I love February with its designated day for love. Really, a holiday for love? Oh yes, please.
I’m not the commercial sort that loves to receive flowers or chocolates. Rather I love February because it gives me a chance to speak love in many languages and to reach deep into the hearts of my children without appearing overly sentimental (because who can call anyone overly sentimental in a month dedicated to love?!)
In the past, as Valentine’s Day approached, I would run out to the stores and stock up on candy and cards to give out to my loved ones. After a plethora of candy (and a decision to cut back on the sweets), I got to thinking a bit more creatively and started giving my kids gifts like crayons (“you color my world!”) and socks (“we’re the perfect pair!”) but over time, I learned the truth: I equated gift giving with showing my love.
Unfortunately, out of my four kids, none of them have gifts as their primary love language and so I was, in essence, spending money when perhaps I should have been spending time. Or maybe I left beautifully wrapped gifts when my little one really just wanted me to adorn him with beautifully said words. Or maybe, just maybe, a hug, a kiss, or a pat on the back spoke louder to my child than an expensive new gadget.
Dr. Gary Chapman is known for his books on the five love languages and in The Five Love Languages of Children, he clearly sets forth the reason for learning to speak your child’s love language. He explains that “every child has an emotional tank, a place of emotional strength that can fuel him through the challenging days of childhood and adolescence.” If we want our children “to operate as they should and reach their potential” then it’s our job, as parents, to be sure to fill our children’s love tanks.
Practically speaking, I had to learn to be fluent in all five love languages… not just my own. I had to learn to look at each of my children as the individuals they are and not the sum collection of a society’s cultural norms gone astray.
Gary Chapman defines the five love languages (for all people, not just children) as
- physical touch
- words of affirmation
- quality time (that’s mine!)
- acts of service
It was easy to identify my own love language by thinking about how I often expressed love myself. If you’re trying to identify your own love language, think of how you tend to show your love. Perhaps you feel like you’re showing your spouse love when you do his laundry (acts of service.) Or maybe you feel like you’ve adequately expressed your love with a simple “I love you” (words of affirmation,) or a kiss upon seeing your child (physical touch.) Or maybe you consider working on a project with your child an expression of your love (quality time,) or surprising your child with a treat from the store as a way to say I love you (gifts.)
For me, spending quality time with my spouse or kids expresses my love. Ironically, my husband’s love language is acts of service so until we both identified our love languages, we found that we were speaking opposites to each other. There he was doing things for me thinking he was speaking love while I really wanted to be spending time with him and vice versa. Our marriage is a happier place now that we speak each other’s language.
Then we realized that our children weren’t speaking the same languages we were either.
So we began to explore their love languages. We began by asking our children how they knew we loved them and we got responses like “I know Mommy loves me because she always helps me with my schoolwork” (acts of service,) and “I know Mommy loves me because she always snuggles with me until I fall asleep” (physical touch,) and “I know Daddy loves me because he always plays outside with us” (quality time.) We asked how they know that Granny and Pappy love them and we got responses like “I know Pappy loves me because he builds things with me” (quality time) and “I know Granny loves me because she always says nice things to me and tells me she loves me” (words of affirmation.) Dr. Chapman’s website gives some more great tips for discovering your child’s love language as well as a quiz for older kids to take.