Have you heard the concept of “Love Languages”? My husband and I first did about twenty years ago when we joined a “Parenting Teens” Sunday School class. We looked at five categories of ways that people express love and/or feel loved. The idea was new to us but became quite valuable as we analyzed ourselves and our two sons.
Here are the five categories Gary Chapman’s book taught: Physical Touch and Closeness, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, and Acts of Service.
This concept answers the questions a parent might have when it comes to the differences in children. Why does one seem to want to touch constantly, leaning into you, putting an an arm around your waist while another will have none of that. Rather, he or she wants you to stop and listen to her ideas and thoughts–to really listen. We are unique in gifts, abilities, looks, intelligence and, yes, in what makes us feel loved.
The 5 Love Languages of Children will help you to understand and perceive these ways of loving your kids. We can be combinations of love languages. My husband and I laugh because, of course, my number one love language is last on his list of needs while his is last on mine! (Isn’t that how it goes so often? God stretches us in yet another way as we seek to meet the other’s needs.)
All children respond to a pat on the back and a word of praise. Who doesn’t appreciate that? But some really respond to verbal encouragement. It fuels their confidence and energizes them to keep on.
All children enjoy gifts, but one girl maybe deeply pleased when a parent remembers to bring some after dinner chocolates to her from a restaurant because you know she loves them while another child doesn’t seem to care. Little gifts speak love to some more than others.
Observing what your child does to show you her affection helps you know what will likely make her feel loved. Does she like to perform acts of service such as sweeping the kitchen for you or is she more likely to present you with a little gift she’s made?
Having read Gary Chapman’s original book The Five Languages of Love helped me to understand my own parents better. One was very affectionate and verbal in praise while the other wasn’t at all….But! clearly gave much love through acts of service–many, often, without complaint or expectation. While it felt that one loved me more than the other, I now understand that was not the case at all. They expressed love differently. I am richer today for understanding that.
I heartily recommend to parents and grandparents the benefits of reading The 5 Love Languages of Children. “And the greatest of these is LOVE,” the Bible says. How to give and show it is an added benefit we can cultivate with the help of this book. (See the Resource Section for information.)