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Using Love Languages with Your Kids

Expressing your love for your kids isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Each person is different, and we all give and receive love in different ways. The next time you try to bond with your kiddos, try and “speak” their love language. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Love Others the Way They Need Loved

Showing affection and love is part of being a human. But have you ever put a ton of time and effort into a loving gesture only to have your spouse, child, or friend say something to the effect of “that’s nice” and move on?

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Long-time marriage counselor Dr. Gary Chapman developed The 5 Love Languages®, which states that people give and receive love in five dependable ways.

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Physical Touch
  4. Gifts
  5. Quality Time

It also observes that people don’t receive each type of love the same way. A person who values words may long for verbal affirmation but be ambivalent toward a gift. Or they may really appreciate a hug but wouldn’t notice at all if you did something nice for them.

People often give and receive love in the same way. So, if we can identify another person’s love language by the way they naturally express affection, we can better choose how to express our love to them.

See how nice that is?!?

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Loving Your Kids with Love Languages

If you’re trying to find ways to express your love to your kids, the first thing you need to do is figure out their love languages. When they’re teeny-tiny, have low expectations on discovering this out quickly. A toddler can barely communicate how they feel. Forget about getting a thoughtful answer to the question, “How do you prefer to be loved?”

For preschoolers and pre-K kids, watch how they like to express love most often. Observe their reactions to different expressions of love from other people. When you get a read on the ways they like to show and receive love, it’s time to use that information!

1 – Words of Affirmation

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a. Does your child …

  • Constantly tell you they love you or ask if you love them? 
  • Act as the family “cheerleader”?
  • Write encouraging notes? 

b. Then …

  • Verbally praise them when they do something nice or achieve something.
  • Write them notes, even if they can’t read. Tell them what you wrote so they can hear your appreciation. 
  • Praise them in front of others.

c. Be cautious about …

  • Using strong language or a harsh tone when disciplining them.
  • Dismissing their loving comments.
  • Being critical about them in front of others.

2 – Acts of Service

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a. Does your child …

  • Like to help you with tasks? 
  • Love to show how they can lift something heavy, find something that’s lost, or get things together before you leave the house?
  • Take great pride in being labeled as a “helper”?

b. Then …

  • Make them breakfast.
  • Include them in completing your daily task list.
  • Occasionally help them with something they don’t particularly like doing. 

c. Be cautious about …

  • Not recognizing their contributions.
  • Telling them they’re too little to help.
  • Complaining about how their help actually made things harder for you.

3 – Physical Touch

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a. Does your child …

  • Love to hang on you?
  • Ask and give lots of hugs, kisses, hand holding, and high-fives?
  • Like to snuggle during movie time or moments of rest?

b. Then …

  • Hug them back!
  • Make some kind of physical contact when expressing love or pleasure.
  • Initiate physical contact with them for no reason at all.

c. Be cautious about …

  • Complaining in regards to their need to touch.
  • Pushing them away when they want to be close.
  • Isolating them from other people and physical interaction.

4 – Gifts

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a. Does your child …

  • Light up when someone gives them something unexpectedly?
  • Have a hard time getting rid of things because of the memories associated with the item?
  • Constantly make and give you things?

b. Then …

  • Pick up their favorite snack from the store for no reason.
  • Buy an inexpensive stuffed animal or toy to commemorate a special occasion, such as holidays, vacations, or the birth of a new baby.
  • Put their arts and crafts in a place of prominence.

c. Be cautious about …

  • Labeling them as materialistic. Remember, it’s not about the gift itself. It’s the thought behind it that they are attached to.
  • Dismissing the seemingly insignificant doodad or craft they’ve given you.
  • Overindulging. Again, it’s the thought behind the gift that matters. “This made me think of you,” is much more important than, “I spent a lot of money on you.” 

5 – Quality Time

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a. Does your child …

  • Like to be around others, even if they may not be saying much?
  • Get upset about being left out?
  • Not seem to care about the activity itself but is overly concerned about the right people being involved? 

b. Then …

  • Put your phone down when you’re with them. (Seriously, it’s that simple.)
  • Have a special activity you do JUST with them.
  • Establish family rituals that make them feel appreciated and seen. 

c. Be cautious about …

  • Filling your schedule with other things and people.
  • Overlooking their requests to spend time with you.
  • Making them feel left out.

Effort, Not Perfection

If you’re lucky enough to have a child who gives and receives love the same way you do, you may not struggle with speaking their love language. If not, it certainly doesn’t doom your relationship as their parent. With some time, you and your child will both learn how to love each other the way you both need it. It won’t be flawless, but that’s never the expectation. The effort you put in — no matter how imperfect — is what matters.

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