Speak Your Child's 'Love Language'

By JustMommies staff

by Jan Roberts Parent Educator and Coach

Share the Love!

What fun children have around Valentine's Day!  Red rules the day as children head off for school with specially chosen valentines, heart shaped cookies for the class party, and perhaps secret thoughts of a special someone they've had their eye on.This is a day of celebration not only at school, but an opportunity for fun in the family as well.  With some thought, parents can take an ordinarily busy schedule, and find creative ways to share love in their family around Valentine's Day.

Love Languages

In his book, "The Five Love Languages", author Gary Chapman describes the various ways children experience the giving and receiving of love, not just on Valentine's Day, but everyday.  As a psychologist, he reports treating many children who are emotionally needy and unstable because they have not felt truly loved by their parents.  He also listens to many adults who continue to suffer emotionally and find their lives to be unsatisfying, because they never did feel the parental love and acceptance they desperately needed as children.

Fill the Love Tank

This book's author suggests that every child is born with an imaginary "emotional tank" inside, just waiting to be filled.  As parents nurture their children with love and affection, they fill this tank, and provide the emotional fuel that gives the stability needed for a child's normal growth.  Many times, "the misbehavior of children is motivated by the cravings of an empty 'love tank' ", says Chapman.  He suggests that parents must learn to speak the primary love language of their children if they hope to meet their emotional need for love.

Five Love Languages

For some children, words of affirmation from parents are most important.  When these words are pumped into their emotional tank, a child feels especially loved by their parent, and begins to develop a sense of self worth. The affirming words a parent speaks should be sincere, specific, and carefully chosen.  If everything a child does or says is "awesome", the word may begin to lose its meaning and impact.

For another child, quality time may be their primary love language, and with occasional undivided attention, a parent can communicate interest, caring, and enjoyment of their child. This parent's gift of time will tell their child that he is greatly valued.  Reading a book together can mean as much to this child as an outing somewhere.

Many parents rely solely on gift giving as a means of expressing love.  Although this is one of the five love languages, for some children this does not totally satisfy their emotional needs. When giving gifts, it is not the quantity or cost, but the thought a parent puts into the gift that makes the most impact on a child.  Many parents mistakenly think that giving expensive gifts to their children will make up for the fact that they are not spending time with them.

Acts of Service and Physical Touch

The fourth love language is acts of service.  Although many children take for granted the various tasks parents perform for them on a daily basis, some children are especially appreciative.  If a child spontaneously thanks a parent for helping with a book report, for repairing his bike or fixing a favorite meal, this is a clue that this is his primary love language.  A parent is filling this child's emotional tank by these thoughtful acts of service.

Physical touch, the fifth love language, is a universal communicator to children of a parent's love. Babies who are held and cuddled, feel loved long before they understand their emotional need for love.  It's easy to love an adorable infant, but harder for some parents to continue to show love through physical affection to a difficult teenager or a misbehaving child.  Most children, no matter what age, crave physical closeness to their parents.

Be a Valentine Detective

Not just during this season of love, but everyday, parents can begin noticing how their child chooses to express love to others, or what they request of their parents, or seem most appreciative of.   Parents who are valentine detectives, can discover very important clues to their child's primary love language.  There is no more crucial job as a parent, than to keep a child's emotional love tank filled.   Parents who take time to learn the unique love language of each of their children and speak it often,  will be giving a solid foundation for emotional well-being, the true gift of love.

About the Author: 

Jan Roberts is a parent educator, a parent coach, and author of a weekly newspaper column, "The Parent Coach".  She teaches parenting classes and leads workshops about family traditions.