It sounds a bit crazy, right? Love is just love. But, how do you know you are loved? Is it because somebody tells you they do? Or, for you, do actions speak louder than words? Do you require grand gestures of love complete with roses and chocolates? Or do you prefer more practical expressions of love, like someone washing your car for you or taking out the rubbish?
Although we all speak, understand and appreciate all 5 love languages (and really need all of them to feel completely, unconditionally loved) there will be one language that stands out more to you than the others.
Before my husband and I got engaged, I dreaded the idea of him doing a big, public proposal. It actually makes me feel sick to think about so many people looking at me!! But, luckily, he knew me well and he did it in a way that felt completely right and comfortable. Someone else, however, may have felt really let down that they didn’t get an over the top, spectacular proposal. We are all unique and like to express and receive love in different ways. So, what happens if your chosen way of expressing love is not your child’s primary way of receiving and feeling that love? You know that you love them beyond all imagination but if they don’t feel that love, it’s not so impactful, right?
Understanding how your child best feels loved will help you to make sure that you’re really putting your all into them receiving the message, loud and clear, that you LOVE them.
Firstly, what are the 5 love languages?
1. Physical Touch – children who speak this language feel most loved through cuddles, rough and tumble play, stroking, picking up, holding, stories on laps etc. Any loving physical contact makes them feel loved and valued. Sometimes, as parents, we only touch our children when necessary (like helping them get dressed) and become too preoccupied with life to be spontaneous with touch. A hand on their arm or a quick hair ruffle as you walk past just gives your child the message that they are cherished.
2. Words of Affirmation – children who speak this language thrive on the words you offer them. Telling them you love them, praising effort, saying something kind, thanking them, encouraging them. All of these words tell your child that you love them in a way that they understand. These children are particularly devastated if you use harsh words with them. This can really hurt their self-esteem and confidence in your love.
3. Quality Time – If your child speaks this language, then he really values the time you give him. It could be reading him a story every evening, sitting down to help him with his homework or, really, just doing anything together.
4. Gifts – all children love getting presents but a child who speaks this language will really attach strong meaning to the gifts you give her and cherish them. The gifts are a symbol of love BUT they need to be given alongside all of the other languages and there must be no strings attached. Giving a gift as a reward or a bribe doesn’t speak in the same way as a gift ‘just because I love you.’
5. Acts of Service – this language is all about what you do for your child. Do you go and watch every sports match they play? Do you offer your help willingly? Do you teach them how to do things for themselves and support them in doing them? Do you balance guiding them to become independent with helping them with things they struggle to do? As a parent, you are in service 24/7, the key is to do things for your child in a loving way (no resentment) and allow them to begin doing things for themselves as they are able. You’re doing your little one a disservice if you just do everything for them, it’s important they learn independence inside your supportive framework.
So, how do you know which ‘Love Language’ your child speaks? And does it really matter if you’re ‘doing’ them all anyway? Well, according to the authors, it matters a great deal.
“Speaking your child’s primary love language helps her feel loved. When your child feels loved, when her emotional tank is full, she will be more responsive to parental guidance in all areas of her life. She will listen without resentment… As we speak love in the five languages, all the while specializing in her language of love, we show her how to love others and her own need to speak others’ love languages”
So, again, how do you discover your child’s primary love language?
It takes time. When you have a baby, you need to be speaking all 5 languages, all of the time. And then, start looking for clues. How do you calm your baby? Is it through speaking softly (words of affirmation) or is it cuddling and rocking (physical touch)? As your baby grows older, you’ll begin to notice which love language they seek out more often (and which one hurts more when they don’t get it or it is used negatively).
1. Watch how your child shows you that they love you – does your little one often use words to show they love you or do they frequently seek you out to play with them? Are they every affectionate or do they like doing ‘jobs’ to please you?
2. Watch how your child gives love to others – does your child offer toys to his friends or does he give out lots of cuddles? Does he use kind words or just offer himself up to play?
3. Listen to what your child is asking for – does your little one often ask you to play or ‘watch me’ (quality time) or does she approach you often, asking for comments and praise on what she is doing? (words of affirmation)
4. Notice what your child often complains about – if it’s “you never play with me” he may be asking for more quality time. The key here is to look for repetition and patterns, what does he seem to be seeking most often?
5. Give your child two options and ask her to choose – the choices can be between 2 love languages to see which she goes for. Will it be quality time or a gift?
Combining your observations from all of these ideas will give you a clear picture of how your own child most feels loved and you can take steps to ensure that you’re really filling their emotional cups in the way you behave towards them.
If you’re interested in getting more detail and lots of examples of ways that the different love languages are expressed, I’d definitely recommend grabbing a copy of the book and having a read! I’m definitely going to be investigating this further for my own children and I can see it having a big impact on the way I parent and the discussions I have with the parents who come on my workshops!