By Elisabeth Corcoran
Do you know what your child's love language is? It's a concept that Dr. Gary Chapman talks about in his book, The Five Love Languages, and it has shaped how I interact with my husband, friends and kids. Basically, we tend to express our love to others in the way we most want to be shown love. However, if your love language isn't the same as the recipient, they may have no idea that you are trying to be loving! Dr. Chapman describes five love languages: quality time, touch, gifts, acts of service, and words of encouragement. My husband's top love language would probably be acts of service - he is a doer, "Mr. Helps", I like to call him. My top love language is gifts. Interestingly, because God has a sense of humor, Kevin's lowest love language is gifts, and my lowest love language is acts of service. You can imagine how this plays out in our relationship. Kevin washes the basement floor thinking he's showing me he loves me, while I long for a shiny bauble or two (okay, to be honest --- my love language of gifts has gotten ultra-practical over the years and I'd just be happy with some cash). And then there's me, picking up a shirt just for the heck of it that I think Kevin would look good in and he's waiting for me to offer to help grade papers. Something's not right in the state of Denmark, ladies and gentlemen. We tend to miss each other's attempts, and desires, from time to time (though our motives are pure, I might add).
Well, this same concept can apply to our children. How do your kids best understand your attempts at showing them you love them? Each kid is different. My daughter, almost 9, has two high top love languages --- quality time (she balks every time I need to go into work, meet a friend for dinner, or run errands sans kids, asking if she can go along) and gifts (whenever we're out, she asks me to buy her something and when I've gone out alone, she asks if I brought her anything home). My son on the other hand --- well, he's a bit more difficult to figure out, but I would have to say quality time (if quality time is sitting side-by-side playing Playstation) and touch (at 7, he's still my cuddler). Because I know this about my kids, my husband, Kevin, and I can love them in the way they will best understand it. For Sara, that means planning an annual Mommy-Daughter overnighter, away at a hotel for some quality time, while getting in a little shopping, to fill up her gift tank as well. For Jack, it's Kevin getting on the floor with him playing one game after another or taking him go-karting (why do I think Kevin doesn't mind this too much?) and me remembering to linger for a few moments when I'm tucking him in at night for an extra-long hug.
It really doesn't take much to figure out what love languages your kids respond to --- just look at how they see life, what they ask for from you, what they whine about, what they thank you for: Does your daughter get super-excited when you help her with homework? Hers might be acts of service. Does your son love it you put a note in his lunchbox telling him how cool you think he is? His probably is words of encouragement. Does one of them love a long backscratch right before bed --- I'd bet theirs is touch. Does one get giddy when you offer to take them out alone for ice cream --- quality time. Does one thank you over and over again when you bring home even the tiniest toy or coloring book --- odds are, theirs is gifts.
Once you figure this out and start putting into practice little ways of showing your kids - in their love language (not yours) - how much you love them, you will be surprised at the reaction and the love you get back.
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