Gary Chapman originally wrote The 5 Love Languages for married couples. In his work over many years as a pastor and marriage counselor, he noticed a few things; 1) People speak different “love languages”, 2) people were usually drawn to others who spoke a different love language, 3) after many years of marriage, couples were speaking a love language that their spouses could not receive. Marriages were troubled and ending because couples weren’t feeling loved by spouses, and yet, each claimed to still love the other. Once couples learned about the “love languages” and began showing love in these different ways, marriages were “reborn!”
At the many conferences Mr. Chapman was doing on this topic, he was often approached by parents asking if this idea could be applied to their children. He believed that yes, indeed, these could and should apply, and he partnered with Ross Campbell to write The 5 Love Languages of Children.
The “emotional tank” or “love” tank: There are five basic ways that people express love. Though people tend to use all five languages, there is usually one language that feels more meaningful than the others. Each person is different and prefers to give and receive love in his/her own meaningful way. When someone perceives the expressed love, this fills the “emotional tank.” When the “tank” is full it provides results much like getting enough sleep and eating well…it enables us to deal effectively and appropriately with the events of our day. When the “tank” is not being filled, it may result in behavior issues, or the inability to deal effectively and appropriately with the events of the day. This is true for both adults and children. Adults, however, have developed better coping skills!
The authors, Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, write, “For a child to feel love, we must learn to speak her unique love language. Every child has a special way of perceiving love.” All parents love their children and do their best to communicate this love. Sometimes the message of love is received and they “get it” and other times it is missed. The more we learn about how a child’s love is expressed and how s/he needs love expressed to him/her, the more we can keep our child’s “emotional tank” full and, ultimately, feel more successful in our role as a parent.
The 5 Love Languages:
Physical Touch: Children who prefer this love language are often referred to as “clingy.” They constantly seek hugs and kisses and being physically close. Examples of love expressed in this way include hugs, kisses, a pat on the back, or holding a child while reading a story. As children grow older, they may enjoy more vigorous kinds of physical touch such as “bear hugs,” “high-fives,” or piggy-back rides. Children that appear overly physical—pushing, hitting, wrestling---are usually seeking to express love or friendship and/or are searching to have the tank filled!
Words of Affirmation: Children who prefer this love language often look for comments of praise and encouragement like, “What a beautiful dress!” or “I love this colorful painting!” They will tend to offer such comments of praise and encouragement, as well. Some examples…
Words of praise: “Great Catch! You really know how to play baseball!”
Words of affection: “I love you!” “I really love spending time with you!”
Words of encouragement: “I bet, with your great mind, you can figure that out!”
Quality Time: Children who prefer this love language crave specific and focused attention from you! They look forward to “dates”, story time at bedtime, and baking cookies together. As long as it is focused and intentional, however, it really doesn’t have to be more than 10 minutes. It is the quality, not the quantity… so…
Plan ahead for quality time with each child
Get down on their level
Make eye contact
Play first, and then do chores!
Gifts: Children who prefer this love language might have a treasure box of special items given to them by others. They might wear the necklace from grandma every day. They also tend to make and present gifts of many kinds to the people they love. The English word “gift” comes from the Greek word “charis,” which means “grace” or “underserving gift.” The idea behind this love language is that gifts are given out of love and appreciation, “just because” and not because the gift was “earned.” The most meaningful gifts are unexpected or reveal a true understanding or appreciation of another. This is not the same as buying your child everything s/he asks for. In most cases, children who are not feeling loved in all the languages, will eventually view this as an effort to “buy” love. Some examples of appropriate gifts….
· Passing down an heirloom necklace to your daughter
· Buying new baseball mitt for your son who has always loved based
(Then spend some quality time playing catch!)
· Seeing a yummy treat you know the kiddos would love and surprising them with an afterschool goodie
Remember, these gifts are meaningful because they won’t be viewed as payment for something and because they don’t happen every day or every time your child!
Acts of Service: This love language, for some reason, seems to be the most overlooked. A child who speaks this love language is very perceptive about when you can use his/her help. They offer to fold clothes or help make the bed. Acts of Service should be age appropriate. It isn't an Act of Service in the Love Language sense if you are doing something your child is not yet capable of doing yet.
· Making your child's bed.
· Driving your teenager to the movies
Parenting is, of course, a service-oriented vocation, but it is important not to do everything for our children. For children who don’t show a preference for this language, it is equally important that we model acts of service for them and for others. This is necessary to teach service and responsibility!
Identifying your child’s love language may be very obvious, or it may take some time. Be sure to offer love in all of the languages. Observe and compare reactions to hug, a word of encouragement, and time spent reading a book together.
“Speaking another’s love language is a thoughtful, deliberate choice. Love is a decision.”
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