Speak Your Children's Love Languages
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2012 4 Apr
Editor's note: The following is a report on the practical applications Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell's new book, The 5 Love Languages of Children (Moody Publishers, 2012).
Everything you’re trying to accomplish as a parent depends on whether or not you and your children enjoy loving relationships with each other. If your children don’t feel loved by you, they won’t accept your parental guidance. But if they do feel your love for them, they will want to learn from you.
You may think your kids should just know that you love them. After all, you’re their parent! But kids need to emotionally feel your love for them to really know that you love them. The way to help them feel your love is to communicate it in the way God has wired your children to best understand it – through each child’s distinctive love language.
Here’s how you can speak your children’s love languages:
Start by asking God to love your children unconditionally. The love you express to your children through any of the love languages must be unconditional in order to be most effective in their lives. Pray for the help you need to love your kids as God loves them. Choose to communicate love to them based on who they are, rather than on what they do. Do your best to let your children know that you love them no matter what.
Become fluent in all love languages. No matter what love languages are your children’s primary ones, it’s important for you to be able to communicate with them in all five languages (physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service) because they need some of each one to be emotionally healthy.
Discover each of your children’s primary love language. You can figure out which of the different love languages is the main one for each of your kids by: observing how they choose to express love to you, observing how they express love to other people, listening to what they ask you for most often, noticing what they most often complain about not receiving from you, and giving them a choice between two options of something good (that each reflects a different love language) and noticing which option they choose.
Communicate love through physical touch. Children whose main love language is physical touch need appropriate, affectionate touch from you to feel loved. Give them plenty of hugs, kisses, encouraging pats on the shoulders or arms, high-fives, snuggles on the sofa, time on your lap (for younger kids), back or hair rubs, playful wrestling, and holding hands during family prayer time. But never force touch on them if they’re teenagers; keep in mind that teens may be embarrassed by having their parents touch them in front of their peers, and sometimes they may just not be in the right mood to be touched. Remember, too, that your kids will never outgrow their need for healthy physical touch (and particularly for girls, it’s important for them to develop strong self-esteem and a healthy sexual identity).
Communicate love through words of affirmation. Children whose main love language is words of affirmation need positive words from you to feel loved. Give them kindness, sincere praise (for specific efforts they’ve made), and encouraging guidance regularly through the words you speak and write to them each day. Actually say the words “I love you” to your kids often. Be careful to use a gentle and caring tone of voice as much as possible when talking with your children. Avoid negative communication like harsh words and yelling and screaming, which can devastate kids whose primary love language is words of affirmation. Whenever you slip up and speak too harshly to your children, apologize to them. Be creative about incorporating as many positive words as possible into each day with your kids, from texting them with loving messages to talking with them about their dreams for the future and encouraging them to pursue those dreams.
Communicate love through quality time. Children whose main love language is quality time need focused, undivided attention from you to feel loved. Make whatever sacrifices you need to make in order to give each of your children one-on-one with you regularly. Keep in mind that the most important factor in quality time isn’t a particular event, but simply being together in some way. You can give your children undivided attention just about anywhere – even at home during chores or homework, or while out running errands together – rather than having to plan a fun outing together, although special outings together can be especially enjoyable for you and your kids. During quality times: include loving eye contact with each other, share thoughts and feelings in meaningful conversations, and sometimes read stories together (such as just before bedtime). Don’t forget to pray with your child when you can, rather than just praying for your child by yourself.
Communicate love through gifts. Children whose main love language is gifts need to receive gifts from you regularly to feel loved, since they view the gifts you give them as symbols of your love for them. Show your children that you care for them in tangible ways by giving them thoughtful gifts. Make sure that you’re giving the gifts freely, without any conditions attached (instead of as a bribe or payment for your kids doing something you want them to do). Keep in mind that the cost and size of the gift doesn’t matter nearly as much as the meaning behind it and the care with which you give it. Simply give inexpensive gifts (either homemade or store-bought) to your children whenever you sense that they have need for something special. But be careful not to lavish too many gifts on your kids at once, or they won’t seem special).
Communicate love through acts of service. Children whose main love language is service need to experience you taking action to serve their needs regularly to feel loved. Serving kids is an essential part of parenthood for everyone, from cooking children’s meals to giving them rides to different places. But when parenting demands burden them, parents can feel more like slaves than willing servants. If parenting demands have overwhelmed you lately, ask God to help you get the rest and healing you need to freely give service to your children as a way of expressing your love to them, without resentment. Keep in mind that when you’re serving your children, you’re teaching them by example how to serve other people, which is an important lesson for them to learn to fulfill God’s purposes for their lives.
Adapted from The 5 Love Languages of Children, copyright 2012 by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. Published by Northfield Publishing, a division of Moody Publishers, Chicago, Ill., www.moodypublishers.com.
Gary Chapman, PhD, is the author of the bestselling 5 Love Languages series and the director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. Gary travels the world presenting seminars, and his radio programs air on more than 300 stations. Visit his website at: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/.
Ross Campbell, MD, is the author of the bestselling How to Really Love Your Child and an authority on parent-child relationships. He and Gary Chapman also coauthored How to Really Love Your Adult Child.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles (http://angels.about.com/). Contact Whitney at: firstname.lastname@example.org to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
Publication date: April 4, 2012