In his 1992 best-selling book “The 5 Love Languages,” Dr. Gary Chapman, a renowned relationship counselor, proposed the concept of “love languages.” According to Chapman, there are five love languages in which we express and receive love—acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, and physical touch—and everyone has a primary one.
Love languages apply to children too. It’s important to be aware of your child’s love language during early childhood to be able to provide them with the appropriate expressions of affection that work best for their overall well-being. Considering their reactions to certain forms of affection and looking out for how they express love themselves is a great place to start. While every child needs to receive love in all five languages, knowing which is your child’s top choice can help strengthen your bond and avert unwelcome behavior. Here are the five ways your child might ask for love in their own language:
“Will you do it for me?”
Acts of Service: Children whose primary love language is acts of service feel greatly appreciated when people do things to help them. These children appreciate thoughtful gestures, whether it’s making them an extra special breakfast one day, fixing a broken toy that they love, or helping them with a project they’re working on. Children who lean towards acts of service can beg and beg for their parent to do something, so parents can often end up feeling like servants. It’s important to reframe your mindset and understand that these requests are really just a simple request to feel loved.
Dr. Chapman says that the best act of service you can provide is walking your child through a new process and teaching them, step-by-step, how to be more capable. That way, you’re still offering them the love language they want while still giving them an opportunity to practice self-reliance.
“Mommy, watch this! Play with me!”
Quality time: If your child always wants to spend time with you playing games, reading stories, or just talking, then quality time is likely their love language. Quality time can be a day, an hour, or even just a few minutes, but it involves your undivided attention. Try to set aside some time each day and enjoy activities together. It can be as simple as talking with them about their day or going for a walk, or it can be more adventurous, like taking a trip to the beach or traveling to new places. Spending time together will help you bond with your child and create lasting memories.
Tip: For children for who’s love language is quality time and your method of discipline is sending them to their room, that is an extreme punishment. Try working with them to come up with a solution together. Learn more at consciousdiscipline.com.
“Can we get this!? Pleeease!”
Receiving Gifts: It can feel so good when we are gifted something special. For some children, receiving these gifts is their primary language of love. They feel most loved when they get gifts and surprises, and they show affection by giving presents to others. If your child’s main love language revolves around gifts, make gift-giving a priority. Show your love with thoughtful presents on special occasions, and surprise them with small gifts every now and then just because. It can be as easy as keeping a collection of dollar store toys ready to go, something as simple as picking a flower for them on your way home. Be careful not to overdo it with gifts, and it’s important to choose meaningful, age-appropriate gifts that reflect their interests.
“You’re the best Daddy. I love you.”
Words of affirmation: Children who respond well to words of affirmation enjoy compliments and positive reinforcement, and they reciprocate by saying kind words to other people. Saying “I love you” often, expressing how grateful you are for them, and giving assurance that you’ll always be there for them, or something as simple as leaving notes in their lunch box are easy yet important ways to let your child know how much you care.
Tip: Avoid saying “I love you, but” because it suggests that your love is conditional. Instead, find ways to acknowledge their efforts, offer encouragement when they’re having a hard time, and look for opportunities to praise them in front of others.
“Cuddle time! Chase me, Mommy!”
Physical touch: For children whose primary love language is physical touch, physical closeness shows them that they are deeply cared for. You can incorporate hugs, kisses, high-fives, hand-holding, pats on the back, and hair-stroking into your everyday interactions with your child. To further build emotional bonds, consider playful tickles and physical games like wrestling. Massages are also a great way to connect and show affection while providing physical comfort as well.
Children thrive when they feel loved and secure. By taking the time to identify your child’s love language, you can ensure that you are meeting their needs in the best way possible. For more parenting tips, check out Celebree School blogs and child care and learning resources.
Thank you to Parents.com for inspiration for this post.