In the month of February, we see the word ”Love” all around us. Love is a word that can mean so many different things to different people. As adults, we can throw out the word ‘love’ in so many different situations, that it can be confusing to children to understand what love really means. We love our spouse/partner, our friend, our pet, our job, our morning coffee etc. As parents, we want to be able to explain to our children how love can be shown by our actions, our words, and that it is definitely something we can feel, yet it can be difficult to define.
Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book entitled The Five Love Languages of Children. Basically, the book explains the five different “languages” that people use to express love to each other: words of affirmation; quality time; receiving gifts; acts of service; and physical touch. He emphasizes that a child’s love language may not be clear, even to the child, and suggests speaking to your child using each of these “languages” until it is evident to you and your child, what their primary love language is and once this is discovered, putting more effort into this “language”. Some children may have more than one primary love language.
Language 1: Words of Affirmation
Words of affirmation can best be described as praise when relating to children. As parents, we can tend towards emphasizing to our children what they are doing wrong, but for a child whose primary love language is words of affirmation, this could have devastating consequences. According to popular psychology, it can take 17 positive statements to erase one negative statement. The power of our word to young children is profound. Dr. Chapman recommends mindfully giving two compliments per day to each of your children.
Language 2: Quality Time
In our time-crunched world filled with so many obligations: work, school, volunteer work, sports teams, housework, just to name a few, quality time with our children is so important. The love language of the gift of time spent together becomes even more valuable if this is how your child understands love. Dr. Chapman emphasizes the importance of “being totally present” when you have time with your children, and how crucial this is, regardless of how much or little time you may have.
Language 3: Receiving Gifts
Some people may fear this idea with kids, as a way of trying to “buy their love”, especially as a substitute for time spent to together, or as a response to a difficult situation such as parental separation or divorce. The emphasis here is on special, thoughtful gifts that are given occasionally, and that these gifts do not have to be expensive or even luxury items. Even a handwritten card or a special new pencil for school can be considered a special gift to a child whose primary love language is receiving gifts.
Language 4: Acts of Service
No, not catering to your child’s every whim! This language is for children who appreciate when people do special things for them or with them. An example could be helping a child with a special school project or helping them bake cookies for a school bake sale. When you do a special act of service for your child, remember to emphasize that you want to do this for them because you love them.
Language 5: Physical Touch
Hugs, kisses, and appropriate touch are important to most children, even with teenagers, when you are sensitive to how often, and in which situations, they feel comfortable with this.
Depending on the age of your children, a child’s love language may not be clear, even to the child, and Dr. Chapman wisely suggests speaking to your child using each of these “languages” and that it will become evident to you and your child, what their primary love language is. Throughout our lives, most of us probably benefit from all of the different love languages to greater or lesser degrees.
The greatest lesson could be that children learn more from our actions and our example, rather than our words when it comes to learning about love.
Source: Chapman, Gary. The Five Love Language of Children. Moody Publishing, 2008