How to Discover Your Child’s Love Language
Parenting is amazing. And I think we can all agree that parenting is hard. With so many different suggestions, trends, and experts, on top of friends and family voicing their opinions, it is hard to decide what will work for you. That is why I like the simple concepts found in the Five Love Languages of Children by authors Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. They propose that showing a child love in their preferred love language can be a powerful way to build connection and even prevent the frustrating behaviors children show when they are feeling empty or disconnected.
As previously discussed in the post, The Five Love Languages Explained, the different love languages are:
- Physical Touch (hugs, kisses, snuggles)
- Words of Affirmation (praise, compliments, words of encouragement)
- Quality Time (focused attention, play, spending time together) Gifts (tokens of affection and unexpected gifts)
- Acts of Service (helping with projects, taking care of needs).
The Golden Rule says to treat others the way you want to be treated. In this scenario, flip it. Treat others the way THEY want to be treated. In order to do that, we need to know what our child’s love language is so we can effectively show them love in the way that gets to their heart.
According to Chapman, a child’s preferred love language becomes more established by the time they are five years old. Kids need to hear love in all five love languages, but sprinkle in extra in their preferred love language for the greatest impact.
Here are some tips for determining what your child’s love language is:
1. Watch how your child shows love to you.
Does your child love to snuggle or rough house play (Physical Touch)? Are they always expressing love for you with sweet phrases or notes (Words of Affirmation)? Maybe they are your shadow and want to spend every minute with you (Quality Time) or beg to do projects with you or “help” with the dishes (Acts of Service). They could also be the child that makes you treasures and can’t wait to give you that special heart shaped sparkly necklace from Walmart (Gifts). All of these are clues to what they prefer. Pay close attention to those languages that don’t come naturally to you.
2. Watch how your child shows love to others.
Just like the first suggestion of watching the details of how your child shows love to you, pay close attention to interactions between your child and his or her friends or other adults.
3. Listen to what your child asks for the most.
Kids are always asking for things. If you put your parenting detective skills to work, what your child is requesting may be his or her primary love language. Unless it’s chicken nuggets. Kids just like chicken nuggets.
4. Listen to what your child complains about the most.
It is hard to think about what could be positive about a whining and complaining child. But sometimes it could be a clue to what they are missing and wanting. “You NEVER play with me” could mean they want more quality time. Constantly poking you while you are in the middle of something could mean they crave physical touch.
5. Ask your child to pick between two choices.
Would you rather go for a walk or snuggle? Do you want a hug or a compliment? Pay close attention to what pattern shows up in their decisions and it could point to their favorite love language.
And finally, you can just ask. I did this with my daughter in the car the other day. I asked her, “How do you know I love you?” Her response was that I made her laugh and always said nice things to her that show my love. I’ve suspected her love language is Words of Affirmation for a while, but it was nice to hear her say what mattered to her. Once you find out, do more of those things to the greatest impact.
If you are curious and want to take a digital quiz, The 5 Love Languages Quizzes can be a great start to learning what the primary love language is for couples, children, teens, and singles. I recommend answering the children’s quiz how you think they would answer. Then sit down with them and have them take the quiz or you read the questions out loud and record their answers. Sometimes the disconnect can be differences in our perception. What we think they want might actually be what we want or wished we had as a child. The website also has a wealth of resources and articles to go into more detail about this foundational concept. Check each week for future articles as we take a detailed and practical look at how the 5 Love Languages can make a difference in our personal lives.
Lauren Alvarez, MA
Certified Parent Educator
Elementary School Counselor
Graduate Counseling Intern, LPC Track, Improving Lives Counseling Services, Inc.
Chapman, G. and Campbell, R. (2016) The 5 Love Languages of Children. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.
Chapman, G. (2015). The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.