Why the Love Languages of Your Children Matter Too
- Jaime Jo Wright Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2021 10 Mar
Connecting with our children is so important, and as parents, we can struggle with how to accomplish that. With varying personalities, differing points of view, and an overwhelming influx of social influences, we can quickly skyrocket out of the zone of the relatable.
As such, showing our children how much they mean to us, how much we appreciate them, and how special they truly are, can become an insurmountable task as we face miniature strangers in our own home.
Learning to communicate in a way they will understand and engage with is a priority. Being able to establish that foundation of trust and love is gigantic.
But what happens when your child just doesn’t seem to hear you? You tell them you love them all the time!
You assist them with their chores! You surprise them with their long-desired gift of choice! And still, they act as if you have never communicated that you love them, appreciate them, or that they are important to you.
What can you, as a parent do, to get through to your child that the words “I love you” really do have a serious impact and affect your relationship with them?
What Is a Love Language?
Applying the correct love language becomes a pivotal way of expressing your devotion as a parent. But what is a love language?
Think of it like this: let’s assume you’re an English-speaking parent, yet one child is fluent in Japanese, another in French, and a third in Spanish. You can express to them by means of saying “I love you”, and while they may pick up on the sentiment, understand a bit of what you’re saying, you’re not speaking in their native tongue.
Rather, you’re speaking in a secondary language that simply does not impact them the way it would if you said “I love you” in their primary way of communication.
Love languages are the same. In short, they break down into five basic groups:
Words of Affirmation - Reassurance through verbal communication that they are worth loving, doing a good job, making you proud, etc.
Tangible Gifts - Giving your child a tangible item as an expression of your devotion and love. That item becomes symbolic of a deeper emotion, and becomes sentimental because of its meaning.
Acts of Service - Assisting your child in task completion, but not just inserting yourself. Asking them how they need help, identifying the process in which they’d like the assistance, and come alongside and work together.
Physical Touch - This is very apparent and quite easy to identify. Cuddles, snuggles, a hand on their shoulder, sitting close during a family movie, an older child who still wishes to sit on your lap, a child who holds you in public. Their security and reassurance of love is communicated through touch.
Quality Time - this may be a deliberate act of spending time, or perhaps merely co-existing but in the same location. Either way, the child wishes to be in your presence, focusing directly and solely on them when communicating, and showing that nothing else requires more importance than them.
Identifying these languages in your children can generally be deduced by observation. There are actual assessments available for adults both in relationships and in the workplace. But are love languages the same as they are for adults?
Are Love Languages Different for Children than Adults?
Typically, a child will almost always dabble or experiment in all of them in their early years, learning very quickly which one their soul responds to and then adopting it for the duration of their life.
There may be some variation, but the root will generally remain the same. A child or an adult will typically have their primary love language, followed by a secondary, and also accompanied by the one they are most adverse to.
You may have a child who is consistently seeking out physical affection. Pushing them away, dodging their embrace, or shrugging them off actually communicates to them, regardless of how you feel, that you do not want/love/need them.
On the other hand, giving a gift to your child who is really craving to have special time with you, can also communicate an attempt to appease their need for your time, instead of giving them the time they actually crave.
This is also why, to some children, gifts don’t mean a whole lot outside of the momentary endorphin rush of excitement to get something new. Versus, the child who refuses to throw any gift away long after its use has worn out because they’ve attached it to the person who gifted it to them and it has become a symbol of their love. So…
How Do You Love Your Children According to Their Love Language?
Here are some ideas:
- For the child craving your Affirmation, make a point to regularly and sometimes excessively verbalize the ways you’re proud of them, recognize a job well done, express to them how much they mean to you, and offer compliments liberally.
This also means, the more specific you can be, the better. It emphasizes your love. Rather than saying, “You are so smart, I’m proud of you”, specify the details by rephrasing it to, “You really understood your homework tonight and I’m so proud of how you took the time to figure out that math problem”. This takes affirmation to a level specific and unique to your child.
- For the child craving Tangible Gifts, showering them with things isn’t the main point. Rather, gifting them with an item that means something to them tells them you’ve taken the time and made the sacrifice to notice, acquire, and gift them something special.
Also, remember, it isn’t about the monetary value! You could paint a rock with their name on it and fifteen years from now, there is a good chance they will still be in possession of that rock you picked up on the side of the road. Because that rock (that gift) is infused with your love.
- For the child craving Acts of Service - this means offering to help, expecting them to say “no”, and then offering again to prove your sincerity.
Strangely enough, those who need acts of service will also decline the offers because they don’t want to inconvenience the ones they love and they’re afraid the offer will be a means to take over their project. Remember, acts of service are helping, not directing.
This is especially important for parents to note, as our tendency will be to give instructions.
- For the child craving Physical Touch - be available to receive and to give many hugs, kisses, snuggles, pats on the back, high fives, fist bumps, and more. Appropriate physical touch means also respecting any physical boundaries that child presents to you, as well as respecting the pre-defined physical boundaries based on moral compass.
Be cautious that if you do decline an example of physical affection from your child, that you also qualify it by saying something that helps them disassociate your rebuttal as personal and instead associate it with the practical.
In other words, if you’re carrying groceries into the house and your child bounds out to hug you, refusing their affection at that moment is practical. Saying “Not now!” is hurtful to them. It is a rejection. Specifying “I’ll hug you in a little bit, my hands are full” reiterates the impracticality of their request and the desire you have to still love them.
- For the child craving Quality Time - set aside all distractions. These children will want your eye contact. They will see electronic devices, other children, and interruptions as competition.
They may become irritable and annoyed, or withdrawn and uncaring if their time with you isn’t devoted and specifically aimed at them. If they merely wish to be in your presence, their body language will show this as they’ll distract themselves. But when they want to talk to you, or express a need to spend a day with you, take that seriously.
A denial of those simple moments in life is tantamount to communicating to them that they will be second priority to whatever else has your preferred attention.
Why Do Love Languages Matter?
Love languages matter so definitively because it is your child’s form of communicating love. You have one too!
Your natural instinct to show love will be to speak it using your own love language. Be aware of this! Especially, if you and one of your children share the same love language, there will be an instinctual and natural bond that will form because you understand each other innately.
For your other children, this could make them feel inferior, less than, and make them question why they are not as valuable to you. Make the effort to learn to speak in a love language that is not your native tongue.
Once you do this, even if you’re not fluent, you will see a change in how your child responds to you. No longer are you cramming your love down their throat, and no longer will you feel like your love is falling on ears that don’t care.
Instead, they will begin to be drawn to you, want you more, and even listen to you more. They’re still children, and love languages aren’t the solution to every conflict in a relationship, but it certainly helps communication tremendously.
And, there is nothing better in this world as a child, than the certainty and the consistent reaffirmation that your parents love you with their heart and their soul.
Check out this Love Language Quiz for Kids to help identify which one your child speaks fluently!
Jaime Jo Wright is a certified instructor for Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace and has led workshops teaching the benefits and the practices of the 5 Love Languages.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Lordn
Jaime Jo Wright is an ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author. Her novel “The House on Foster Hill” won the prestigious Christy Award and she continues to publish Gothic thrillers for the inspirational market. Jaime Jo resides in the woods of Wisconsin, lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com and at her podcast madlitmusings.com where she discusses the deeper issues of story and faith with fellow authors.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
Are you in the trenches with your toddlers or teens? Read Rhonda's full article here!