I wrote recently about the 5 love languages, and how important it is to learn to speak the primary language that our partner uses to express and feel love.
After I wrote it I started thinking that, surely, we can also apply this information to improve our relationships with our children. It makes sense that they might have a different primary love language to our own. They might be acting up because they don’t really feel the full extent of our love for them, if we express this love in the ‘wrong’ way to them.
So I went back to good old Gary Chapman and it seems he agrees – he’s written a whole book on the subject of the 5 love languages of children!
If you haven’t read my previous post and haven’t heard about these 5 love languages before, here’s a quick overview.
Gary Chapman, a relationship counsellor, has identified that there are 5 love languages and we all speak one in particular as our primary love language.
When you identify the languages that other people speak, then you can learn to express your love for them in the way that they need, so they feel how loved they truly are.
The 5 languages that Chapman identified are:
1) Words of affirmation – people with this as their primary love language need to hear you tell them how much you appreciate them, are proud of them and love them.
2) Acts of service – if this is your primary love language then you need people to do things for you; to notice what needs doing in your life and to do it for you.
3) Receiving gifts – as it sounds, people with this primary love language need to have gifts given to them in order to feel truly loved.
4) Quality time – for people with this as their primary love language, quality time spent together is the most important thing. Actual one-on-one time, with eye contact and no other distractions!
5) Physical touch – another pretty clear one, if this is your primary love language then you need to be touched to really feel loved. Hand-holding, cuddling, little touches – it all counts.
So how can you apply this information to improving your relationships with your children?
Well, once you’ve worked out what love language they speak you can make the effort to show your love for them in the way that they really need.
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
For a child whose primary love language is words of affirmation:
- Thank them sincerely for any jobs they do around the house, no matter how small.
- Tell them when they are doing something well and how proud you are of them for doing it.
- Tell them how proud you are of them for trying to do something, even if they don’t quite succeed at it.
- As part of your bedtime routine you could list 3 things that they did that day that made you proud/happy/grateful.
For a child whose primary love language is acts of service:
- Help them with their homework.
- Make them their favourite biscuits or cakes.
- If there are things you expect them to do around the house, every so often do their least favourite job for them.
- Fix a broken toy or book for them.
- The key part of this love language, where children are concerned, is that you don’t want to be doing everything for them. Bear in mind, that taking the time to teach them how to do something, like do a load of washing, or cook a meal, is still an act of service. They’ll appreciate you taking the time to show them how to do something (in theory anyway!)
For a child whose primary love language is receiving gifts:
- Write them a love note and leave it in their lunchbox to find at school – this doesn’t actually have to be a potentially embarrassing love note! It can be a joke to make them smile. There are loads of ideas here.
- Buy them a new book, or pick one up for them at the library if you go there without them one day!
- A bar of their favourite chocolate will pretty much always be a winner.
- Think about things that your child enjoys and look out for little things that they would appreciate – hair clips, accessories, stationary (some children would be really excited by a new set of colouring pencils or a novelty pencil sharpener!), little accessories for their doll house, little accessories for their train set. You get the idea!
- The main thing to bear in mind here is that the gifts don’t have to be expensive. It really is the thought that counts.
For a child whose primary love language is quality time:
- Turn off the tv!
- Sit with them and help them do their homework.
- Cook a meal or do some baking together.
- Go for a walk and have a chat.
- At the end of each day, spend 10 minutes one-on-one time asking about their day.
- Go out for dinner, just the two of you. This would be a real treat for an older child. For younger children a trip out to a cafe for a babyccino and cake would work well too!
For a child whose primary love language is physical touch:
- Give plenty of hugs and kisses!
- If you have younger children, let them sit on your lap and read books together.
- Enjoy physical play time – throw your children in the air (and catch them!), spin them around, play tag, tickle them etc
- Older children who may start being embarrassed by hugs and kisses can still get the physical touch they need through pats on the back, touches on the arm when you talk to them and other more subtle touches.
I’ve been really thinking about these love languages and trying to work out what which ones my children speak.
The thing is, I think, that our primary love language can change depending on the stage of life we’re at. We may have a language that is our core language, but our needs change at different stages in our life and I think that we may need to be shown love in different ways at those times.
As parents, it’s our job to stay in tune with our children and their needs and make sure that we are speaking the language they need to hear to feel loved.
Rhys has always been an affectionate child and so for awhile I would’ve said his primary love language was physical touch. But as he’s got older I think maybe it’s changed a bit. I would lean towards saying that now his primary love languages are words of affirmation and quality time.
He loves it when one of us spends one-on-one time with him, and visibly lights up when we tell him we’re proud of him and that we love him.
Nerys I think is a mix of physical touch and words of affirmation. She will often express herself through hugs and hand-holding, but is the same as Rhys when it comes to hearing us tell her we love her and are pleased with something she’s done.
How about you? Do you have any more ideas of how you can speak your child’s love language? Leave me a comment and let me know!