Time for another book review!
A couple of years ago I attended a mommy event where the speaker discussed The Five Love Languages of Children – based on the popular book(s) by Chapman & Campbell. At the time my kids were pretty small, but I was intrigued enough that I asked for a copy of the book for Christmas. I spent some time thinking about which of the “love languages” I suspected most spoke to each of my children, but it was hard to pinpoint because of their young ages.
Now that some time has gone by (okay, okay, a LOT of time! You other mommies out there understand that stack of books on the bed stand, right? And how you get a few pages in and instantly conk out? So sue me…) I revisited the book. I’m so glad I did – especially now that my kiddos are a little older. I’ve been thinking about it again. A LOT. The book made some points hidden in the details of each love language that really have me doing some thinking about my children and my parenting. I mean, I always wonder, “Am I doing it right?!?!”, but this book really has me wanting to make sure I do what’s right for each of my kids individually.
The premise is that every personality, young and old, has a primary “love language” (and a secondary one) that is the most powerful to them and making them feel, truly feel, loved. I would highly recommend this book to any parent, mostly because it’s one of those books that’s an easy read, but VERY hard to explain the short version to someone else. Know what I mean? It’s like one of those “you had to be there” inside jokes.
In a very brief doesn’t-do-it-justice nutshell, the five love languages described in this book are:
- Physical touch (hugs, high fives, snuggles, tickles, sitting in laps reading books, wrestling, holding hands, etc.)
- Words of affirmation (likes to hear others say that they did a good job, likes compliments, etc.)
- Quality time (loves to do things together like playing games, watching a movie, working on a project, cooking dinner, going out to eat, etc.)
- Gifts (truly treasures gifts given to them, loves to earn “prizes”, etc.)
- Acts of service (like when people do nice things for them such as helping with schoolwork, making their favorite meals, etc.)
I have been analyzing everything about my kids and the interactions we have over the past weeks and I’m really trying to pinpoint what is the most meaningful way of receiving love for each of my children to make sure I’m loving them the way that’s best for them. I mean, certainly I am loving them up… that’s my favorite thing to do is to love on them, but what if all the loving I *think* I’m doing is actually the “wrong” kind for them?!
Man, parenting is hard stuff!
For my Bubba, so far I’m thinking he’s mostly words of affirmation, with a little physical touch and quality time mixed in there as well. I think he’s like me with the acts of service… he could take it or leave it. And while all children like gifts, the book gives some great detailed examples of children who CHERISH their gifts and I don’t see that in my son at all. He likes what he likes, and the rest gets a big ol’ shoulder shrug. A child like Bubba would not respond well to a parent who likes to give lots of fun “surprises”, but doesn’t often say words like, “You are so kind and caring to your sister. I love watching you teach her new games.”. I need to make sure I’m loving him the way he can best receive it and feel it in his little heart, which is pretty easy for me because I tend toward those first three love languages in the way I naturally “give love” anyway.
For my Birdie girl, it’s a little trickier because she’s only four. At this point I feel she seems like a mix of quality time, physical touch, and a just little bit of words of affirmation. I also think she leans more toward acts of service than her brother and me. Gifts are even less important to her than to her big brother – she just couldn’t care less about a lot of that stuff even if it’s presented to her as a “surprise”. It’s important that I say, “Yes” when she asks to help me in the kitchen, etc., because that’s just her way of asking for quality time with her momma.
I also think, as the book described, that children ebb and flow through phases with their love languages that are most meaningful to them. As my kids grow, I plan to reread this book again because I can see how much my perspective has changed from when I first learned about “love languages” to now. I imagine that in another 2-3 years both Bubba and Birdie will be needing different kinds of love in different ways.
One of the biggest lessons I learned in this book was that whatever a child’s primary love language, punishment in that same love language can be very damaging. Like – giving the cold shoulder as punishment to a child who craves quality time is not just punishment, but genuinely bad for their little soul. Or how spanking a child who craves physical touch can really mess them up for the long haul. While reading one of the specific examples in the book, I felt like someone was knocking me upside the head. Why? Well… because… I’m sarcastic.
I’ve always known that sarcasm and kids don’t mix, but I never really thought about what kind of damage I could be doing when I make a sarcastic comment to a child whose primary love language is words of affirmation. There have been times, in a moment of frustration with something one of my kiddos has done (or not done), when I have said something like, “Way to go” in a VERY sarcastic, rude tone of voice – probably accompanied by a loud sigh. (The child knows that what a rude comment like that really means is, “You screwed up!”.) Makes me feel awful. So awful I could cry. I hope my child didn’t take that terrible comment to heart. But what if he did? Then what have I done?
So this is my pretty public admission that, while I’m sure my sarcastic personality isn’t going away, this book has made me WAY more cognizant about the verbal reactions I have with my kids. We are pretty lucky in this house that our kids are (so far! fingers crossed!) well behaved, so we don’t find ourselves constantly having to figure out punishments and consequences and such. But even beyond actual punishments, it’s the little sarcastic, flippant comment here or there that can be silenced, making sure no little hearts are damaged. It’s embarrassing, but that was a major lesson for me. And I got it. Loud and clear.
I’m going to tuck this book away and read it again in a couple of years when my children are each in a different stage of childhood. I think each time I read it I’ll learn something new about my children AND myself as a parent.
Have you ever read “The Five Love Languages of Children“? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it. What did you like about it? Did reading the book encourage any changes in your parenting? I’m curious! Please tell me I’m not the only one!