My niece made homemade gifts for everyone for the holidays. They were sweet, adorable, and she had clearly thought about each one of us during their selection. They brought both a grin to my face and tears to my eyes. But when my sister said, “She really loves to give gifts. It’s one of her love languages,” it suddenly struck me how true that was. She’s always giving us little things, from pretty rocks to half-used notebooks, to old board books that are a little worse for the wear.
It got me thinking—do children have love languages? And how can you tell your child’s love language?
(photo credit: Blooming Images)
The Five Love Languages
You’ve probably heard of The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. From daily interactions to those quiet, private moments, the Five Love Languages and the book from which they come can help couples understand how to meet each other’s emotional needs.
The same concept applies to your child’s love languages, which they share in common with adults: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality of time, gifts, acts of service. The way the love languages will manifest will look different for kids, however.
In an article for Motherly, Dr. Shannon Warden writes that, for children, the five love language will look like:
- Physical Touch: Any kind of loving touch that lets your child know you’re there.
- Words of Affirmation: Kindly words that let your child know that you value them for who they are.
- Quality Time: Time spent with your child where your attention is on them.
- Gifts: A “token of your love” of any size from you.
- Acts of Service: Support or help that lets your child know you’re there for them and that they can count on you.
Children need and appreciate all of the love languages. (What little one doesn’t like gifts?) But speaking in their specific love language means you are communicating in a way that they understand. Your child’s love language is the “loudest” and most meaningful way to let them know how much you care.
What Does Your Child’s Love Language Look Like?
Theory is one thing, but, for me, actually doing it is more challenging. What does it look like to put your child’s love language into practice?
Physical touch can be cuddling on the couch, a visit from the kissing monster, or even the tickle monster. Words of affirmation can range from notes in a lunchbox to praise for a job well done to simply telling them you love them. Quality time might mean a trip to the zoo or even half an hour building houses out of blocks. You can respect love through gifts without overdoing it by giving small tokens like a pretty rock or a special eraser you saw that you knew they would like.
Acts of service are a little tougher when it comes to kids. To your child, when you help them do something like tying their shoes, it means love. To you, it may seem like they’re treating you a little like a servant. Showing love this way doesn’t mean you can’t set limits and that you have to do everything they ask. In a Parents.com article, Dr. Chapman recommends “walking your child through a new process and teaching him, step-by-step, how to be more capable.”
Both Dr. Warden and Dr. Chapman point out that the five love languages are for older children; babies need all five before their specific likes and needs start to solidify around age five. But, honestly, I can already see my child’s love language even though she’s only two and a half. She loves touch and hugs and kisses (all of which she gives out freely), even though I wouldn’t consider her “cuddly.” She also craves quality time. When she doesn’t spend daily time with my husband and me, she starts to act out and falls apart more easily.
I like understanding my daughter’s love languages. Even though I can’t always give her the attention she would like, it does give me a way to connect with her on a deeper level. And I think we both benefit.
What do you think your child’s love language is?