Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Understanding your child's LOVE LANGUAGE

Back in November I asked the question, "What is your LOVE LANGUAGE?" Most people that have never read the book "The 5 Love Languages" by Gary Chapman have absolutely no idea what I am talking about. If you are one of them and are in a relationship, I encourage you to seek out this book. Even if your relationship is good, it will change the dynamics for the better.

I am firm believer that there are extreme benefits to speaking your partner's unique 'love language,' a primary way of expressing and interpreting love. These languages are proven to be universal and comprehensive. Meaning everyone has a love language. Even your children. As I approach having my second child, I've been thinking a lot about the individual personalities that my children will have. As of now, I only know Chase - my high energy, lovable, sensitive, outgoing ball of fire. But I know Lance will have a personality all his own and will express things in his individual ways.

As I've grown to know Chase more over his last 2.5 years of life, I have realized that Chase needs to be shown a love that is unique to him. Different than my husband, different from me and most undoubtedly different than Lance. The key to a happy household and fulfilled children is to figure out the love language for each and then communicate your love to them in their language. To recap Chapman's five love languages:

Words of Affirmation: In this language, people need to hear compliments; to be “stroked” by the words of others.

Quality Time: Like Chase, people who hear love by quality time know they are loved when people spend time with them—listening, walking, talking, going on trips.

Physical Touch: People who hear love in this way need to be touched; hugged, sitting close together, back rubs, and such.

Receiving Gifts: People who speak this love language need to receive thoughtful and personal gifts—not necessarily expensive, but individual.

Acts of Service: With this love language, people hear love through others giving them acts of service—making the bed, cleaning the bathroom, doing a chore that they dislike.

Learning how to communicate your children's love language is hard. Some might be too young to articulate it while other's may not grasp the concept. So how do you know which love language works for your child, and how do you use that knowledge to better communicate love to them?

Chapman suggests that we try all five and see what sticks. But he also recommends that we watch how they show love to others to see what language works for them. For example, if your child is constantly doing little things for others, it is safe to try to use the acts of service language. If you have a child who wants to come jump in your lap and cuddle, physical touch is likely their principle love language. So try to be observant and pay attention to how they best respond.

Given these love languages, what would be some things that would work for a parent who wants to speak his child's love language?

If your child has Words of Affirmation as his primary love language, criticism cuts deep. If you need to correct him, be specific as to what you want him or her to change, but make sure you include positive and loving words. Compliment your child often; find opportunities to say positive things to him and about him to others.

For those children who hear love through Quality Time, there is no good alternative to spending time together. Go on a walk, to the gym, or on a car ride. When she asks you to take her somewhere or come see something she has been working on, make the effort to do it and make it a priority.
Children who receive love through Physical Touch will appreciate cuddle time—maybe a story, singing songs together, or just sitting close watching a movie or playing a game. Boys who appreciate physical touch will enjoy a little wrestling match. When they get a little older, the same physical approaches may not work or may be uncomfortable. But an occasional hug, a touch on their shoulder or arm, or a pat on the back will be appropriate.

If your child receives love through Receiving Gifts, consider the occasional card, a balloon bouquet left at a school locker or putting a treat in their school backpack. Make sure you express your love verbally or in writing with the gift. This can be overdone and thus become meaningless; but remembering his or her love language with occasional and personal gifts will create good loving experiences.

Children who have Acts of Service as a love language will best appreciate your doing little things for them. If they dislike doing the dishes, get up and do the dishes, and tell her that you love her while you do it. If she has a special interest, learn more about it so you can participate with her. Anything that is a sacrifice of time on your part will be a loving message.

Kids desperately need to know how much you love them. But if you don’t know their special “love languages” you might as well be speaking gibberish. Every child (like every adult) expresses and receives love best through one of five communication styles. If your love language is different from your children’s, you’d better learn to translate—fast. Or you could miss your chance to meet their deepest emotional needs. Discover how to express unconditional feelings of respect, affection and commitment that will resonate in their souls— and inspire them for the rest of their lives.

If you want to learn more, I encourage you to buy the book, "The Five Love Languages of Children."

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