The Five Love Languages of Children
Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate all moms who work very hard, each in their own ways, to make sure we are raising healthy kids, sound of mind and body. On this day, we are showered with beautiful gifts in the way of cards, flowers or affection and it can make us moms feel appreciated, loved, and validated. As a mother myself, I want my children to experience this warmth and love on the daily. But how can we as parents ensure that our children feel validated and loved everyday? Particularly on those days when our mind is consumed with adult stressors or their minds are consumed with little human stressors, causing us both to miss our opportunities to bond as mother and child.
In this article, you will read about a tool I have used in therapy, with couples and families alike, to help them bond and keep those relationships strong. This tool is known as the Five Love Languages and it was developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, a well- known marriage counselor, author and speaker. Originally developed for couples to learn and communicate in one another’s love language, it has evolved as a tool for us to learn and speak our children’s love language. Dr. Chapman teaches that each of us speaks a different love language and when we are speaking our partner’s or child’s love language, they feel heard, loved and validated. What little human does not seek to be loved, heard and validated? Note, all children should be spoken to using all five love languages but each child will voice one or two love languages louder than the rest.
Essentially, when we learn to speak our child’s love language we are filling their emotional stock with love bonds. Not all children will take love bonds in the currency of Words of Affirmation (a love language), but perhaps that child will accept that love bond in his emotional stock in the currency of Quality Time (another love language).
Below I provide a brief description of each of the five love languages for children and suggest ideas on how to communicate with your child or invest in their emotional stock using each one.
Words of Affirmation
Do you ever find your kid offers you sweet comments such as, “Mommy, I am lucky to have you as my mommy.” or perhaps their little sweet face lights up whenever you praise them? This child feels most loved when we offer them words of praise and encouragement, this fills their emotional stock. Some examples of expressing love in this way include leaving little post-it notes in your child’s lunch box with sweet messages (I do this for my young son and littlest step-daughter from time to time); thanking them when appropriate, “thank you for remembering to clear the table,” “thank you for your help with this, you are such a good little helper;” and letting them know how important they are to you with loving and kind words.
If you find your child invades your space constantly—playing with your hair, touching you, climbing on you, horse playing, etc. this is the language of a child that feels especially loved with physical touch. Some ways to communicate in this child’s love language may include: snuggling on the couch, high-fives, morning hugs, pick-up-from-school-hugs, and bedtime hugs! Fun science fact: for a hug filled with the release of the love hormone known as oxytocin into the blood stream, be sure to embrace for 20 or more seconds!
Acts of Service
This is the child that is constantly asking for help completing or doing a task—tying his shoes, untangling their hair, helping to fold clothes, etc. To speak this child’s love language, a parent might help them fix a broken toy, help them tie their shoe, untangle their hair and help them fold their clothes. Anytime your child is seeking help with a task, they are seeking love and are presenting us with a wonderful opportunity to speak their love language and invest in their emotional stock. Please note, as parents we want to be sure to nurture our children’s independence at their appropriate developmental stage. As Dr. Chapman says, “The best act of service you can provide is walking your child through a new process and teaching them step-by-step how to be more capable.”
This child appreciates gifts. Although it’s not really the actual gift but the thought behind the gift that makes the child feel loved. The gift says, “you are so important to me, I love you and I bought/made this little gift to convey just that!”. If you find you have a child who has a hard time getting rid of things or they remember when and who gave them the gifts long after the fact, this child speaks the love language of Gifts. This one speaks for itself, when this child receives gifts you are investing in their emotional stock. As well, this child will feel loved when the parent shows genuine appreciation for the gifts the child has made them, such as a picture they drew or jewelry they made from their craft box. Whether it’s hanging up that van Gogh drawing on the fridge or wearing that beautifully crafted piece of pipe cleaner jewelry, you are speaking this child’s primary love language.
“Mommy come see this!” “Mommy watch this!” “Mommy come play with me!”, these are the claims of a child whose primary love language is Quality Time. Quality time isn’t about how much time you spend together but about HOW you spend your time together. This child will feel most loved when their parent is present in the moment reading them that book or playing imaginary games. I kindly suggest for authentic quality time, it’d be wise to pry away from our smart devices. This is my son’s primary love language and he’ll let me know it too when I haven’t devoted enough quality time for him that day, “Mommy what’s more important your work or spending time with your six year-old son?”, his exact words. That’s my cue to stop whatever it is I am doing and show this little boy some love by investing in his emotional stock using his love currency of Quality Time.
If you’re curious about your child’s or your own love language, you can take a quiz online. Dr. Chapman has developed quizzes that you can find online to help us understand our child’s or teen’s love language as well as our own love language. Some people, myself included, will learn they or their children may be bi-lingual after taking their own quiz, it is not unheard of. Also, I suggest a light and fun tone when helping your little one take the quiz. Once everyone’s taken the quiz, I invite you as a family to brainstorm ideas of different ways to speak the other family member’s love language.
Lastly, I offer knowledge of this tool as a gift to mother’s everywhere to offer as gifts for their children. May mothers everywhere feel so very loved and appreciated on that special day that honors them, and I hope this tool can help us parents mirror that same love and appreciation for our children on the daily. Wishing all moms everywhere a happy Mother’s Day!