Have you ever given your child a well-planned, well-thought out gift, only to see his reaction was less than thrilled? How about running like a headless chicken while preparing for your daughter’s birthday party, only to hear “I don’t want a party!I just want to be with you, Mommy”?
If your answer is yes, it is possible that your way of expressing love for your child is different from the way he wants to be loved. Knowing your child’s love language will help you better understand and effectively express your love for your little one because your love comes in a package he can recognize.
In his bestselling book The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman reveals that love is not often the problem, but the love language used to show it. The love language is the means to fill up a person’s “emotional love tank” or his need for love.
The five love languages are:
1. Words of affirmation
2. Physical touch
3. Receiving gifts
4. Acts of service, and
5. Quality time
According to Pia Acevedo, certified life coach at One Core Success Center and Love Institute, “There is no difference between the love languages of adults and of children. The contrast lies in the assessment and interpretation of these love languages.” She says that adults are more capable of defining their preferences, whereas children need help in identifying the acts of love they most appreciate.
How do you identify your child’s love language then?
“Each parent should observe how the child expresses affection and love within the family,” Acevedo says. This can help you discover your child’s primary and even secondary language. You can do a trial run for a period, using a particular love language for your child, until you identify which language works best. If talking to your tot is easy,Acevedo suggests having a simple question-and-answer discussion to figure out what love language your child prefers most.
According to the book The Five Love Languages of Children by Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell, you can learn and strengthen the bond you share with your kids through the following:
Physical Touch A child who appreciates this kind of love language shows love for his parents by mostly hugging, kissing, and cuddling them. He feels most secure when a parent sits near or beside him. Smaller kids feel loved through touch and prefer kisses and hugs, sitting on a parent’s lap, or being placed side by side with the parent. For bigger kids, a pat on the back, holding hands, a high-five, or an arm around their shoulder would work wonders, too.
Words of Affirmation “That’s a nice dress, Mama.” “Look at my drawing, Dad!” A child who tells you what she likes and often seeks compliments feels loved through words of affirmation. She feels special when you tell her you appreciate her by writing her little love notes, using encouraging words when talking to her, affirming both her efforts and achievements, and refraining from the use of harsh, critical words.
Quality Time A child who requests Mom or Dad to spend time with him, play and do activities together, or chat and have “dates” feels loved through one-on-one focused time. Allot a special time for your child by just being there to listen to his stories and feelings, and to play his favorite game. Bring your kid along during errands, allow him to help you out in the kitchen, take walks with your little one, and simply be present for him.
Receiving Gifts A child who often gives out a little something—a toy wrapped in paper, flowers from the garden, or even candy—tends to feel loved through gifts. These gifts should be given together with any of the other love languages. You may give tangible things as an expression of love, such as small, inexpensive tokens, thoughtful gifts, or homemade presents. This will mean a lot to your child during ordinary days and more special occasions.
Acts of Service A kid who jumps at Mom’s request for a glass of water or at Dad’s plea for a back rub shows his love through acts of service. You may express your love to this type of child by preparing a special meal for him after a difficult exam, working on handmade party favors, helping him out on a school project, or just bringing him to enrichment classes.
A child's unique language Acevedo explains, “The [purpose] of this tool is for you to connect more deeply with your child and in doing so, build his sense of worth. Each child will then feel that he has a significant bond with each of his parents.” This language is unique to the child, different from his siblings’, and “makes him feel very special and loved.”
For Claire Buenaventura-Aguisanda, a guidance counselor and mom to Clark, 15, and Margaret, 5, knowing her kids’ love languages has helped her a lot in terms of parenting. “If a child’s love tank is full, problems and issues are easily addressed because he knows he is loved no matter what.” Her son’s primary love language is quality time and needs to be given “air time.”
“I listen to him when he wants to talk about anything,” Claire says. She is still in the process of identifying her daughter’s primary love language, but Claire feels she must use all five languages for now, such as reading to Margaret while cuddling, playing together, affirming her, and teaching her new things.
Lactation consultant and mom-of-two Mec Arevalo says, “I talk to my five-year-old Jakob a lot and try to acknowledge his efforts verbally.” She takes him out on weekly dates, plays with him, and reads to him. For her toddler Mikah, 2, “I read to him on my lap and cuddle him all the time.”
Rhoda Pinlac, a grade-school counselor, and mom to Riam, 12, and Joram, 7, believes that love languages are “essential elements for building the parent-child bond.” Her eldest feels loved through acts of service and physical touch. “He will always greet me with a wide smile and a warm hug. He is ready to help us in any way he can.”
Her youngest, on the other hand, thrives on words of affirmation and quality time. Joram says, “I love it whenever we stay at home and do our sayahan (fun moments)!” These fun moments happen when they tickle each other, share funny stories, and crack jokes.
Rhoda adds, “My presence is the main source of their emotional love tank. I am conscious of their needs and I address them immediately.”
Acevedo, who is also a mom to three boys, stresses, “Maximizing the limited time and energy we have in a day is very important for a mom who works. Knowing my spouse’s and sons’ love languages helps me to connect with them precisely and efficiently, given the seemingly limited time and resources I have in a day.”