!
When this child needs you to fix their bike, or help put clothes on their doll, or fix something of theirs that is broken, they are not just asking for a task to be done, they are asking for your love. Because to them, these acts are the highest form of expression of love.
Ideas on how to love the “service” child:
- Help them practice for their sports team – don’t just make it a game you’re playing together. Point out that you’re not just “coming to play”, you’re coming out to shoot hoops to help them get better at it and to give them advice. Then, it isn’t for “fun”, it is an act of service!
- Sit down and help your child if they are having computer problems – take the time to look into it.
- Help them select their outfits to wear.
- Occasionally wake up earlier just to make a special surprise breakfast.
- Teach them how to serve others by getting involved with a local community group, or church ministry – help the homeless (watch the video in this article to get ideas if your child’s love language is acts of service).
- Do one of their chores for them every now and then so they can play longer or watch their favourite TV show.
- If your child is small, set up their favourite toys, or craft activity, while they are taking a nap or while they are at school so they can play with them immediately (with you!).
- Go above and beyond their expectations when you do things for them such as putting marshmallows in their hot chocolate, or making sure their teddy bear is in their bed before bedtime.
- Make a list of several of your child’s favourite things they do with you then randomly do one of their favourites when they least expect it.
- Take time to repair things they break.