As parents, you’re always telling your kids you love them. But how do you ensure that they know it? And how can you love them as they want you to?
My parents rarely said “I love you” throughout my growing-up years. Maybe an iteration of it in Malay, but even then, it wasn’t said often. Or, they’d say it in anger. “I scold you because I love you!” “I love you – that’s why I’m scolding you!” It’s frustrating to hear. I suppose that’s why my brain shuts off whenever someone nags at me. Conversely, when someone compliments me or gives me positive feedback, my heart flutters, and I feel appreciated.
Only many years later, I learned that my primary love language is the positive words and phrases that validate me. So what is a love language, and how can parents effectively use them in loving their children?
What you need to know about love languages
Love languages are the different ways people express and receive love. The concept, developed by Dr Gary Chapman in 1992, was based on his experience counselling couples. He noticed couples were misunderstanding each other’s needs, leading him to develop the five love languages.
1. Acts of service
This love language involves doing nice things for others, which makes them feel appreciated. Acts of service can include helping with chores and assisting with their projects. People with this love language believe that action speaks louder than words. They’ll perform service for others, too.
2. Physical touch
You’re into hugs and kisses if your love language is physical touch. You also like cuddling, holding hands, putting your arm around someone, patting their back, and even giving a massage. You enjoy being in close physical proximity to others.
3. Receiving gifts
Those with this as their love languages see gifts as a tangible representation of affection. They treasure the gift and the time and effort the other party has put into it. Gift receivers remember everything they’ve gotten because the gifts have impacted their lives.
4. Quality time
Is this your love language? You want others to shower you with undivided attention and spend quality time with you. It doesn’t matter what activities you’re up to as long as the other party is present and focused on you when you’re together.
5. Words of affirmation
The fifth – and apparently the most common – love language revolves around positive affirmation, both spoken and written. This includes words of encouragement, cute text messages, uplifting notes, and compliments.
Try this quiz to find out your love language. The love language you resonate with the most is ranked at the top. Most people will have one dominant love language, although there are instances of folks having two dominant love languages. So how can parents effectively use love languages to love their children correctly?
The five love languages of children
In his book The 5 Love Languages of Children, Dr Chapman states that parents know they love their children, but how can they make sure their kids know it too? “You have to know how to communicate love to a child so that he genuinely feels loved.” Parents can decode their youngling’s love language by taking the quiz for their kiddo. They can also find out by observing their children, listening to what they say, and finding patterns in their preferences.
If your child is into acts of service…
There are infinite ways to reciprocate your little person’s love language! You can whip up their favourite meals, help them with school projects, or fix their broken toys. If you worry that this won’t teach them to be self-reliant, one way to circumvent that is to walk your child through a new process step by step. This way, they can do it independently should you not be around to help.
If your child constantly seeks physical affection…
Besides hugs and kisses, ask your little one if they would like to sit on your lap. Give them high fives when they did good, and hold their hands. You can even initiate a secret handshake! My older niece enjoys it whenever I lift her under the arms and give her a little spin. Avoid slapping, spanking, or being physically violent – these are hurtful to children.
If your child likes presents…
Who doesn’t like receiving gifts? However, don’t pressure yourself into thinking that the presents must be expensive. It can be a simple gift, like an origami creation or a caricature drawing. My two nieces are currently into stickers, so I get those for them when I spot some lovely stickers at the convenience store, supermarket, or art and craft shops. A small, meaningful gesture makes them feel loved. Be careful not to overdo the gift-giving, as it might spoil them. Also, be sure that the gifts you get are appropriate for your little ones.
If your child wants to spend time with you…
Put your phone away, direct your attention to your tiny person, and actively listen to them. Quality time to your kids is you making an effort and prioritising them. Let your child choose the activity that they want to do with you. It could be colouring, building blocks, or being active at the playground. Psst, if you discipline your child by isolating them in a room or in a corner, that’s a severe punishment to them.
If your child prefers verbal expression…
Leave little sweet notes in their lunch boxes while preparing for them. Put up post-its with words of encouragement in their notebook and on their study table. Tell them how much you appreciate them when they help you with chores. Get down to their eye level when verbally communicating these affirmations with your children. Avoid insults, negative feedback, and criticisms. Oh, and when you say “I love you”, leave it as that. Tagging anything negative with that statement implies your love is conditional.
What if I don’t get it right?
It’s okay if you get it wrong when decoding the love language or communicating your love to your little humans. Don’t beat yourself up! It’s a learning process but part of parenthood. You’ll be able to get it right through attention and effort.
Love languages can also change as your children go into the different stages of life. They may be into physical touch now, but they may prefer receiving gifts in the future. Just stay in tune with your kids’ reactions and behaviours. At the end of the day, it’s all about conveying your love for them in their ways.
What’s your love language? DM us – we’re curious to know!