I think that one of the most powerful ways we can show our parental love is by knowing our children's love language, and being able to show them love accordingly. Personally, it is so much better in our house when our girls have love buckets filled in ways that are meaningful to them.

(**Click on the video above to watch “Parental Love: Knowing Your Child’s Love Language”)

As we all know, each child is different – they are introverted or extroverted, creative or intuitive, messy or neat – and they express themselves in so many different ways. I believe that connection with our children is vital, and being able to connect with them in a way that speaks love to them is so important to their wellbeing. That is why I believe it is important, as an act of parental love, to know your child’s love language.

Back in 1992 Dr Gary Chapman released his book on the 5 love languages. Almost 30 years later many psychologists still agree with the research and subsequent teaching. Originally the book was published for adults in marriage, but a later book came out on the 5 love languages of children. I remember reading it while I was at teacher’s college and I found the principles important even in the classroom. Knowing how different children responded to the love languages meant I could tailor praise and encouragement to meet the different groups’ needs. It was more work, but it was so worthwhile.

family on sand dune
parental love – responding to our children in a way they receive love is important

WHAT ARE THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES?

In short, the five love languages are:

  1. Words of Affirmation: words of affection and endearment, praise and encouragement.
  2. Acts of service: services for your child that they see as valuable.
  3. Quality time: focussed, undivided attention, being together.
  4. Gifts: giving and receiving of undeserved gifts.
  5. Physical touch: hugs, cuddles, kisses and pats on the back.

HOW DO YOU WORK IT OUT?

Working out your child’s love language will depend partly on their age. Babies, and toddlers don’t yet have a primary love language and need to be shown love in lots of different ways, often and directly. Preschoolers start to show what their love language is. But it requires some detective work and trial and error to get it right, and it might change, so keep this in mind. This can take up until the age of 8. For older children (and adults) there is the online test that you can do to find out their/your love language. Here it is.

We think that we have worked out our girls’ love languages, but I am sure they will change over the next few years until they really settle into what speaks loudest and most clearly to them. Right now we have one that craves quality time. When she starts acting out we know that we need to give her more one-on-one time and quickly! Our other girl has always been a physical touch girl. She needs cuddles and snuggles to feel loved and connected. This is most likely why she still likes to snuggle until she falls asleep. (Most of the time I don’t mind.) Both of them have words of affirmation as a secondary. (I am a huge believer in words of encouragement and affirmation. Check out my vlog/blog post on this.)


mother and child laughing

How can you show love to your children according to their language?

There are so many ways in which we can show our children love according to their love language. Some of them seem common sense. Others might be lightbulb moments for you, coinciding with a “that’s easy!”

WORDS OF AFFIRMATION

  • Compliment and praise them for specific things
  • Put encouraging notes and love notes around the house for them to find
  • Allow them to overhear you say positive things about them to others 
  • Send notes, emails or texts each day if you are away
  • Say “I love you” many times a day or other statements like “you are special” or “I am so glad you are in my life”
  • Affirm both their efforts and achievements
  • Use encouraging words and phrases often 
  • Create a special name for them that is only use in the family
  • Don’t focus on the negative, but when your child makes a mistake, acknowledge their good intentions, effort, etc.
mother whispering to child
tell then things that are special, only to them

QUALITY TIME

  • Talk together one-to-one
  • Give your undivided attention – bedtime stories, games together, kicking a ball in the garden
  • Go on a ‘date’ together
  • Do chores together
  • Just be there and listen to their stories and feelings or make a special time for it
  • Bring your child along during errands
  • Look at the stars together
  • Draw or do art together
  • Take walks and talks together
  • Find silly things to laugh about together
  • Play games together or other fun activities 
father and child playing in snow
quality time is so important

GIFTS

  • Leave an unexpected treat in their schoolbag or under their pillow, or somewhere they will find it
  • Give them a small gift after a particularly challenging time or just because
  • Include a verbal “I love you” or a written note with the gift
  • Choose small, inexpensive tokens, thoughtful gifts, or homemade presents
  • Choose gifts that fit the interests of your child
  • Write your child a song or sing a special song that reminds you of them
  • Create a photo album or book about them and some special moments you’ve shared
  • Make their favorite meal
  • Give hand-picked flowers or anything from nature that your child would find special
  • Gift a book you and your child can read together.

ACTS OF SERVICE

  • Mend a broken toy, gadget or piece of clothing
  • Do one of their chores
  • Support them in a hobby or skill
  • Make a favorite meal as a surprise
  • Carry your child to bed and tuck them in
  • Make them a special treat or their favorite meal
  • Make them a drink and bringing it to them
  • Help your child quickly finish what they are doing if you have to go somewhere so you can both be ready faster, rather than just telling them to hurry
  • Make a list of your child’s favorite things to do with you and do one when they least expect it
  • Organize or clean their closet or drawers
  • Check out library books you know they would like
  • Assist with their homework
father hugging daughter
Appropriate physical touch can be so important to children

PHYSICAL TOUCH

  • Give them frequent hugs, kisses and pats on the back
  • Cuddle up under a blanket to watch TV
  • Sit near or beside a child for smaller kids, giving lots of kisses and hugs, being seated on a parent’s lap
  • For older kids, also add a pat on the back, holding hands, a high-five, or an arm around their shoulder
  • Play This Little Piggy, Pat-a-Cake, tag, piggyback rides, and airplane
  • Create a “spa night” and do manicures, pedicures, and shoulder massages
  • Make up special hand-shakes
  • Gently squeeze their hands to say “I love you!”
  • Snuggle close on the couch or in bed and read together

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

There really are many benefits to knowing your child’s love language. It can help with avoiding miscommunication, especially when emotions are on the line (or being emoted everywhere). I have found that knowing how my girls respond best (at the moment) that I can cuddle one to help her calm down (we call it “cuddle away the crankies”) and speak affirming words over her. When she is feeling loved and not so out of control we can talk about the issue and she is not feeling rejected.

I also think that it can help with preventing behavioral issues. When I work I am often distracted by it and I can not relate well to the girls, especially if they are constantly distracting me. As I take time to relate to them as they receive love best, I can speak into their lives and love buckets and help prevent the forest fire!

I also think it helps show how relationships work and how healthy relationships are good relationships. When I feel depleted and don’t feel loved, I know that it can affect my relationships. I don’t want that with my girls. It is my heart that they always feel loved and accepted for who they are, and if I can do that by tailoring some activities that are just for them, then you know I am going to do it!

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

What do you think of the love languages? Do you think they are real or are they bunk? I like to say they missed one – the chocolate/ice cream love language…..which I am sure I have, as do the girls. I would love to hear your thoughts on them, and whether it helps you, in your parental love, to know your children’s love languages.

Michayla Best

For over 30 years I have worked with children in a variety of capacities, whether as a teacher or tutor, a babysitter, a camp leader, or family advocate. I have always found a way to connect with children, to help them understand themselves and the world around.

I am Mummy to trinational twincesses who keep me on my toes with their questions, their commentaries, their shenanigans and acts of spontenudity.

Wife, world traveler, musician, crafting queen and self-proclaimed nerd; I love to take what I see, glean, know and help families to find their groove and be successful.

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