School’s out for summer! That tune has been floating around in my head for a couple of weeks in anticipation of my oldest completing first grade. While I am excited to spend summer with both of my kids at home, I am anxious, as well. As parents, we all know that the first few days will be filled with extra snuggles, crafting, and outdoor play, and getting along seems like a breeze! Then, the bickering will start, complaints of boredom will arise, tiny voices bossing each other around will start to surface, and my overall patience will be challenged by all the togetherness.
As I mentioned in The 5 Love Languages blog in April, these books did not find me by accident. In God’s perfect timing, I was able to read and explore the love languages in my marriage. As I could see the positive impact of being aware of our marriage love languages, I was excited to pick up The 5 Love Languages of Children. I wanted to learn how to apply these principles to my relationships with my children. No doubt, this blog posting a few days after school closed for Summer Break was God’s plan! I am ready to see how our summer goes using intentional love languages.
The 5 Love Languages of Children was written by Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell. Like adults, children have a love tank, too. As parents, our job is keeping our children’s love tanks full. Having a full emotional love tank provides for stability in their lives and allows us to meet their other needs (physical, mental, spiritual, cognitive…). This book states, “Whatever love language your child understands the best, he needs it expressed one way— unconditionally.” Adults must be careful not to use manipulating behaviors regarding love with children.
While a goal of The 5 Love Languages is to learn which primary love language your child receives best, it is important to show love in all the languages. Showing love in all languages affects appropriate development and well-roundedness in the child. Our goal when raising our kids is to send them off into the world as functioning, responsible adults who have a regard for others and moral standards for themselves. When we demonstrate all love languages to our children, they will learn how to communicate using all five languages and will be more perceptive to how they receive and give love.
The 5 love languages are:
- Physical touch
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Acts of service
Physical Touch: This love language is as simple as it sounds! The need for physical touch starts when we are born and never completely dissolves. Some children and adults receive love best this way. Kids enjoy high-fives, hugs, holding hands, and other appropriate forms of physical touch. The age of children makes a difference on what type of touch is best received. For example, the way you bear hug a toddler makes them feel secure but may embarrass a teenager (who likely prefers verbal affirmation with a high-five). Gender also plays a role in what is comfortable touch. For example, a teenage boy is more likely to play wrestle with his father while a teenage girl would be comfortable with a mom playing with her hair while they watch TV.
Words of Affirmation: These words help create a sense of worth and security for children. Remember the Hebrews proverb, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” The tone we use and the exact words we say can positively impact or negatively tear down our children. Kids can also pick up on the gentleness of your mood. Being angry when interacting with children can cause resentment, frustration, reciprocated behavior, criticism, and hurt. As all the love languages are adapted to kids, they need fluidity regarding age. You can use words of affirmation to encourage social skills and physical tasks in toddlerhood. For example, “Try again! You almost made it!” to encourage physical challenges and “I saw you share your toys with your friend! You are so thoughtful!” to encourage kind social skills. For teenagers, words of affirmation can be deeply encouraging. For example, if your teen is experiencing challenges in school or with friendships, causing them to question their character amongst societal acceptance, your supportive words are desperately needed! Saying “I’m proud of you for…” or “I really appreciate how you showed kindness in such a difficult situation.”
Quality Time: This is the gift of presence, by you, the parent. Spending time with your child needs to include eye contact and really being in those moments to know your child better. Kids who receive love this way will frequently ask you to play with them and find security in routine, planned time with the parent. (Think bedtime rituals, exercising together, sit-down mealtimes.) Quality time is just as it sounds: unrestricted parent attention and no distractions. While the act of quality time sounds easy, carving out even 30 minutes a day can be a challenge. A helpful suggestion, sit down as a family with your calendar! Yes, even if you are parents of very young children! Each parent can decide a time to have individual time with each child, children together and the whole family together. By sitting down together for a few minutes, figuring out what times work best for quality time. If you make a routine of activity, even better! Having the kids present for your family discussion of quality time and activity is spending time together in itself and encouraging them to be an active participant in the family! Examples of quality time include: watching your child’s favorite cartoon, including kids in your daily activities (laundry, grocery shopping, etc), family bike rides and even preparing snacks and dinners together.
Gifts: The receiving and giving of gifts as a way to express love is quoted in this book as “a universal phenomenon.” In the English language, “gift” is derived from the Greek word charis. Charis means “grace or an undeserved gift.” A true gift is not a form of payment for actions or tasks completed, rather, the gift is an expression of love for the receiver of the gift and freely given by the giver of the gift. Examples of how to communicate to your child if he/she receives love best in the form of gifts: when out of town, mail a package to your child with their name on it, buy or make a special necklace for your child to wear that is just from you, carry snacks or small candies you can give as a “treat” when you are away from home.
Acts of Service: Parenting, period, is an act of service. From the moment you find out you will be a parent, through the 18 years of child-rearing in the home, to being a support system for your adult kids, you are always serving! What a blessing, in God’s true design, we create a living example of how to serve God and others for our children to model their behavior after! Older kids, who receive love through acts of service, appreciate when their parent helps them homework, help them fix the car, and cook their favorite meal on their birthday. Ideas to incorporate acts of service into the lives of younger children include: helping them select their outfit for the day, setting up your child’s favorite toys so when they awake from a nap or return from school you can immediately play together, and making sure their favorite teddy bear is in their bed at bedtime. As a family, serving others together (think packing snack packs at church, yard clean-up for the elderly, shopping for and donating supplies to food pantries), builds in quality time together and allows your child to develop an appreciation for helping others.
How to discover the love language of your child?
- Observe how your child expresses love to you.
- Observe how your child expresses love to others.
- Listen to what your child requests most often.
- Notice what your child most frequently complains about.
- Give your child a choice between two options (two different love language choices)
If you pay attention to the above suggestions, you will start to notice patterns and preferences. The love languages are harder to pinpoint in kids younger than nine. The writers suggest asking your child (younger than nine) to “draw a picture of how you think parents show their love to children” with no further information or suggestions. If your child is nine-to-12, there is a quiz in the back of the book they can take. Again, note that the love language preference of your child may fluctuate, depending on what stage of childhood they are in. The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers is available to help guide you through the teenage years!
My husband and I took the quiz in the back of the book, answering the questions as we thought Letti might answer them. Letti is almost seven and appears to be very self-aware. So I then read her the questions, and she answered them aloud. We discovered our answers to be:
Dad: Letti’s primary language was quality time and secondary language was words of affirmation.
Mom: Letti’s primary language was gifts and secondary language was quality time.
Letti: primary language was quality time and secondary language was words of affirmation.
As parents, we were happy to see we weren’t too far off from how we thought Letti received loved! We are going to experiment with varying love languages with our almost-four-year-old this summer!
Really, parents, I know you are busy! I can’t explain how many tidbits of insight I gained by reading these love language books. The information I presented here only covers about two-thirds of the actual book! I encourage you to pick these books up to read poolside, at nap time, on your work lunch break, or wherever you can sneak some reading in! Don’t forget, you can find resources at 5lovelanguages.com, and our local library has some of these books available in audio format!
Enjoy the summer sunshine!