Learning Your Child’s Love Language

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Everyone knows relationships take a lot of work to make them successful. But when we think about those relationships, it’s often in the context of adult relationships – your spouse, a friend, your parents or siblings. We all know how stressful, complicated and rewarding these relationships can be, but when was the last time you thought about how your child wants to be loved?

Having been a mother for seven years, I feel like I am a little behind the game in focusing on my relationship with each of my children, but I keep reminding myself it’s never too late to start. I’ve been spending time reading The Big Life Journal where they outline the five different primary love languages and give examples of how to apply these to kids. Below is an abbreviated version of what they share extensively on their site.

love language

Learning your child’s love language

  • Physical Touch:
    Physical touch communicates love to them more deeply than anything. Without hugs, kisses, pats on the back, and other physical expressions of love, they will not be fulfilled. Some ways that are suggested to express love via physical touch include:

    • Sitting close, giving lots of kisses and hugs, snuggling, a big pat on the back, holding hands, a high-five, or an arm around their shoulder.
    • Playing games like Twister, tag, airplane or giving piggyback rides.
    • Creating a “spa night” and doing manicures, pedicures, and shoulder massages.
    • Making up a special hand-shake.
  • Words of Affirmation:
    We all know words are powerful. They show affection, praise and offer encouragement and foster a child’s sense of self-worth and security. Children who seek out compliments feels love through positive words. It really makes them feel special when you tell them you appreciate them by:

    • Saying “I love you” whether it is with your words or through an art, a song or sign language.
    • Writing little love notes and leaving them around the house or in their lunchbox acknowledging something they are doing well.
    • When a child makes a mistake, acknowledging their good intentions, effort, determination, etc.
    • Creating a nickname for your child that only the two of you use.
  • Quality Time:
    Quality time is the gift of being present. When you choose to spend alone time focused just on this child, they thrive on your company more than what the actual activity is. Some ways to spend quality time include:

    • Stopping what you are doing and making eye contact with your child when they tell you
      something.
    • Depending on your child, they may enjoy playing their favorite game together, looking at the stars, journaling, taking a walk and talking, drawing, or allowing them to help you with chores.
    • Allocating a special time for your child to just be there and listen to their stories and feelings. This one really goes a long way for children who cherish quality time. You’ll be surprised what you hear from them.
  • Gifts:
    All kid begs you to buy them every toy they see when they are walking through the aisles of Target, but this love language is different. Is your child the one who gives you things like flowers from the garden or a special rock they picked out just for you? Well, these children see gifts as an extension of their love and yours. A child whose love language is receiving gifts will be happy with the smallest token or even something handmade. Some ideas for tangible things as an expression of love include:

    • Choosing small, inexpensive tokens, thoughtful gifts, or homemade presents. This will show them that you are thinking of them on the most mundane of days.
    • Keeping a sticker chart that comes with a reward for their accomplishments.
    • Creating a photo album or book about them and some special moments you’ve shared or framing a special photograph of the child doing something they love.
    • Making them a special treat or their favorite meal.
  • Acts of Service:
    If your child’s primary love language is acts of service, you don’t need to jump at every request. However, it is important to be sensitive to these special requests. Each request calls for a thoughtful response. Acts of service can include:

    • When running late for an appointment, helping your child quickly finish what they are doing so you can both be ready faster, rather than just telling them to hurry.
    • Making a list of your child’s favorite things to do with you and do one of these things periodically when they least expect it.
    • Doing a chore they would normally do (e.g., cleaning the playroom, making their bed).
    • Checking out library books you know they would like or sitting down to do their homework together.

The ideas shared here are a great starting point to help you determine your child’s primary love language. Figuring them out will take some trial and error, just like all the other relationships in your life. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the change you see in them and the confidence you gain as you work to build a stronger bond.

What’s your child’s love language?

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A South Carolina native, Erica is originally from the Upstate and has moved back to Charleston with her family after a 10 year, traffic-filled hiatus in Atlanta, GA. Having lived in only two states she likes to explore different cultures through travel and food.  Of all the hats Erica wears her most important roles are as a wife, mother, daughter and fundraiser for her alma mater, College of Charleston. She has been married to her college sweetheart for 13 years and together they have to kiddos that keep them on their toes.  She prides herself on being honest about motherhood and enjoys learning from other moms who tell it like it is. When life offers a little down time Erica enjoys wave jumping at the beach, unapologetically watching bad TV and organizing and re-organizing everything from the dishwasher to the sock drawers to help calm her inner OCD.