25 ways to use love languages to show love to your kids
In my previous post about love languages I spoke about how helpful Patrick and I have found it to learn about love languages and use them to demonstrate care for each other. It is also a fantastic way to connect with your children; identifying your children’s love languages is a great step towards increasing connection and improving your relationship.
I outlined in the last post that the five ‘love languages’ are as follows:
Physical Touch; Acts of Service; Quality Time; Words of Encouragement; Gifts.
When identifying your child’s love language, think about what they ask from you most. (This can be tricky as kids are, by their nature, demanding both physically and emotionally and if often seems to blur into one endless need!)
According to the theory (and it is a theory, not set in stone) people generally have one primary love language and an almost as important secondary. Are they very cuddly or do they love play fighting? They may have ‘physical touch’ as their primary love language. Do they often ask you to do things for them, like fetch them snacks or help them get dressed even though they can physically l do it for themselves? They would probably tick the ‘acts of service’ box. Do they often tell you ‘I love you’ or are deeply affected if you tell them off? Words of encouragement may be their #1. If they are collectors/hoarders, often bring you sticks or rocks as ‘presents’ and share their food, or if they seem to ask for a lot of material things, they may really value ‘gifts’ (although some children may be replacing quality time with ‘stuff’ if the time with a loved one is not available).
If you can identify the main ways in which your child communicates, it can be helpful to think of ways to show love to them at their level. You may think that getting them a new toy is great, but if it’s cuddles or words of encouragement that are their priority, a toy won’t have the desired effect. Likewise there is no point showering kids in kisses if they dislike them or if they really just want you to talk to them awhile or buy them small gifts as a sign you’ve been thinking of them. Here are 25 ways that you could connect with your child using love languages:
1. Acts of service: Bring snacks to them when they are playing or otherwise engaged in an activity, instead of waiting for them to say they need something to eat or drink. This shows them that you have been thinking about them and their needs before they ask.
2. Acts of service: Ask which clothes they would like to wear the next day and then lay out their clothes for them neatly somewhere they can easily access them. By caring for their things, you are showing them that you care about them.
3. Acts of service: Help them brush their teeth or their hair; it doesn’t matter that they can physically do it themselves. As an adult I am perfectly physically capable of emptying the dishwasher but it shows me that Patrick cares about me when he does it.
4. Acts of service: Set up an activity or toy for them, for example make a train track or lay out a puzzle and let them know that you thought they may enjoy it. This shows that you care about their enjoyment and about their play.
5. Acts of service: Tidy their room for them. (A huge part of respectful parenting is swallowing your pride. I’m not saying do this every time or take on all the responsibility, but humbling ourselves and serving our children as part of everyday life shows them both our love for them as well as how to humble themselves and serve others).
A child whose primary love language is ‘acts of service’ will feel less loved if you make them do something as punishment or in anger, or if you arbitrarily stop helping them with something. Always try to keep serving them with acts of service, and work out any issues another way.
6. Quality time: Take your child out for a dessert date. Try one of those ice-cream parlours with a gazillion flavours and toppings and let them make their own sundae, or simply pop along to any cafe or restaurant (we love Pizza Express for this- molten chocolate, amirite) and just order sweet treats.
7. Quality time: Set aside ‘special time’, where you allocate a time period- half an hour to an hour, perhaps- and spend it just with your child, doing what they want (leave your phone out of the room). For us in the past this has meant crafting with our eldest or watching her play Minecraft, which she loves to narrate to us in detail (we didn’t say it wasn’t a sacrifice!)
8. Quality time: Go to a local library, sit together and read your child’s favourite books.
9. Quality time: Go on a bus or a train ride together, just for the fun of it. Look up the time-table together and let your child pick snacks for the journey.
10. Quality time: Cook with your child. Kids love to help, so get involved in making something together. Let them choose what to cook and try not to hover and control it; let the mess happen and see the joy in it.
Children who need considerable quality time feel it in reverse if that time is taken away- never tell a child whose primary love language is quality time that you won’t be taking them out for their parent/child date or withdraw time together in disapproval of behaviour; this will deeply hurt them.
11. Physical touch: Have your child sit on your lap while you are watching TV or reading books. 2 birds, 1 stone.
12. Physical touch: Play fight with your child. There are many proven physical and emotional benefits to ‘rough-housing’ and it’s a great way to burn energy!
13. Physical touch: Give your child a head massage when washing their hair; I find it relaxes them especially if they don’t love getting their hair washed!
14. Physical touch: Do your child’s face paint, make up or nails. Spending time on them like this is great 1-1 attention and will make them feel special.
15. Physical touch: Do something physical with your child – you could find a yoga channel on YouTube to try together, or take them to a trampolining park.
A child whose love language is ‘physical touch’ will react strongly to any kind of thoughtless or negative touch. Try not to ever move a child without getting their permission and if you have previously hit (‘smacked’) your child, read up about why psychologists say smacking kids is a bad idea.
16. Words of encouragement: Always thank your child for helping you. We often unfortunately slip into the habit of assuming that we are owed help by our children; this is not an attitude that will help the relationship any more than a husband assuming his wife ‘should’ cook him dinner would. Try to thank them instead of saying ‘good boy/girl’, as this places a value on them according to their behaviour instead of who they are.
17. Words of encouragement: Leave them little notes in their lunchbox telling them that you are looking forward to seeing them later or simply that you love them.
18. Words of encouragement: Tell them when you notice something that really blows you away about their character. Our 6 year old is exceptionally compassionate and gracious and I often tell her that I would like to be like her in that regard.
19. Words of encouragement: When your child achieves something, encourage them with “you did it!”; help them own that sense of achievement without burdening them with your own expectations.
20. Words of encouragement: Use positive language as much as possible. Instead of saying “don’t do that”, say “I’d like you to…” so they have something to focus on in a positive way as opposed to what you don’t want them to do. (Example: instead of saying “don’t touch that jar”, say “please could you pass me that jar, thank you”.)
Harsh words will hurt any child, but even more so for the child whose love language is ‘words of encouragement’. Never use negative labels like ‘naughty’ or ‘stupid’; instead calmly talk about why you are unhappy with the situation and try and think of solutions together.
21. Gifts: If your child has a favourite character, look for things related to that character. For example if they love Paw Patrol, look out for cake mixes, clothes and puzzles that are Paw Patrol themed.
22: Gifts: Part of the appeal of gifts is the novelty. On Youtube there are lots of videos of children opening amazing presents; for some kids this will go some way to fulfilling that need for novelty and the exploration of that toy. Our girls love watching people open Kinder Eggs, but are never that bothered when they get their own!
23: Gifts: Along the same lines as above, provide that sense of abundance as well as novelty and transaction with a Kids Unlimited app. We got the Kindle Kids Unlimited subscription for around £6 a month, and it allows kids to download from 6000 tv shows, games and e-books as much as they like.
24: Gifts: On eBay there are often bulk packs of favourite character figures for cheap prices. This way you have a stash of small, inexpensive presents to give to your child when you need them.
25: Gifts: Give your child pocket money and help them to budget it so that they can buy what they want and save for future purchases. Give it in cash each week; this is a great way to help children learn about money management. Try to resist the temptation to control how they spend it; it is a learning process and once it’s given it is their money so respect their decisions.
Children who really value gifts may feel as though you haven’t thought of them or don’t really care for them if you constantly say ‘no’ to their requests. It is difficult but try to figure out a way to say ‘yes’ as much as possible. It could be “yes I’ll have a look on the Internet so we can find it cheaper”, “yes, but that’s a big present so we’ll ask for money to put towards it for your birthday” or “yes if you’re happy not to do/have X this week instead”.
I hope this has been helpful in finding ways to communicate your care and affection to your child. How do you connect with your kids? Let us know in the comments below!
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Travel journalists, home educating our lovely brood of 3 girls. Planning a year-long RTW trip late Summer 2017.