If you truly observe, listen and want to understand – kids are always conveying what they want. However, many times we tend to see behavior and fail to see the underlying need.
All behavior is communication. All needs arise from our basic need to be validated. To be seen and heard.
Dr. Gary Chapaman renowned marriage counselor and author of The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, describes five ways in which we show love to each other. The above book is in relation to couples. To know more about this read – How to use the 5 love languages during lockdown.
He later co-authored a book called The 5 Love Languages of Children which propagates the same concept. That we give and receive love in 5 different ways. Now usually we apply the golden rule to everything in life – Treat others like you would like to be treated. But does it always work? Especially with love.
For example, I like words or kind gestures. So I would pour positive words into my kids and do lots of things for them. Of course, this is needed – but still, I would find my son grumpy or conveying that I do not love him. Then I noticed he always wants to sit in my lap (he is my size now) or comes and puts his arm around my shoulder. Suddenly it hit me – his love langauge is touch!
Hence I made a new rule to follow here – Love others the way they want to be loved.
THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES OF KIDS
1. Words Of Affirmation
Words which build – inner love, confidence and resilience are words of affirmation. When kids hear positive words about themselves – they love themselves more.
The above is especially true for children whose love language is words of affirmation. Uplifting, kind and encouraging words are like water & sunlight(for plants) to them. They begin to flourish, thrive and blossom.
How to Identify
If your child does or says these things – his/her primary love language is words of affirmation:
- They keep on looking for praise. Like if they make something they will immediately want you to comment.
- If your reply is short, they will ‘dig for more’
- They beam when you praise their work in detail.
- They keep on asking what you love about them.
- They do not like it if your praise another sibling voraciously.
These kids build self-esteem and self-love through your words. They are not praise-seeking – they see themselves, how you see them.
What To Do If Your Child’s Love Language Is Words Of Affirmation
Here our a few tips:
- Hide notes in their lunch, bag packs, or even around the house. Make it a treasure hunt. Each note should be a detailed account of any particular achievement.
- Make a scrapbook with their achievements. Invite family members to write something nice for them. These memoirs help them in tough times.
- Make a video about 10 things you love about them. Use stories, pictures, and vivid language. Share it on Whatsapp groups or social media. It shows to them how proud you are.
- Say ‘I love you’ randomly and not miserly. Pour love into them every chance you get.
- Be your kid’s shoutout! Describe their many talents and achievements to family members and friends. There is no better feeling than overhearing your praise.
- For younger kids, playfully talk to their stuffed toys and use genuine praise. And see your child beam!
Note: The above ‘achievements’ are not limited to academics. It can be being kind to a neighbor, learning to draw, making something out of scrap, etc. The idea behind this is to be supported in any small or big endeavor. Be their biggest cheerleader!
To know what words to use : Download by free printable on 50+ positive conversation starter ideas
Also, children are not spoilt by love. I do not think there are any ‘bad’ kids. Only our perspective on their behavior. We tend to see the outcome, not the reason. To understand this concept – which changed my parenting – read: Bursting Parenting Myths: Wasn’t My Child Supposed To Listen To Me? (Part 1)
What To Avoid If Your Child’s Love Language Is Words Of Affirmation
- Do not use hurtful words
- Do not publicly criticize
- Do not blame them for your problems
- Do not shame their failures
- Avoid using words they have specifically said which hurt them. Even as a joke.
- Avoid comparing and demeaning them
2. Quality Time
Time is the most precious commodity and taking time to spend it with your child makes them feel valued. And there is no better way to show your children they are valuable people other than to value them.
Give them the same attention you would give an esteemed colleague or mentor. Be curious and respect what they have to say. They will begin to respect and value you. These are seeds of how your relationship will be when they become adults.
A key to quality time is to – Listen Actively.
How to Identify
If your child does or says these things – his/her primary love language is Quality Time:
- If they keep on asking – “Can you play with me?”, “Can you sit with me?”
- They keep on asking you to turn off the phone and play with them.
- They do not like you spending too much alone time with another sibling.
- They feel left out and complain that you are never there.
What To Do If Your Child’s Love Language Is Quality Time
Here our a few tips:
- Plan a specific time slot to be with them exclusively. Keep phones away. Set a timer and let your child decide the activities. During this time – listen to their expressions, body language, and words. Be an enthusiastic responder. When the timer sets off – your child knows your stopping because time is done not because you’re leaving them.
- During holidays or weekends – plan your schedule to accommodate more family activities. Organize board games, crafts, or any activities which can be done together as a family.
- Try Screen-free Sundays. It means for all family members – any use of screens is prohibited. This helps you healthwise and brings you together too. The details can be worked together as a family.
- Another idea is to have a Family Huddle. It is essentially a problem-solving session and works wonders since everyone is heard and understood. For details, read: Problem Solving Skills & Steps
- For COVID – 19 Lockdown, I have written 15 easy practical ways to spend time with your kids and keep their love tank full. Utilize this wonderful time to build connections for a lifetime. To know more, read: 15 Activities to Keep Children Busy During Lockdown
- Just chatting before bedtime gives a wonderful way to end the day. For younger kids, it can include stories and rhymes too. Another idea is to discuss Three Good Things about the day. It can be simply eating your favorite food or being grateful for all the time spent together.
- If you have more than one child, be sure to spend an equal amount of time with each. The activities can be different as per the child’s interest and mood. Sometimes just lying down head to head and making light conversation is the best thing in the world!
Note: These kids are NOT attention-seeking, they are connection-seeking.
What To Avoid If Your Child’s Love Language is Quality Time
- Do not cancel planned times too often
- Do not justify canceling. It makes them feel less valued. Just apologize if unavoidable.
- Do not use isolation as punishment. It is the most hurtful thing to do for them.
- Avoid spending too much time with one particular child. If the situation demands it, do try and fit it in surprise slots for the child you are not giving attention to.
3. Acts of Service
Here action is key. Showing your love by helping them with something is of paramount importance. These kids tend to look a lot like dependent and lazy – but actually they just want you to prove your love to them – through action.
I sometimes feel – children like to ‘test’ us – to see us pass with flying colors. Because they just want to prove to themselves that they are loved unconditionally by us.
How to Identify
If your child does or says these things – his/her primary love language is Acts of Service:
- If you often hear your kids say this – “Can you make me eat?”, “Please help me with this homework”
- They seem to always want assistance
- They complain you never do anything for them
- You feel you are always serving them
What To Do If Your Child’s Love Language Is Acts Of Service
Here our a few tips:
- For younger children, it could mean helping with wearing clothes or clearing away toys. Your help means support to them. Use fun actions to complete these tasks.
- For older kids, it could mean doing surprise acts of kindness. Making a favorite snack or arranging for dinner in bed after a tough day. To show through gestures that you saw their need.
- Go above and beyond in certain cases – like checking their stationery needs and calling for things before they ask.
- When these children are not well – make yourself more available. Be ready with medicines and a glass of water.
- Think long-term. All children develop differently. Our eventual goal is to make kids independent. So when they too often ask for a service – make it a learning goal.
Note: Sometimes we fail to assess correctly our children’s developmental needs. With age-old references we expect them to do far more than they are developmentally capable of. To know more on this, read: Bursting Parenting Myths: Wasn’t My Child Supposed to Listen to Me? (Part 2)
What To Avoid If Your Child’s Love Language is Acts of Service
- Avoid overdoing any particular request. (Judge the age, frequency of ask, and deny gently)
- Do not go long periods with any surprise gestures
- Do not call them lazy
- Do not blame them for their want of assistance (Understand it)
A gift is a visual confirmation of love for those whose love language is receiving gifts. For them it is the thought behind the gift which matters most.
The gifts do no always need to expensive and ‘shiny’. They are a way to communicate and cherish love.
How to Identify
If your child does or says these things – his/her primary love language is Receiving Gifts:
- They will keep gifts very carefully
- Unwrap gifts with a lot of care and attention
- Ask for mementos from holiday trips
- Make you a lot of handmade gifts
What To Do If Your Child’s Love Language Is Receiving Gifts
Here our a few tips:
- Buy gifts as per need, age, and occasion. Do not give in to every demand.
- Research together on gifts asked and come up with certain guidelines and budgets.
- If you want to deny, give 3 reasons why. This helps you also to think instead of saying an unthoughtful and direct no.
- Invest time in making handmade scrapbooks, cards, or anything useful for them.
- Surprise them with a small token like any favorite ice cream or chocolate. Even buying once a week can work. Remember you are conveying your affection through these gifts.
- Give a golden sticker for extraordinary positive behavior. Since they already associate gifts with love – it helps to relate gifs to positive behavior too.
- If your child is away, mail a gift reminding them of home.
- Make a big deal of gifts they make like trinkets, cards, or scrapbooks. Share your appreciation with family members and close friends. Be very detailed and gracious in your appreciation.
- Make an extra effort on birthdays or any other special occasion. Plan special activities and shower them with gifts. Here many can be handmade too.
Note: A gift can be a flower, a song, a video, a card – the common theme here is to present it with love and adoration!
What To Avoid If Your Child’s Love Language is Receiving Gifts
- Do not say NO immediately and harshly.
- Avoid shaming them for their wants.
- Do not overdo gifts. (Keep a check on yourself and them)
5. Physical Touch
Touch is an expression of love for those whose love language is Physical Touch. They need to ‘feel’ the love physically in their body.
All humans need connection to thrive but here a squeeze, a pat, or hug can convey much more than words. Touch is registered in our emotional memory and your child’s body becomes a bank for these wonderful memories.
How to Identify
If your child does or says these things – his/her primary love language is Physical Touch:
- If they keep saying – “Hug me”, ” I want to sit in your lap”
- They seem to touch you when they pass by
- They are sometimes rough(handsy) with siblings
- They like to sleep in your bed and just be next to you
- They beam at surprise hugs and kisses
What To Do If Your Child’s Love Language Is Physical Touch
Here our a few tips:
- For great work, give a pat on the back!
- Be the hug monster. Suddenly get up and dramatically wave your arms with loud noises and catch a child – and HUG! Shower lots tight and full of love hugs:)
- Lie on the bed and ask your kids to pile up on top of you to make a human pyramid.
- When they are distressed squeeze your kid’s arm gently to show care.
- Touch arm or shoulder while listening and maintain eye contact. For any conversation do not keep too much distance.
- Kiss on the forehead for any and every greeting.
- Lots of high fives for praise and accomplishing any task.
- For younger children, safe roughhousing helps them to soothe their bodies.
- Give them lots of massages and even volunteer to have them massage your head or shoulder.
Note: Children are very sensitive to touch. They can sense loving and harsh touch. Whenever you play with any child – be it tickling, massaging, or hugging – if you feel they are pulling away. STOP IMMEDIATELY
ASK – Is this touch acceptable to you?
Unsafe touch is any touch without consent. By this you are ingraining the concept of CONSENT in them. And ensuring that they always receive touch which will help them blossom.
What To Avoid If Your Child’s Love Language is Physical Touch
- DO NOT SPANK THEM – It is devasting especially for them
- Do not pull ears or TOUCH in any other HARSH way
- Avoid going for long periods without hugs or pats on the back
In conclusion, as mentioned before children need ALL 5 LOVE LANGUAGES to flourish. As they grow you will observe one language preceding all others. This may even change with age. Like physical touch may be more prominent with young kids and words of affirmation more required with teens.
You can start by identifying the top two – these are the two most prominent ways they like to receive love and make up eighty percent of how they would like to be loved.
Personally, I have found a profound difference in my kids once we discussed this idea as a family. It has actually improved their sibling relationship too. For more ideas, please read: 6 Unique & Tested Ways On How To Deal With Sibling Rivalry
Eventually, the idea is to find the right combination at the right age by truly listening. As this is definitely a labor of love.
How does your child like to be loved? Drop in comments:)