Love. The simple word can mean so much. It may refer to positive and strong emotional or mental states that can range from the most simple (loving a favorite food, such as Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Easter Eggs) to a deep personal affection that results in a true bond (such as motherly love…like the first moment you lay eyes on your incredible newborn baby). Love is also a virtue or character trait, describing kindness or compassion. But have you ever stopped to consider how you might have a distinct way of expressing or receiving love?
You might be surprised to hear that you, your spouse or significant other, and child may each be speaking their love in a different way—a different language than you. Perhaps tuning into that language might help us learn to interpret another’s gestures of love more accurately. More importantly, we can be even more purposeful in how we communicate our love to others, not just in the language we would understand, but one that they would!
There are countless ways we show our love to those in our life. But what if I was to tell you that you might not be communicating your love well. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have a tool to bring some thought, reason, or structure to your communication? Something that could help you communicate your love in meaningful and effective ways.
Years ago, I read a book called the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It was one of the best books I had ever read, and the information was incredibly helpful. In fact, this is one of the most common resources I use in counseling and premarital counseling. The information he shared on love languages can truly be transforming in relationships, not just in love relationships like a marriage, but also with your child.
Let’s back up and learn the basics. In short, there are five love languages that were identified. They are as follows:
- Physical Touch
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
It is interesting to know that we typically speak our love language to other people. In other words, I am a quality time girl. So when I communicate my love to my kids, I am often looking for ways that I can spend special time with them so they know I love them. Likewise, since my love language is quality time, I long to have my husband spend time with me, quality time that we can interact and connect. This would make me feel really loved.
This is where the problem often arises. You see, my husband’s love language is NOT quality time. His is words of affirmation. So he may tell me numerous times in a day that I look pretty or something. Now I am not crazy enough to think that when my hair is tossed in a messy bun, and I am outfitted in sweats and no makeup that I am looking good! So it is easy for me to render these comments as foolish unless of course I realize that he is voicing his love for me! Remember, his love language is words of affirmation.
How do you typically show love to others?
Think for a moment about these scenarios. Think of them in a general sense, not specific to your own child and his or her preferences. Just try to see which of the options seems like the one you are most drawn to naturally.
Let’s pretend your child is going through a really rough time. He is struggling at school and feeling like he has no friends. How might you try to show your love for him?
Would you do his chores for him on a hard day?
Would you attempt to find that special toy or item that would bring a smile to his face?
Would you sit and watch a movie with him?
Would you offer extra hugs and a back rub?
Would you sit and try to find just the right words to make him feel special and valued?
Let’s try another one. Your teenage daughter has had her eye on a young man and discovers that he has just started dating a classmate. You know she’s beyond bummed. How might you help her feel loved?
Offer to do her laundry to ease her load?
Take her for a special Starbuck’s date?
Pick up a special gift in town that you know she will love?
Give her a special dose of hugs and back rubs?
Write her a note to tell her the things you love about her?
How about you?
You probably can see from the above that you are drawn to some answers over others. These are generally the love language you are most tuned in to. But let’s imagine that it relates to you this time. You have had a horribly hard week. The past few days have been filled with discouragement and disappointment. You tell your spouse or significant other that you just don’t feel loved. How would you most hope for them to respond?
Take you on a special date?
Write you a note of encouragement?
Fix dinner and give you a break?
Bring you home flowers or chocolates?
Take time to rub your back or snuggle?
It might feel a bit tricky to narrow it down to one. You might find one that comes in a close second. It can be helpful to know this about yourself. And it can definitely be helpful to communicate this with your spouse or significant other. But I think the real value in knowing and understanding the love languages is in using them to express your love to others. You see, you could do the same thing for two different kids and one might walk away feeling extremely loved and cared about while the other just thinks it was a nice gesture.
So what if you could understand the specific love language that your child responds to and then purposefully and effectively speak their language? Imagine having a target for how to be most effective in expressing your love. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to communicate with their heart!
Finding Love Languages
You may enjoy this link where you can answer the questions in the quiz to figure out what your child is. This is a fun way to find out quickly what your child’s love language might be.
Let’s find out just a little bit about each one. There is not one that is better than another and not one that is worse than another. We are each created with different needs and emotional responses. But it can go a long ways to improving a relationship to speak a language that communicates love in a way that the other person can truly hear and understand it. Following each short description are a few pracitical examples of how you might express love in that way.
These individuals give and receive hugs with the greatest of ease. They have no qualms in patting shoulders, rubbing backs, snuggling, or many other kinds of simple physical affection. They may behave similar to cats as they respond to any physical affection they give and just move closer for more. Rarely do they get their fill of affection. They may even unknowingly hug another who is quite averse to the idea and never have a clue. The physical affection they get from others conveys a very special message of love and acceptance.
EX: Cuddling, holding hands, kissing, touch them as you walk by, play with their hair, rubbing their feet or back, massage, sitting close or on your lap, any reassuring touch
Words of Affirmation—
These individuals thrive on the kind words others speak to them. They long to hear of other’s acceptance, approval, and attention through spoken words. They hear a compliment and engage quickly with other words that might follow. The power of spoken word can not be over looked. For these individuals, it is like water to a thirsty horse. They drink them in and look for more. They will tend to go back over the words spoken or written again and again to feel the love and approval time and again. Not only do they like to hear that you love them but also the reason why you love them.
EX: Say I love you, tell them the reasons you love them, acknowledge when they do good things, write notes of appreciation or love, tell others about what they do well, encourage them
Acts of Service—
These individuals are typically ones that are quite productive with their time and energy. They are busy worker bees. So when they want to help someone else feel loved, they quickly key in on what they could do to help that person. Likewise, a productive person will typically not be one who asks for help. But if you want to make your way into their heart, you will find that the things you do to help them are always greatly appreciated. It may be something as simple as completing a task that is usually theirs to doing something off a to-do list that lightens their load in some way. Whatever task you do for them will convey a great sense of love and value to them.
EX: doing their chores, cleaning up for them, running errands for them, helping them with a project, sacrifice what you want to do for them, do things without being asked
These individuals are uniquely blessed by your kind gesture of giving or visual representation of love. They love that you have taken time to choose something you think they’d like or saw something that made you think of them. They are usually ones who give lots of gifts. They hone in one what others share as their dreams, wishes and favorites and then deliver when that person least expects. They love to bless others with gifts and are genuinely blessed when someone thinks of them, knows them, or understands them. The gift does not have to be one of great value, just the idea that you thought of them and wanted to give the something makes them feel incredibly loved and special.
EX: Trinkets, flowers, jewelry, momentos from special times, a favorite treat, food, drink, etc., things they have talked about liking or wanting, gift of you or something you love about them
These individuals simply value being together. It does not have to be a grand plan or extensive idea. They simply value doing things together, whether active or quiet. They value the quality of time spent together over the quantity of time spent together. In the time spent together they long to connect and relate in ways that increase the quality of the relationship and fosters a feeling of love and worth. For them, spending time together, with undivided attention and being present is a real expression of love and devotion.
EX: going for a walk, talking about their day, meeting for coffee or lunch, taking a trip or getaway, working out together, cooking together, gardening together, family vacation, going on a date, time together as a family, preplanned thoughtful date
Expressing Love is Powerful Communication
You might imagine that if certain things are powerful in expressing love, that lack thereof might communicate something powerful as well. So it is important to note that certain things will be more hurtful to your loved one, according to their love language and should be avoided.
Physical Touch—neglecting their need for physical affection, avoiding them, abuse of any kind
Words of Affirmation—insults and criticism, lack of control when speaking
Acts of Service—causing more work for them, being lazy or unwilling to help, breaking commitment to help them
Gifts—missing special events or holidays, thoughtless gifts, or lack of appreciation for their gift
Quality Time—not listening or connecting, making them low priority, distractions in time together
Expressing love is an important part of any relationship and connection. It matters in marriages and dating relationships. In fact, you may enjoy finding a love language quiz no the internet to figure out what you and your spouse or significant other might be and discuss this together. It can be a great step to gaining insight into the workings of your relationship and how to make some steps to improve the relationship.
Likewise, expressing love to your child is key to establishing a genuine connection. When you can understand the specific things that make them feel loved, you can put more conscious effort into channeling your efforts and energies into those things. The quiz at ParentingWithPersonality.com will allow you to quickly get a glimpse into what your child may be. You might also enjoy doing this Would You Rather activity free in your inbox if you aren’t a subscriber you can still get it now. It will generate discussion between you and your child. Their answers will help you understand some of their preferences and will surely generate some good laughs. You might be surprised at what they choose!
Time to Refresh Mom
Many of you have heard, “You can only give what you have inside to give!” And I’m guessing that after the rush of the holidays that you might be feeling as though you are running on empty or just needing some help finding your focus! I totally understand! But don’t worry! I have something that will help you get re-fueled, re-focused, and re-energized! I would love this chance to offer some support and encouragement. I would be thrilled to provide some practical tools and direction as you seek to find a way to feel re-energized in your role of parenting and mothering! That’s why I’m inviting you to take part in the FREE Online Parenting Challenge– Five Days to A Refreshed Mom– that will take place from February 17-22.
Five Days to A Refreshed Mom will help you walk through some key aspects of mothering and how to approach your role with purpose, passion, and a plan! I’d love to share this time with you! Last year’s challenge included approximately 250 people. Don’t miss out on the fun!! I hope that each of you can feel a little love in some way or another during the course of the week, whether it is in enjoying the live videos (quality time), free gifts and giveaways, practical tools to make your job easier (acts of service), virtual hugs and pats on the back (virtual physical touch!), acknowledgment for what insights and progress you share (words of affirmation). So no matter your love language—there’s something for you!! Sign up here now.
Now go take one of those love language tests and comment with what you find! And pin this article for future reference once you know what your whole family is!
Let’s do this!
P.S. If you haven’t grabbed your free parenting planner, do that here! This month the theme is LOVE. And be sure to download the Love Discussion Starters as well. Sign up for my newsletter that has the special link each time to the free parenting resources page to get these free items.