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Children and Love Languages

I’ve finished reading The Five Love Languages for the second time and this is my last post about it except for some personal stories I might tell later on that might reference the 5LL principles.

Gary Chapman has written more books on the subject that I will probably read at some point, but he at least devotes one chapter of the feature 5LL book to children. This is important to me because my children are getting old enough now that we can start trying to identify what their primary love languages are.

When children are little you don’t know what their primary love language is so you just pour all five on them, but with a little observation of their behavior we can begin to identify their primary love language rather early. Little things they do can clue you in to what their primary love language is.

Devin and Skyler are starting to show signs of what theirs are – at least what they are for now. Devin could care less if I hug and kiss him but he seems excited when I spend some time play-fighting or throwing a ball or just letting him ride in “the silver car” (he thinks our silver car is so cool – well it IS cooler than our minivan). I think his primary love language is quality time. Skyler seems to really want hugs and kisses from daddy, which just melts me, but I think she also really likes quality time. She wants me to be Prince Derek (Barbie and the 12 Dancing Princeses) and she is Geneveve (or however you spell it). It might take me a little while longer to pick out her primary love language.

It is very important to learn how to communicate love to your children in a language they understand. Experts believe that as children grow older they will seek love in inappropriate places if their emotional love tank is empty. In fact they believe that almost all sexual misconduct in adolescents is because they have empty love tanks.

In case you didn’t catch it the first time – It is very important to learn how to communicate love to your children in a langauge THEY UNDERSTAND. I’m praying now (while my kids are young) that I will learn to communicate love to my children in a way that fills THEIR emotional love tank. We can be the most loving parents in the world with sincere intentions (most parents are loving and sincere) but if we speak the WRONG love language we fail to make our children feel loved.

Words of Affirmation – When our kids are young we do this very well, “you’re so pretty” (even if they’re ugly they’re pretty to us), “you can do it” as they learn to walk, etc. etc… What happens though is as they get older our words turn to condemnation for failures rather than commending successes. This haunts us into adulthood and many adults have self-esteem issues because of this love language being violated when they were young. (This is a tough one for me with my own children. I have to be careful. My dad was pretty hard on me and sometimes I feel like I’m being even harder on my own kids. My parents didn’t have this book when I was little, so my dad didn’t know. Gary Chapman waited til I was 14 yrs old to write this book, and that’s about when my dad stopped reading and started slaving in the insurance business…anyway…my warped self is another story).

Quality Time – giving a child undivided attention. Get down on the child’s level and do kid stuff. As they get older and develop new interests you have to change to what their interests are. I was so excited when we signed Devin up for soccer this past fall. Well it turns out Devin either doesn’t like soccer or isn’t ready for it. As much as this pains me because I love soccer, I am going to have to go with the flow of whatever he is in to (which is him beating me up like a superhero on a bad guy most of the time). If quality time is a primary love language of your child you need to fill that need because if you don’t as they get older it will be too late. You’ll realize that it’s important one day only to find out they don’t want your time anymore – they’ve gone and filled that need with their peers (which will be other teens who probably don’t feel loved by their parents either – and what do they do together – inappropriate stuff).

Receiving Gifts – This one is spoken excessively a lot of the time – especially by grandparents or parents who happen to have money to blow. It’s easy for adults to think that giving toys and other gifts speaks love to their children or grandchildren, but it might not. Younger children will play with the box as much as the toy. But even older children will show you if a gift is important to them by how quickly they put the gift aside, or by how well they take care of it rather than abuse it. My kids are either too young to understand appreciating gifts or it is definitely not high on their love list because they abuse or lose everything I would expect them to cherish. My kids enjoy a trip to the only a dollar store to pick out five things each more than some of the really nice toys they’ve been given. That’s a good reminder that it’s the thought that counts to someone who’s primary love language is gifts. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, you can even make the gift. To someone who truly receives gifts as love they will be thrilled that you thought enough of them to give them anything special.

Acts of Service – We have to do this one as parents because when our kids are small they would die if we didn’t feed, bathe, dress, etc.. Most kids take stuff for granted even when they get older and the acts of service change to taxi and homework etc. But if your child is always expressing appreciation for these ordinary things that is a clue that acts of service is emotionally important to them. I took for granted when my dad fixed my bike then later my car, and my mom did everything for me. But now I appreciate acts of service more because it’s important to Shawna…

Physical Touch – This is important for all small children, but the hugging and kissing of a teenager will differ from that of an infant. A teenager might not want you loving on them in front of their peers but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to them. If physical touch is a primary love language a teenager might do silly stuff like grab your arms or push you. I wasn’t like that with my mom. People used to comment about how I would put my arm around my mom or hug her when ever or where ever. They might have been making fun of me but I didn’t care cause. I took it as a compliment that I loved my mom so much…

This stuff is important – ok. Observe how your children show love. Listen to what they request of you and what they express the most appreciation for. These things give you clues about what their primary love language is. Remember that every child is different, so don’t make the common mistake of assuming the needs of one child are the same as the other. It’s worth working on this stuff so our kids can have full emotional love tanks and so they will be less likely to have issues when they get older. Well, maybe not MAJOR issues. We all have issues of some sort anyway – it’s inevitable.

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