“My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:15-16)
When God knitted together our precious children before they were even born, I am convinced he also wove in their personalities, gifts, and a love language! The concept of “love languages” is that each of us expresses and receives love in a unique way. The five love languages identified by Gary Chapman in his bestselling book are: Touch, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time, and Gifts. My husband and I have learned that knowing and speaking our children’s love language can work like magic to improve behavior and family relationships.
For example, one of my daughters is an Acts of Service girl. She is my go-to if I need something done. She will often come into the kitchen and say, “What can I do to help?” When she was only two years old, she noticed her newborn sister needed a diaper change. She carefully laid out a changing pad, a clean diaper, and two wipes before alerting me of the dirty diaper. This is a girl who innately anticipates needs! She feels loved when I ask her to help cook, clean, or grocery shop. When I include her in these tasks (even when it makes it harder on me), her “love tank” is filled and she feels secure.
My youngest daughter lives for Words of Affirmation! She not only likes receiving them, she naturally gives them. As soon as she could talk, she was saying “good job!” to encourage her older sisters. If there is a behavior I want to correct in her I have learned to not only provide verbal correction for the wrong behavior, but to provide copious praise when she does it right. This is not my love language, so I must dig deep and find my inner cheerleader. But, if she is praised consistently for the good behavior, she will do it again. When there have not been enough positive words in her day and her love tank is low, her behavior will show it! I have learned to recognize meltdowns and disobedience as indicators that she is running on empty.
Applying the concept of love languages helps us lovingly correct our children. My husband and I try to use a two-pronged approach to discipline: 1) consequences for wrong behavior and 2) intentionally speaking their love language. We have found that when the love tanks are full, the need for consequences greatly decreases and peaceful interactions increase.
God sent us our sweet kids pre-wired with gifts and tendencies. We have the privilege of learning about their uniqueness and loving them exactly as God designed!
Challenge: With some intentional observation, your children’s preferred love languages will become clear. Ask God to help you see the way your children show love to you and others. Do they give lots of hugs (touch), tell you all the details of their day (quality time), frequently make you artwork or bring you treasures (gifts)? Try to reciprocate those gestures, even if it does not feel natural to you. Experiment with the various love languages and watch how your children respond!
“In the Trenches” Contributing Writer
Wife, Mother of 3 girls, and avid travel planner!