The five love languages, an idea created by writer and pastor Gary Chapman, have become a widespread basis for viewing relationships. The idea is that everyone has their way of expressing and receiving the love of others. Knowing these preferences can strengthen our connection with our loved ones. Chapman identifies the five love languages as words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, gifts, and quality time.
Everyone typically thinks of languages regarding romantic relationships. Still, some experts believe it can be helpful to consider love languages’ role in parents’ relationships with their children. The idea of love languages being relevant to parenting can be challenging to grasp for some parents. Many believe that their world revolves around their children, so everything they do for them is an act of love.
Parents may also consider why it matters how children express their love to parents when parental love is unconditional and constant. As parents, you probably already use these love languages with your children. However, recognizing when you choose to use them and considering how your preference influences how you express your love can strengthen your bond with your child. While noting that love languages are a theory that hasn’t been validated by research, they are a tool you can use when considering family relationships.
Can love languages affect parenting?
It can be helpful to think about the love languages you typically use with your children and gauge how they most feel loved. Each child is different, so exploring the different types of attention they respond to can help parents build a deeper connection with their child. There are some patterns in how parents show their love to their kids. Research indicates parents’ most common love language with their children is acts of service, while the least common is words of affirmation.
A child can feel when you’re holding back affection because you’re not expressing your love with words. At the same time, you may think that everything you do for your kids on any given day is a better indicator of your love for them. Online quizzes can help you identify your child’s love language, but if you look for clues, you can figure out their love language. You could start by paying attention to what your children say and figure out what you’re already doing that your children like. Here are some ways to consider as a parent based on your love language preferences.
If you think those nighttime cuddles are supporting, there’s no reason to hold back on kisses and hugs unless your child doesn’t like them. Research shows that most maternal touch helps children develop their “social brain,” and another study indicates that motherly touch connects with moral and psychosocial development early in life. Child psychologist Cara Goodwin says you may feel rejected or pushed away if your kids don’t want physical closeness or a hug.
She called these sensitivity points “rejection buttons,” where a small incident can bring raw feelings. It can be effective to see when this happens, remember, the sense of rejection is about you and your past, not your child’s love. Suppose your child has autism, a sensory sensitivity, or another neurological difference. In that case, you may have to think of new ways to express your love and step out of your comfort zone.
Words of affirmation.
Kids typically don’t praise their parents, but there are ways to help them express their gratitude and love verbally. However, setting up a kind words or affirmation box may help your children. During the week, all family members can say or write down a gratitude or appreciation expression for another family member. Then, when you choose, take out the affirmations and read them aloud. This way, it becomes okay for the family to encourage words of affirmation instead of meeting one person’s needs.
Acts of service.
Much of parenting is an act of service. However, if this is your love language, you might feel fulfilled when doing particular tasks like assembling a bed or preparing a special meal. Some acts of service may become a family tradition, like baking a birthday cake or designing a Halloween costume. However, remember not to overdo it. Parents who like acts of service should be mindful not to hinder their children from learning essential skills to gain independence. For example, kids should learn how to do laundry and learn how to cook.
All children can benefit from their parents’ complete attention, especially one-on-one. It can be challenging to fit this time into your busy schedule, but you don’t need much time for this method to succeed. It’s all about quality, not quantity. Ten minutes can make a difference in your relationship with your kids. Ideally, quality time involves one-on-one time with little distractions, including no technology or phones, and resisting the urge to be productive during one-on-one time. Try your best to put all your attention on your child without interruptions. Some children crave more alone time than others, but all children have phases when they need more alone time. For example, the arrival of a new sibling is a good time to schedule regular alone time with your older child.
Like with acts of service, gifts must be significant. They don’t have to be expensive, frequent, or extensive. For example, you should never turn down any food a child offers. You may think you don’t want these soggy Cheerios that your toddler is offering you, but it may be best to summon up your best Cookie Monster impersonation and munch on those Cheerios. Their giggles help you know that they understand they’re appreciated.
If your love language is gifts, look for unconventional or small offerings from your kids, like a flower, rock, or a piece of your favorite candy. Let your kids know you appreciate their intention and effort more than the gift. Children should understand that you don’t get your love language based on good behavior, but it happens in your family to show your feelings about each other.