If you’re a parent, you’ve probably gotten paper hearts with messy “I love yous” scribbled into them from your child. You may have received a questionable breakfast in bed from them or even had an extra dose of their verbal affection. I’m going to share with you 5 ways to be mindful and loving with your children as inspired by Gary Chapman’s “The 5 Love Languages of Children” book.
Children and adults have multiple languages in which we receive love, although, we all primarily speak one dominant love language. To find out what your child’s love language is, begin to pay close attention to the ways in which they express their love for you because they will naturally assume you would want what they want and that you would want to receive love in the ways that they would too. Here are the 5 love languages your child may be speaking to you...
Love language #1: Physical Touch.
No matter if your child is a baby, toddler, and beyond, embracing them in a hug, cuddling with them intertwined, or resting your hand on their shoulder or back says “I’m here with you, I love you”. If you happen to have boys between the ages of 7 and 9, then you may have already realized that they’re way too cool for this! Instead, try play fighting with them, jostle their hair if they’ve said something funny, or do a high-five-belly-clap with them if they’ve just won something. No matter how many times you tell them you love them, showing them with physical touch will help them receive it. Similarly, if your child’s love language is physical touch and you discipline them with this approach (brushing past them, shoving them away) will damage their self-esteem tenfold.
Love Language #2: Words of Affirmation
Before your baby can speak their own words or understand what love is, they are understanding it through your tone of voice, your praise, and your encouragement. Speaking affectionately to your child will raise their self-esteem and security in relationships throughout their entire life. If this is your child’s love language, make sure to use these words sincerely because as your child gets older, excessive verbal adornment will become distrustful and they will doubt your words or turn elsewhere for a more credible source. As well, younger children who are just learning language skills truly believe that we believe what we speak, so be mindful when saying things in the heat of the moment like “I hate my life!” or “I’m going to switch you out for new kids if you don’t cooperate!” Instead, praise your child when warranted in regard to their performance, speak affectionately about their freckles, their uniqueness. Sometimes it’s difficult to compliment a little girl, for example, when so often we compliment her outfit or hairstyle. Try saying words like “You are so happy, you brighten up the room when you walk into it, my love!”
Love Language #3: Quality Time
Here in the western world, this is increasingly difficult to accommodate. Many parents are both working and struggling to keep up with the daily chores like paying bills on time and cleaning out the back of the fridge. Meanwhile, your child needs their daily dose of love from you. Telling them you love them while you’re cleaning up after dinner is just not cutting it anymore. For some, spending time together is all they need. First of all, when we sit down to spend time in an activity that is fun for our children, we are validating their choice in activity and encouraging their confidence to grow. Secondly, we are learning about our children as we do this and by knowing them better, we feel more connected with them, just as they feel more connected to us. Notice something your child loves to do and then show them that you love it with them and that it’s something you can bond over.
Love Language #4: Gifts
It may seem like all children’s primary love language is gifts by the way they want more things. There are, however, ways to show your love through gift-giving without breaking the bank and while still reaching that “I love you” message to your child. Here’s how: Cut out a newspaper article or cartoon that made you think of them, Find objects in nature and make something with them or for them that you know they’ll love (like a birdhouse), send them a letter and surprise them when the mail comes! All of these are nearly free and all translate into your child’s language of love. If your child is constantly giving you things, rocks, objects and proudly wrapping them up for you or presenting them to you with excitement then it’s a good sign your child’s primary love language is gifts.
Love Language #5: Acts of Service
If you’ve ever met an adult who states “Don’t tell me, show me” then you’ll understand more so how important a love language is to get right. If your child’s primary love language is acts of service, then it can be a great opportunity for you to show them you love them by doing things for them that they’ll appreciate. If they are struggling with an art project, sit down with them and help them master it, If they play soccer, practise with them. If you are running late to a meeting, instead of scolding your child and insisting that they stop what they’re doing so you can leave, try helping them finish quickly so that you can both get out the door!
As a child grows and changes so does their love language and it’s important for parents to constantly reconsider if they’re speaking the right language to their child. This can seem daunting but will become natural and fun overtime! Speaking the same language as your child will increase parent-child bonding, it will forge the way for healthy communication, respect, as well as yielding a healthy confidence in your child. May we all fill our child’s hearts in the ways that make them feel closest to us and understood.