It's easy to get swooped up in the romance of Valentine's Day, and we tend to forget that there are so many different ways to give and receive love.
And regardless of whether child, spouse, family member or friend, we all have own love language.
A love language is something that differs from one person to another and in a nutshell it's the way you prefer to show love. This communication can be verbal or non-verbal.
The concept was introduced by Gary Chapman, author of the book The 5 Languages of Love, which has made its name for successfully bridging the communication gap in romantic relationships.
In a book he later co-wrote with Ross Campbell, The 5 Love Languages of Children, he discusses how to identify and understand the love language of your child.
This is thought to create a beautiful, healthy relationship with your children. Even if you're lucky enough to already have a good relationship, it's interesting to know your child's love language.
Another concept introduced by Gary Chapman in The 5 Languages of Love is the "love tank". When you "speak" to someone in their love language, when you treat them the way that makes them feel most loved, you fill their emotional "love tank".
As much as parents may show their love for their children, this love doesn't always translate well if you're not loving your child in their love language, filling that specific need. Instead of feeling loved, they may feel neglected and even unloved.
Gary Chapman believes that children grow up with many struggles if they don't feel the love from their parents at a young age, and when they become teenagers, they "go looking for love, typically in all the wrong places." So it's important to always aim to fill your child's "love tank".
Here's how Chapman suggests we do it more effectively.
The 5 languages of love:
Physical touch, words, quality time, gifts and acts of service are the 5 "languages" Chapman has identified. Here we explain them.
Touch is a powerful emotional communicator of love.
Babies are embraced and constantly snuggled from a young age, meaning that before they even understood love, they felt loved. According to Mr Chapman, children who are picked up and touched tenderly develop better emotionally.
Generally children love being embraced by their parents as a reminder that they are loved. However, some children thrive on affection even more than others and this is most likely their primary love language. This means that when you show them affection physically, they feel most loved.
Words can be extremely powerful for children, but a child with this love language feels most reassured of your love through spoken word. There are three types of "words".
* Words of affection
Words of affection focus on the children themselves and their personal attributes, as opposed to what they have done or their achievements. Saying this in a sensitive tone is just the cherry on top.
For example, tell a child that they have a lovely smile or that they are really smart. Focus on who the child is, not something they've done. For example, say "I like when you smile," and "You are so smart."
* Words of praise
Words of praise are used when you praise a child for the effort they put into something or for something they achieved, for example, telling a child: "You did such a good job!"
At the same time, when you don't motivate your child, they feel they aren't doing enough to make you proud.
According to Gary Chapman, the best way to praise your children for their effort is to not demotivate them by making them feel like they could be doing better. "Don't praise for perfection, praise for effort."
* Words of encouragement
Children feel affirmed and encouraged to do more when you use words of encouragement and motivate them rather than make them feel bad for all the things they haven't done.
Children whose love language is quality time value undivided attention most. They love just hanging out with you and being around you.
You fill their love tank by giving them your time and it doesn't really matter what it is they may be doing with you, but rather that it is uninterrupted by anything else.
Gary Chapman suggests that if your child has this love language, try genuinely talking to them instead of making small talk because it's a great way to spend quality time with them.
This kind of love language should not be confused with materialism. Some children appreciate the thoughtfulness behind gifts and feel loved when receiving them. The gift does not need to be expensive.
Gary Chapman used the example of a child picking a flower for a parent and thinking of it as the most grand gesture ever, I'm sure this is something we've all experienced or witnessed.
Being surprised with little gifts are cherished and important to this person; small gestures to show that they are cared for – even in the form of something as humble as a handwritten note.
Using gifts to bribe children or buying their affection is not what this love language is about.
Acts of service
Acts of service means constantly doing things for our children to show them they are loved.
Naturally, it differs depending on their age. A 4-year-old and a 12-year-old may not necessarily want help with the same kind of things, so it’s always dependent on the age of the child.
This love language shouldn't mean that you do everything for your children to the point that they won't know how to do anything for themselves, it means being there to ease the burden of their responsibilities where you can.
You can check out Gary Chapman's full talk below:
How to discover your child's primary love language
Your child may express feeling loved with more than one love language, but at there core, their is one that resonates more than the others.
1. Observe how they express love to you
Look out for signs of how your child expresses love to you, this will be their primary love language. If they are constantly showing you affection, it is physical touch. If they are always giving you little meaningful gifts, it is receiving gifts.
2. How they express love to other people
Observe how they express love to other people in their lives, e.g. grandparents, friends/ teachers. It is usually an indication of their own primary love language. For example, if they are always going out of their way to help others, their love language is most likely acts of service.
3. What do they request most often
Observe what your child asks for the most. If they're always asking to do things, their love language is probably quality time.
If they're always asking for a surprise gift, their love language is most likely receiving gifts.
If they're always asking for reassurance, their love language is probably words or affirmation.
4. Observe what they complain about the most
Complaints are also a good way to figure out your child's primary love language.
If your child is saying things like "we never do anything together", then their love language is most likely quality time.
If they are saying things like "I'm not good at anything", their love language is most likely words of affirmation.
I think you get the gist of it.
If you still can't decipher their love language
Gary Chapman recommend that you conduct a 15-week test, where you focus on one love language every other week (keep the break in between weeks so it doesn't seem obvious or confuse your child).
This way, you'll be able to see your child's reaction to how you treat them and when you find they're at their happiest, you know their primary love language.
This may be a long process but it's definitely worth it, right?
What do you think your child's primary love language is? What makes you believe it is their primary love language?
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