Your child needs to know he is loved in order to grow into a giving, loving, responsible adult. Only the child who feels genuinely loved and cared for can do his or her best. Unless you speak the five love languages that communicates your love – your child will not feel loved. In order for our children to blossom, we need to fill our children’s emotional tanks with unconditional love, because real love is always unconditional.
Nearly all parents deeply love their children, yet not all children feel that unconditional love and care; just saying “I love you” is not enough. Children are behavior-motivated; they respond to actions – what you do with them. Your children will sense how you feel about them by how you behave toward them; simply remember that behavioral expressions of love can be divided into physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. Practicing these five behavioral expressions of love described in Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell’s book, The 5 Love Languages of Children, will keep your children’s love tanks full.
1) Physical touch – Physical touch is the easiest love language to use unconditionally, because parents need no special occasion or excuse to make physical contact.
2) Words of affirmation. In communicating love, words are powerful. Words of affection and endearment, words of praise and encouragement, words that give positive guidance all say, “I care about you.” Such words are like a gentle, warm rain falling on the soul. Conversely, cutting words, spoken out of short-lived frustration, can hurt a child’s self-esteem and cast doubts about his abilities. And it’s not just the words that are spoken but the tone of the voice as well; the gentleness of a mood, the sense of caring all communicate emotional warmth and love.
Guidance through positive communication is very important to every successful parent-child relationship. But the reverse is also true – harsh, critical words are detrimental to all children; negative words are devastating – they can play those words in their minds for many years. Too often parents give the right message but in the wrong manner. In order for words of guidance to be received positively by the child, it must be delivered by the parent in a positive, loving way. To offer words of loving guidance, look closely at the interests and abilities of the child and give positive verbal reinforcement of those interests; make a conscious effort to give words of affirmation, starting with comments about what you like about your child; watch for things in their behavior that please you and make positive, reinforcing statements. Make it a point to communicate words of affirmation daily.
3) Quality time. Children crave the undivided attention of their parents. Quality time is a parent’s gift of focused, undivided attention to a child. It makes the child feel he or she is the most important person in the world. The most important factor in quality time is not the event itself but that you are doing something together, being together. Parents need to search for time to be alone with their children to share their thoughts and feelings; sharing thoughts and feelings is the fabric of life. Children never outgrow the need for quality conversation with parents and other older adults.
4) Gifts. The giving and receiving of gifts can be a powerful expression of love, at the time they are given and often extending into later years; the most meaningful gifts become symbols of love and convey a language of love. Children may learn to receive gifts as “something to be expected” if we do not present gifts as an expression of love. Children whose primary love language is the receiving of gifts will always make much of receiving the gift. They will want the present to be wrapped in a unique way. They will feel very special as they open the gift, ooh and aah, and want your undivided attention. They will see the gift as a deep expression of your love, hugging you and thanking you profusely.
5) Acts of service. As parents, we serve our children; our primary motivation should not be to please them, but to do what is best for them. Acts of service to your children, and to others, is yet another language of love. Such acts of service to your children should be age appropriate; you should do for your children what they cannot do for themselves. We can serve our children, but as they are ready, we teach them how to serve themselves, and then others. For example, it is easier to prepare a meal for the child, but in their best interest to teach them how to prepare a meal for them self; our goal is to help them develop their own skills. The ultimate purpose for acts of service to children is to help them emerge as mature adults who are able to give love to others through acts of service. When parents and children work together in such acts of service, the activity becomes a powerful lesson in the joys of helping others.
As your child grows, you will begin to see that one of the love languages speaks far more deeply of your love than the others; also, when that one is used negatively, your child feels very hurt. Remember those two truths about the five love languages and you will become more effective in expressing your love and less destructive when you feel angry or frustrated with your child.