Early on in our marriage, my husband and I read a book by Gary Chapman called The 5 Love Languages.
If you have never heard of love languages or have but do not know yours, I highly suggest you take the quiz on Chapman’s site.
Knowing your personal love language is step one on the journey towards learning your child’s. The 5 Love Languages, the ways we give and receive love, are Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gift Giving, and Physical Touch. We all tend to show love in each of these different forms, but one or two are considered your personal love language because that is the way you most easily and freely show affection to someone else. Your love language(s) is also the way you most feel loved by others. It is important to know your love language as you learn your children’s because you will begin to see the ways in which your love-giving may not quite be lined up with their love-receiving.
Personally, my love language is Acts of Service with Words of Affirmation being a close second. Nothing makes me feel more loved and valued than someone doing a task for me that I no longer have to do. I also prefer a sincere compliment over a hug. The pitfall in this, which my husband and I learned in the first few years of our marriage, is when I prefer to give and receive compliments, but my husband prefers to give and receive hugs, we are constantly in a state of not feeling wholly and completely loved and valued by the other person. After we learned each other’s love languages, we were much more able to reach out of our comfort zones to ensure our metaphorical buckets were being filled.
Now that we have a house full of children, we have noticed how important it is to learn their love language. Though they be but little, their hearts (and messes) are incredibly huge! We have also learned how vastly different they are in their personalities and in their love languages. My daughter (eldest child at age 8) craves Words of Affirmation. She likes the occasional snuggle, but nothing lights up her face like hearing you compliment her, telling her how great she did on something, and actually saying, “I love you!” My six-year old son thrives on Quality Time. He wants to be with or around us at all times and loves nothing more than just throwing the football with us in the backyard. The only time he desires Physical Touch is if he has completely lost control of his emotions and needs a tight squeeze in my lap, but that “hug” (and sadness, anger, or frustration) is quickly broken when I ask him if he wants to go do a puzzle together. My youngest son, age 4, is a full blown Physical Touch kiddo. He loves to snuggle, sit on your lap, give hugs, and cannot sleep unless you are quite literally holding him. Yes, my arm falls asleep about 365 nights out of the year. Knowing how different my children’s loves languages are also helps me not feel hurt as a mom. I know that sounds silly, but surly I’m not the only one who is saddened when they wipe my kiss away. Ugh, knife-to-the-heart. My 6-year old does the lean in hug- he appeases me because he knows I want to hug him but he is getting nothing out of it because Physical Touch is not his love language. He also does not tend to acknowledge Words of Affirmation. We are teaching him that when someone compliments you, you need to say, “Thank you” and have manners, but it is hard for him because Words of Affirmation almost make him physically uncomfortable. Knowing his love language helps us know his struggles and areas that are just a little more difficult for him as a human. We are able to more intentionally and effectively help him with social expectations that do not come naturally to him.
Knowing the love languages of your children is crucial to ensuring you are able to truly connect with them, meet their needs, and also discipline them effectively.
A harsh, “I’m disappointed in you,” will serve as a much harder blow to my daughter than my sons, and like-wise taking away playtime will hurt my six-year old much more than my daughter. The same link above has a quiz for your children. If they are old enough, they can take it themselves, but if not, you can take it for them. You can also use what you observe to help figure out which language is their dominant one. Use this knowledge to help you honestly assess how you are showing love to your kiddos. The parent who has trouble saying, “I love you,” but will gladly throw a ball around is great for a Quality Time child but hard on a Words of Affirmation one. Getting out of your comfort zone for your child will do nothing but show them they are adored, valued, and accepted. You love your child more than they will ever know. Learning and performing their personal love language will help them feel truly loved beyond measure.