By Carla Kriel
February is the month of love, but our children should feel loved every day. As such, it is very fitting to talk about love languages and your child.“What are love languages?” you ask. The love languages are straight forward. It is simply how your child shows love and affection to another individual, and it is also how they will perceive and receive love from another. The concept was introduced by Dr. Gary Chapman in the book titled “The Five Love Languages: the secret to love that lasts”. Originally the purpose was to help adults express love and build lasting relationships, but the principle can be applied to children as well. So how can I speak to my child’s love language? It’s easy. There are five basic love languages:
1. Words of Affirmation: Expressing affection through spoken affection, praise or appreciation.
Words help define the abstract concept of love. The tone of voice and body language is very important for the keeper of this love language together with affection, praise, encouragement, and guidance. Clues for words of affirmation are when your child cannot wait for you to praise them, and they will often be the first to tell you just how awesome they are. They will smile when you do affirm or praise them and seek your verbal approval. They also over-react to harsh criticism or harsh words.
2. Acts of Service: Actions, rather than words are used to show and receive love.
They model love when they do for others and like to perform a service that the person views as valuable. Clues for acts of service include when your child requests you to fix things, seek your help with projects or when they naturally say they will do things for you.
3. Gifts: Receiving items or surprises.
4. Quality Time: Expressing affection with undivided, undistracted attention.
Quality time is all about giving your undivided attention. This language makes it all about the child and being in the moment. Focused attention says “you are important and I like being with you”. Clues for quality time are when they ask to spend time with you, talk about fun times or activities with you, have a tough time parting with you or when they want you all alone to themselves.
5. Physical Touch: They feel affection through physical touch.
Touch is a basic human need, it gives emotional security and is the easiest of the love languages to give unconditionally. Clues for physical touch include when your child asks and seeks out hugs and cuddles or likes back rubs, holding your hand and rough-house play. Remember this love language does not decrease as the child gets older and boys need as much as girls.
Now that you’ve established and understand your child’s love language you can avoid miscommunications. If you and your child speak different love languages, love and affection can easily get lost in translation and it could lead to feelings of rejection and detachment. As human beings, we crave personal contact and emotional connections. The same is true for our children. If their needs go unsatisfied it could lead to behavioural problems. A child’s emotional “love tank” must be filled before discipline and learning can occur. An empty “love tank” leads to unfavourable actions. Never use a love language to try and discipline your child (for example never threaten to take a gift away if their love language is gifts) and always affirm your love after disciplining your child.
If your child learns how to give and receive love in a healthy way, they will be better equipped to build stronger relationships with their family and friends. Regardless of what your child’s primary love language is, you need to dig into all five languages. You cannot NOT spend quality time with your child because his love language is “acts of service”. The purpose of learning to speak your child’s love language is for you to connect more deeply with your child. This can build self-worth, self-love and confidence and applies to all ages and stages.
Take the time to understand your every family member’s individual love languages and recognize that each might be different. This is a powerful tool for building a strong family bond. Relationships that are built on unconditional love and understanding will last a lifetime.