How do you express your love for someone? By saying it or by showing it? How do you demonstrate love? With frequent hugs, kisses or preparing food? Or giving random little gifts?
Do you know that there are actually five styles to communicate love? Furthermore, do you know that the way people express love and the way they receive it are not always the same?
For instance, the way I demonstrate love to my child is through acts of service—such as cooking her favorite extra-pork adobo. But the best way I feel loved is by physical touch such as a hug or holding hands and spending time with me—even if were just watching TV.
Allow me to tell you about the book Love Languages (for kids) by Dr. Gary Chapman. The basic premise of the concept of Love Language is that people have different ways of expressing love. And that the way they show it may not be the very same way they feel most loved. This is best seen in situations when some kids show their love to their parents through physical touch and words (lambing) but feel loved the most when they receive toys.
Although kids in general do love receiving gifts, I notice that my daughter values tickle time more than opening a new box of toy—the latter she can delay but she drops everything if I call tickle time. Buying her a gift makes her happy, yes but the gesture does not speak directly to her heart as spending time does.
The key to making your children feel loved is by knowing their primary love language (how they feel loved the most) and therefore filling up their love tank. When kids feel loved that’s when they are at their best.
Your child’s primary love language is one of the five communication styles below:
Words of Affirmation. Some children feel most loved when they are complimented. Words of praise (“Good job!”), terms of endearment (giving them many different pet names), words of encouragement and positive feedback (“You did your best, anak and that’s what matters!”).
In the same manner, be careful not to say words that may crush their spirit. Always use positive reinforcement. Tip: Say more of the following: “I’m proud of you! I am blessed to have you! I thank the Lord for you!” Or write them short notes and stick it on their lunchboxes.
Physical Touch. Children receive love the clearest and loudest through hugs, kisses, physical play, sitting on your lap while you read them a story or by being carried. Tip: Run and play catch with your kids, cuddle with them while having magic moment at night, hold hands when out, carry them around the mall. These kids love the close physical proximity.
Gifts. Everyone loves receiving gifts, definitely both kids and adults. But kids with gifts as their primary love language tend to always have their gifts with them. They treasure your gifts as a tangible expression of your love for them. Tip: Surprise them with random gifts or small tokens especially when they accomplish something in school.
They also appreciate sweet-nothings like giving them a flower you picked in the garden. Recognize their efforts in doing house chores and remind them of your love by cooking their favorite snacks and making a nice and creative presentation.
Acts of Service. When your child is requesting you to do something for them, whether it is to cook pancakes for breakfast or stitch the hole in her shirt or fix her broken toy. Your service to them is more than just an act of task.
Quality Time. If your child frequently tells you to put your phone down or holds your chin and motions you to face them, then your child definitely feels loved when you spend uninterrupted time with them. Gummy in particular loves us two going out on dates, just the two of us.
She will verbalize that Yaya Maps stay at home and that no calls are to be taken when we are out. Then I know she wants me all to herself. It makes children feel important when you actually take a break from work or taking phone calls so you can be with them and focus on them.
I remember Gummy used to always tell me “Mom, focus on me!” Tip: Engage in any activity together – be it watching a movie (mall or at home), or running errands or doing the grocery or simply watch them while they’re playing.
Why is it important to know your child’s primary receiving love language? When your child’s love tank is filled, she doesn’t look for love elsewhere – and kids are at their best when they are loved. They are teachable and receptive to your teaching and correcting. They respond better when they feel loved and so you can influence them better and their ways more effectively when you have their heart. Remember, this is the essence of heart parenting.
Dr. Gary Chapman’s Love Language series is also available for married couples. I bought my copy of the Kids’ Love Languages at the Cup of Faith Bookstore in CCF Main, Ortigas.