Do you want to enhance your connections with your children?
As parents, do you want to be more effective in communicating with your children?
If so, then read on...
Do you find that even though you really care about and love your children, they don’t seem to understand your love? Whatever you say, your words are being tuned out or ignored. Your children talk back at you, scream or yell at you, or even run to their room and slam the door.
If these are some of the scenarios that describe the relationship with your children, then learning to speak and understand five love languages specific to children can be a very powerful tool for you. Have you ever wondered what might be your child’s primary love language? In other words, what is the most important love language that your child really understands?
How does it help us to learn about love languages? Let me share with you a personal experience. When I first came to Canada as a teenager, I spoke and understood very limited English. I remember often I felt very confused, frustrated and stupid. Some people even thought I was cognitively challenged because a lot of the time I didn’t seem to have a clue what people were saying to me. Many of them probably perceived me as passive, incompetent and not very intelligent. It may have been very difficult for them to imagine that I would become a therapist and a public speaker one day.
So if you learn to speak and understand the love languages that children do, you have much stronger connections with them. You would be very effective and would exert very positive influence in their lives.
In my work as a therapist and based on my personal experiences, what I have observed over the years is this: many parents truly love their children. However, few children do feel loved by their parents. Many children unfortunately don’t feel loved by their parents. They don’t feel important to their parents.
According to Dr. Gary Chapman, there are five primary love languages. Furthermore, these five love languages need to be expressed differently to children. The five love languages are:
1. Words of affirmation
3. Act of service
4. Quality time
5. Physical touch
1. Words of affirmation. This includes telling your children that you love them and sharing with them how much you care for them. In some families, being verbally affectionate may not be the norm. Remember, whenever you learn to speak a new language, it’s always awkward and difficult initially. And the more you practice it, the better you get at it.
Don’t assume that your children already know that you love them, and think you don’t need to tell them on a regular basis. Even if they do know, verbally expressing your love serves as a constant reminder of how much you love them and care about them. Frequent reassurance gives them a sense of security. Furthermore, your love also helps them get through challenging times in their lives, such as when their friends don’t accept them, or when their teachers criticize their work, or when others criticize their appearance.
Words of affirmation can also be in the form of using encouraging words to acknowledge children’s hard work or accomplishments. This doesn’t mean praising everything that they do. Rather, really take note of the things that they do well, or have put a lot of effort into. Examples of affirmations might include:
“I believe in you.”
“I am very proud of your…” or “I am very proud that you…”
“I know you can do it!”
“I really appreciate…
“Thank you for cleaning your room.” or “Thank you for looking after your sister.”
“I notice how hard you have been practicing the piano.”
“The eggs you fried today were awesome!”
“I notice you’ve really tried hard to do well in your soccer practices.”
“I notice you have been working very hard to improve your grades this year.”
Whatever you say, mean it.
If you find it difficult coming up with something positive to say, ask yourself, “what are some of the good things I appreciate about this child?” Sometimes children frustrate us so much that it’s hard to come up with something positive to say. However, doesn’t matter how frustrating their behaviours have been, we can always find some good points about children, even if those points seem very minor and far between.
Words of encouragement and love are very important. Such words can draw out the goodness in a person. Equally important, avoid criticisms and condemnation, as it is so easy to do so. As loving and encouraging words can draw out the best in people, criticisms and condemnation can draw out the worst in them. Negativity can also stop people from making positive changes.
In some cultures, the common belief is that complimenting children too much will cause them to become arrogant or slack off and consequently not put in their best effort. However, all of us, especially children and teenagers, thrive with words of love, encouragement and appreciation.
When you can truly appreciate children for who they are and what they do, as well as expressing your appreciation, then you will have a very positive and strong influence on your children’s lives. They will be much more receptive to your words of guidance and constructive feedback.
2. Gifts. Many parents’ primary love language is giving gifts to their children. I have often observed that this is especially common among immigrants, as it is the love language that these parents can understand easily. These parents frequently have to work hard to make ends meet and so they believe they don’t have time to spend with their children. These parents may have also been raised in families where hearing their parents telling them that they love them and are proud of them wasn’t the norm. So these parents don’t express their love and pride to their children. They assume their children know they love them by how hard they work and how many things they buy for them.
Unfortunately, receiving lots of gifts from parents doesn’t always make children feel loved and important. Even those children who seem very excited to get expensive gifts or exciting toys, such excitement and joy often don’t last more than a few days or a few weeks. Remember, love in the forms of materials last as long as the lifetime of those objects. However, love in the forms of words and quality time can stay with and influence people for a lifetime, and even across generations.
This doesn’t mean that gifts are not important at all! Pay attention to your children and find out what kind of gift is really meaningful to them? Let them earn those gifts themselves. In other words, let your gift giving be purposeful and meaningful. Don’t just give your children what you think they need or what they think they need. Let them show you in their words and actions why those particular gifts are meaningful or important to them. Let me share with you an example…
Last year, my sixteen-year-old sister told me excitedly that she really wanted to go on a trip to Europe that was organized by her school. However she didn’t believe she would be able to afford the trip, as it would cost around $4000 plus some spending money. I asked her why she wanted to go on this trip. Although all of us in our family believed that such a trip would be a wonderful learning experience for my sister, I still wanted to know how meaningful this trip would be to her and that it was her own idea and not anyone else’s. I then said to my sister: “Do the best you can to come up with the money, such as saving the money you earn from your work, getting support from our parents and our oldest sister, and then I will help you with the rest. I wanted my sister to learn to do things herself and to set goals, while I would be there to support her. I believe that when children are being handed things too easily or too readily, they don’t appreciate the importance of hard work and being able to make things happen themselves. My parents were tempted to pay for all the costs. However I encouraged them to let my sister work it out herself.
Within the next several months, my sister was able to get some financial support from our oldest sister and from our parents. She was also able to save about $800 from her job as a server. In the end, she needed an additional $2500. I offered to give her $1500 and loan her $1000, which she will have to pay back. My sister was very grateful. I knew she worked very hard for the trip and I told her that I was very proud of her.
I had never seen my sister so motivated about anything as she was about this trip. She went on the trip and she loved it. I think a big part of her enjoying the trip was that she had worked hard for it. While she was away on her trip, she texted me and our family almost every day to tell us she loves us. She got me a very cute purse in Italy for my birthday gift.
Now, she has been saving up money to pay me $1000. I explained to her that although I want to give her the money, it is also important that she learns to save and be responsible by saving up to pay me.
Even though it is tempting to give children things as soon as they ask for them or beg to have them, let them earn these gifts themselves by giving them the opportunity to set goals and earn these things with their hard work. In doing so, you are training your children to be patient, purposeful, conscientious and responsible. Nowadays with the technology, it is very easy to want instant gratification and instant convenience. Yet those things don’t teach your children the values of hard work, perseverance, responsibility, discipline, goal setting and patience.
In summary, tell your children you love them and care about them on a regular basis. Acknowledge their strengths. Tell them you are proud of their accomplishments, even the seemingly minor ones. Lastly, let your children earn their gifts by supporting them through reassurance and love, helping them to set goals and encouraging them to make things happen themselves. By taking a step back and letting your children work towards their goals themselves, you have given your children a very special gift – a gift of faith and trust that they can do anything themselves if they set their mind to!
Quyn Lê Erichsen, M.Ed.,
Psychotherapist, Life Coach and Inspirational Speaker