The love languages in your family
How do we show the people we care about that we love them? According to expert and marriage counsellor Gary Chapman we universally tend to show our love in five different ways but most people have a preference for just one or two of the languages. The real magic occurs when you become fluent in the preferred language of someone you love.
Although originally developed for romantic relationships, the love languages can help us to connect with all the important people in our lives not least our children. Understanding the gifts of giving and receiving love consciously allows us to feel more connected to our children and partners.
Words of affirmation
A child who responds to words of affirmation will be one that loves to hear you praise them or whisper ‘I love you’. Your words and how you speak to them make an impact.
Giving praise consciously can make it much more impactful. It’s easy to slip into good girl / good boy mode but studies show that praising specific behaviours and the effort a child makes may have a more positive long-term impact. Children who are sensitive to this love language might not respond well to harsh words or criticism so take it easy when giving negative feedback.
Sounds simple - they just want to be with you. Most children respond to this especially in their earlier years but as busy parents, it can be hard to find the time to have that special one on one space without interruption. Remember that giving them this special time makes them feel valued and important, feelings you want them to hold onto as they grow. We are all busy of multi-tasking our way through the day so set yourself a challenge to have just 10 minutes when all you focus on is them.
Now most kids (and let’s be honest most adults) are pretty keen on this one and it’s not hard to understand why – after all getting new stuff is exciting! But endless, thoughtless giving doesn’t capture this language at all. True gifts are a symbol of your understanding of someone, an ability to put yourself in their shoes and know what they really love. It’s important to mention that cost isn’t a key factor either. When you think back over some of your favourite presents it’s likely that they’re of sentimental value and remind you of a person or a special time rather than just being the most expensive things you own. Receiving gifts also feels great because it lets you know that someone is thinking of you even when not with you. This feeling of being held in mind in is a key component of a secure and trusting relationship.
Acts of service
These kids appreciate what you do for them (I know amazing but these children do exist!). They might only say thank you once in a blue moon but another way to spot a child who speaks this language would be to notice when they like to join you in tasks – washing up or sweeping. Or perhaps sometimes they come and tell you that they’ve tidied or fixed something without being asked. That shows that they understand the value of contributing to the family and are following your modelling of caring for others.
It would be easy to write a whole post about the value of nurturing touch. Numerous studies have shown the lifelong positive impacts of babies and younger children being held, cuddled and stroked often. Touching is an intimate act and as such we reserve it for the people we love and feel close to. The stroke of the hair or the squeeze of the hand conveys to another that we wish to make contact with them. Family therapist Virginia Satir famously said “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”. Now that might sound like a lot especially for older children but it might be worth upping your hug quota and seeing how it makes you feel.
Even if you have a preference for one language - make sure you keep your ears open for what else might being being spoken around you. You might be suprised what you hear.