You love your child. But how can you show it so they really feel loved?
This question headlines the back of Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell’s book, The 5 Love Languages of Children.
Chapman’s first book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, sold millions of copies as he helped couples discover the five types of love in order to better understand how to love each other:
- Words of Affirmation
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
People usually show love in the same way they like to receive it. Most of the time we assume everyone else receives love in the same way and fail to love those we care about the best way possible – in their own language.
In this spin off book, Chapman teamed up with Campbell, another New York Times bestselling author, to help parents, teachers, and others who love and work with children to become more effective in meeting their emotional needs and making them feel loved in a way they understand.
This book was recommended by a fellow parent who seemed to always butt heads with one of her kids. After reading it, she realized she had been trying to love that child using her love language rather than theirs and the kid checked out because they felt unloved. Once she taught herself to love in her child’s language, communication was made easier and their relationship improved as they felt more loved.
I checked out the book the next day.
I remember when I was dating my husband and took the online love languages test. My top two love languages were ‘Quality Time’ and ‘Words of Affirmation’ and his top two were ‘Acts of Service’ and ‘Touch’, closely followed by ‘Gifts’ as number three. Our polar opposite love languages have challenged us to love each other in a counterintuitive way.
For instance, I always prefer a phone-free, high eye contact hangout or being complimented in a meaningful way to snuggles or the best gift in the world. He would rather have a back scratch or a week when I up my cleaning game instead of meaningful love letters or a candlelit dinner.
Because we show love differently, we have to be more intentional about showing love in a way each other will understand.
There’s no right or wrong love language, but loving people in their own language, even if it’s different than yours, is one of the best ways to show the people closest to us that we care.
In the first chapter, Chapman and Campbell point out that many parents assume their kids know they are loved because they cook, clothe, drive them around, and say “I love you.” While these are valid expressions of love, if unconditional love isn’t in place first, the authors argue, they will never be a substitute for this most crucial kind of love.
“You may truly love your child, but unless they feel it – they will not feel loved.”
As we’ve watched our kids (7, 6, & 3) develop their own personalities, we’ve seen very quickly that they are all so uniquely made. They are all girls and have been raised in the exact same context, but their interests, personalities, and love languages are so radically different.
These differences mean they do better with different kinds of discipline, have fun in different ways, and receive love very differently. While I love them equally, I mesh with them in different ways, as does my husband. Some kids come easier for me to “get,” while others not so much and vice versa for him.
In the second through sixth chapter of the book, diving into each of the love languages specifically, many children were asked, “On a zero-to-ten scale, how much do your parents love you?”
The responses ranged from, “Ten! Dad is always bumping me when he walks by, and we wrestle on the floor. And Mom’s always hugging me.” to, “Five. I guess I know, but when I need them they don’t help me and make me figure out everything by myself.”
Seeing how much their answers correlated with whether or not they were being loved in their language convinced me of the importance of learning to love my kids in the right way.
“Of all the ways we misunderstand one another, perhaps the most harmful is to not properly communicate love to our children.”
If that quote doesn’t hit you in the gut as a parent, I don’t know what does.
According to the authors, each of our children have an “emotional tank.” These tanks are places of emotional strength that fuel our kids for challenging days of childhood ahead of them and should be filled with unconditional love that, “accepts and affirms a child for who he is, not for what he does,” and is not based on anything other than our children just being.
We should train and discipline our children only after their tanks have been filled (and refilled). By loving them unconditionally we can prevent feelings of fear, guilt, being unloved, and insecurity. As our kids are loved in this way, we will be able to fully understand them and better deal with their good and bad behaviors.
As we speak our child’s unique love language, we fill their tank with unconditional love.
Do you know and speak your child’s love language?
Reading through the book, I’ve already begun to ponder what mine might be. There is a quiz in the seventh chapter, ‘How to Discover Your Child’s Primary Love Language,’ that I look forward to taking to confirm my intuitions.
Stay tuned for the next post on how to discover your child’s primary love language!