The 5 Love Languages for Children
In the popular book written by Dr Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, it mentions that everyone has an emotional love tank which is filled (or depleted) by the way that others treat us. All people are individuals and may possess different “love languages” to those around them, or a different combination of them.
Your primary love language is the way that others treat you which has the biggest positive impact on you and which makes you feel most loved and accepted. The reverse is also true. If your needs are never met with the love language which is most meaningful to you, you may feel unloved, even if that is far from the truth. This happens quite easily because many people tend to treat those around them with their own love language rather than that of the recipient.
Children have love languages too, and these can be determined at a young age. The 5 love languages (that everyone falls into to some extent at least) are:
- Words of Affirmation – people need sincere, encouraging words from others to feel loved.
- Physical Touch – those who need physical closeness from others to feel loved.
- Acts of Service – individuals who feel loved when others do things for them.
- Quality Time – people who need your undivided attention to feel loved.
- Gifts – those who feel most loved when they are getting gifts which are meaningful to them.
Let’s see how you can keep your child’s emotional tank full using this knowledge.
Words of Affirmation
You can identify this in young children. The child who completely breaks down when you raise your voice to them and show verbal disapproval, and who blossoms before your eyes with your encouraging words, will have Words of Affirmation as one of their love languages.
You may think that no one enjoys negative words or verbal aggression and you would be right. However, someone with this as their primary love language becomes completely crushed if you speak harshly to them and may find your harsh words more difficult to deal with even than physical punishment.
Young children and even teenagers who need Words of Affirmation and who are deprived of any positive verbal encouragement may become withdrawn and depressed. They may be fearful of trying anything new lest they face harsh criticism.
Speak to your children with love and offer sincere words of encouragement. They will remember your words for a lifetime, good or bad. If they do something wrong, admonish them to teach them the right way, but do not crush their spirit. Many adults can remember harsh and untrue words spoken over them when they were young by careless people – things like “you’re stupid”, “you’ll never amount to anything” or “why can’t you be like…?” These remarks are destructive to all children, but those who have Words of Affirmation as a love language will be devasted.
Conversely, too much empty praise becomes meaningless and leads the child to expect praise when it is not due. They will then fail to put effort into what they do as they know that “anything will do”.
The lack of physical touch and affection can have devastating consequences for children which can lead to lifelong problems. Children can learn to suppress their emotions, suffer from psychosomatic illnesses, develop psychological issues like feelings of rejection, feeling unworthy of love (which affects their future relationships) and social isolation.
Even if physical affection is not your love language, it is still important to show affection to your child. All children need to feel loved by your affectionate treatment of them, particularly those who have physical touch as their primary love language. Sometimes it is more difficult to show affection as your child gets older as they may show embarrassment at displays of affection from you when their friends are around. Here are some things you can do to fill your child’s emotional tank and need for affection:
- Rub the child’s back when they are crying/upset or put your arm over their shoulder or give them a whole-hearted hug.
- Develop a “hand routine” signal to use when your child does something well (involving high-five, thumbs up, fist-pumping). Anything that signifies something special to you and the child.
- Stroke your child’s hair or straighten their collar when they walk past you.
- Sit close together whilst watching TV.
Of course, there are many other ways to show affection in your family, depending on your child’s age and whether your family is the “huggy-kissy” type. Do what works well in your family, but do show affection to your children.
Acts of Service
Doing things for your child is part of being a parent, and, when they are young in particular, it can be quite physically and emotionally demanding!
Young children require a lot of “service” from you as they are too young to do things for themselves such as make their own beds and cook their own dinner. As they grow, they need to learn to do a lot of things for themselves, and you do them a disservice if you are still making their beds, tidying their rooms and making their school lunch when they can do it for themselves. Remember, them not doing things for themselves because they don’t want to (lazy, entitled) and prefer you to do it for them is NOT the same as them being unable to do it because they are too young to do so.
When your children are older and can do a lot for themselves, there will still be a lot they cannot do, like drive themselves to a party or to the mall, so this is still an act of service for your child until their get their drivers license. Other ways of showing your children love through your acts of service are:
- Support them (give up your time) at sports matches or other activities, get up early on a Saturday morning to take them to a match and watch their school concerts. Be involved and interested.
- Help them prepare for an upcoming test or recital.
- Practice some of their sports disciplines with them – hitting balls at the sports field or timing their run or showing them better ways of doing things. They will remember what you teach them in love for a lifetime.
When you show interest in your child’s activities and spend time with them doing those activities, you are showing them love and filling their emotional tank. Anytime that the element of time is involved, it requires an element of sacrifice – you need to give your child your undivided attention to fill this need in their love tank. You can’t be watching a TV movie with your child whilst tapping away on your laptop or texting on your phone.
Here are some ways to give your child undivided attention:
- Have family mealtimes at the table without the TV or other distractions. Talk to your child (this time is also super-beneficial for teenagers), find out how their day was, what’s going on with their friends, what is happening in their lives, and make eye contact while engaging. Really pay attention and be present.
- Find out about your son’s obsession with a particular computer game and play (attempt to play) it with him. At least talk to him about it and watch a game. Show that you are interested in what he is doing.
- Go for a walk or bike ride with your child.
Too much gift-giving can have the opposite effect to filling the child’s love tank, whether they have gifts as their primary love language or not. Spoiling a child by giving them everything their heart desires is not the same as a gift given in love which will fill the child’s love talk emotionally.
“Love” gifts need not be expensive but should be thoughtful and show that you have noticed what the child needs or likes. If your child loves elephants for example, and you come home with a pair of socks with elephants on them, or a little elephant ornament that you saw when you were out, that will satisfy the child who has gifts as a love language. The same thing is true if you find a stone in the garden in an elephant shape and give it to your child, it will be appreciated by them and delighted in – the cost does not matter. If the child is very spoiled and indulged however, they will likely be ungrateful for such a gift and demand something more expensive.
No gift or present you give your children is as important as you being present in their lives. Even if you lavish them with expensive gifts but are emotionally or physically unavailable, your child’s love tank will be empty.
If you observe your child, it is easy to determine what their primary love language is, and then try to fill their emotional love tank as much as possible. Doing so will bond you together and give your child a huge advantage in life of feeling loved and accepted by you. This will enable them to grow up secure and become a happy, successful and well-adjusted adult, which is what every parent wants for their child. To find out what your child’s love language is, do the quiz here.
Written by Natalie Wilke, BrightSparkz Staff & Blog Writer