How can we love our kids better? The thing about love – and life, really – is that we’re always the star of our own show, right? We can only experience life from our own perspective, experience, and preference. And how this relates to love, is that we notice what makes us feel loved. What things do others do that really make us feel special, cared for, cared about? And then we turn around and do these same things for others, when we’re trying to show them love. So, by default, we show others love the same way that we like to receive love.
But the catch is that people receive love in different ways! So, something that might make us feel really loved – say someone buys us a gift – then when we’re trying to show our kids love, we might buy them a gift too, but it kinda falls flat and we’re disappointed or frustrated or hurt. And it’s not that they’re being disrespectful, it’s just that they prefer to receive love in a different way.
In Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, we find a great tool to explore both how we and our children prefer to receive love. As parents, this is gold! By paying attention and being intentional, we can explore and discover how our children prefer to receive love, so we can love them better.
1. Words of Affirmation
Our words have the power to build up or tear down. Especially with our kids. And when we use our words to love on, speak life, encourage, and connect with our children – it makes them feel so loved.
We can leave notes in their lunches or write them letters. If they’re older or have phones, we can text them throughout the day to check in and say we love them. The greatest gift we can give our kids who receive love as words of affirmation is to get more intentional about saying the things we think about them that are affirming.
2. Physical Touch
Kids need our physical touch! Research has shown over and over babies who are held, snuggled, and kissed develop better emotional, mental, and physical health than babies who are left for long periods of time without contact.
Hugs and kisses are the most common way to speak this love language, but there are so many – snuggling, reading with your child on your lap, rocking them, wrestling, throwing them up in the air, holding hands while you walk, a pick-up game of basketball – these all involve physical touch.
3. Quality Time
It’s about spending time together and really connecting, giving our children the gift of our full presence. It can mean just being together, or maybe having a great conversation, or working together to create a loving environment.
Quality time is not just proximity, it’s connection. Make eye contact, ask questions, and share our feelings and thoughts.
For some of our children, giving and receiving gifts is one of the greatest expressions of love. Maybe this is your child if they keep everything and anything you’ve ever bought or given them, and they keep it somewhere safe because it means so much to them! So, if your child’s love language is gifts, yes – receiving gifts makes them feel loved. If you notice this is your child’s love language, the real magic is that they feel the emotion behind the gift because you love them. It is not showing your love by taking them to the toy aisle and filling the cart with things every week, but by using gifts to express sincere love.
We can have so much fun and be creative with this love language! We could take the common things around the house and make them gifts. We can gift wrap that new toothpaste and let them open it! We can put small things in the mail and send it back to them at our address! We can write a song or a poem. We can personalize things for them. We can pick or buy them flowers. So many thoughtful ways you can show them love!
5. Acts of Service
Acts of service are ways we can spend quality time bonding with our children and doing things for our children that show them that we care. This one is my primary love language, so I know that my tendency is to show Jeff and the girls that I love them by doing things for them. Making them meals or snacks, planning fun things to do together, fixing things that are broken, helping them with homework or anything, really. It’s the things we can do for them that seen as an expression of emotional love.
What’s your children’s love language? Let us know in the comments below!