Matthew 22: 37-39: “Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment.And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
When we read this bible verse, we come across a very common truth: we need to show love to one another. However, we often say this over and over again and don’t stop to think about what it really means in practice. Have you ever wondered how much saying “I love you” goes much further than words? And have you ever stopped to imagine how much showing love to the children around us goes far beyond what we think is good for their development?
The early years of a child are crucial for their physical, cognitive and emotional development and knowing how to love them in their different ways will only bring benefits to the family or the classroom. Having said that, how can I know how they feel loved and love them in their specific ways?
Gary Chapman, in his many years of experience in counselling field, describes what he calls 5 different love languages. He believes that just as there are different languages in the world, there are also different ways to show love, so if we want to love each other in practice, and we want to create affective memories with our children, we need to learn their specific love languages, or in other words, how they feel loved in practice. Words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, acts of service and gifts are different ways of loving our children.
If phrases like “You are awesome!”, “I love having you around!”, “What a blessing to have you in my life”, “Congratulations on your effort” make your child or student feels very happy and warm their heart, it is very likely that their love language is Words of Affirmation. Our words can be extremely significant for a child’s emotional development and the way they see themselves. As in Proverbs 16:24 says “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” what you say and how you do it to children is extremely important to their relationship and holistic development. Words of Affirmation can be words of affection where you express appreciation for those “characteristics and abilities that are part of the total package of the person” (p. 47) and Words of Praise where you express appreciation for something the child has accomplished. There are also words of encouragement in which a child is motivated to go even further in their activities and tasks.
Perhaps the children around you like words of affirmation, but they feel even more loved when they are going through some difficult times and they can rest in the comfort of your arms. Children who feel motivated when they get a hand on their shoulder or even a kiss from their parents are likely children who have the love language of Physical Touch. Appropriate physical touch, in the words of Chapman, will speak louder than fixing a toy or even saying “I love you” (p. 40).
However, if your child feels really loved when they receive something special after a long time without seeing each other, or if they are very excited about small expressions of affection in the form of gifts, perhaps their language is gifts. For these types of children, nothing else matters than being remembered by their parents through meaningful little gifts that express how special they are. Note, however, that gifts must be “genuine expressions of love”. Don’t try to buy something random simply to try to fill your child’s heart with love without really considering the reason behind that gift. Even if it’s something simple as a keyring or a sweet treat, let them know why that present made you remember them.
If you’ve tried giving gifts or hugging your kids but fixing a toy has brought your child a lot more happiness, Acts of Service are probably their love language. Have you ever heard them say: “I know my mum loves me because when I need help with doing my homework, she assists me”, or even “I love when I see that my dad sews the buttons on my uniform even after he has had a tiring and tough day at work.” Acts of service speak much louder to these kids than words, physical touch or even quality time. For these children, serving manifested in concrete actions means love in practice.
If you would like to find out your child’s love language, here is a link where you can access a test that the author created for that purpose: https://5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/love-language. Just select “I am taking the quiz for my child” and have fun. Hope you enjoy to find more about your kids and express love to them in their specific love language.
Ref: CHAPMAN, G. The 5 love languages of children. United States of America,1997.