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The Importance of Learning Your Child’s Love Language

*This is a guest post, written by Katie Taylor. See her full bio at the end of this article.*


Being one of three children is such a fun system to be a part of – however, the older I get, the more I realize how different each of our love languages are, and have always been. Especially being the only girl in the family, and the youngest, my childhood differed vastly from the childhood of my brothers. Learning what comforts and brings joy to each individual can dramatically increase and enhance the quality of your relationship with them – but it is also increasingly more challenging to put into practice.







Now, I'm not a parent, but I do have a great history of babysitting and working with young children. I think about all of these experiences that I've encountered and recount the numerous times that I would be rocking a crying toddler while thinking, “WHY WON’T HE JUST STOP CRYING!? THIS ALWAYS WORKS ON THE OTHER KIDS WHEN THEY CRY!” One night, this happened to me and I told the parents when they got home that he was fine until that point, but when I tried rocking him, it was not calming him down. They responded with “we should have told you…he likes his hand held and back scratched while he tries to fall asleep, that’s what makes him feel comforted.” They knew their child. They had taken the time to figure out how he feels loves, comforted, and safe – and even without him being able to verbalize that to them, they knew.

Being in-tune with a relationship partner, of any kind, is so very important to that relationship's success; especially when you are a parent. As a child, too, I can back up the fact that being known and loved by my parents is the greatest feeling. There are two practical steps that can be taken in order to make love languages a crucial and influential part of your families every day lives:

1. Avoid comparing one child to another child.


Like I said before, I have two older brothers, and I love them dearly. However, there has always been an ongoing joke in my family that my oldest brother is the “perfect” one. While we all know that he isn’t perfect, I admire my parents for shutting that joke down immediately whenever my other brother and I joke about it. I like to believe that they did this because they never wanted for the younger two of us to feel obligated to live in his shoes, to do everything that he did, or to be the same as he was. 

The same came be applied towards comforting and loving different children. In an article written by Sarah Werner Andrews in 2017, she says that what is true for “some” children is not the same for allchildren. She says:

For some children. What do people mean when they say that? Which children? The ones who are already perfect? The ones who can conform to the description of an ideal type? The children who are already “excellent and beyond improvement?” The ones who exactly “fit the need in our certain situations” or for “our purposes?”

Your first child might have been an excellent child. They might have been easy going, fit to your schedule, napped when they needed to, etc. However, that might not be the case for your second child. Or your third. And your second and third children might also be vastly different as well. When entering into raising multiple children, it is crucial to remember that they are each their own human being. They each have different hearts, minds, and souls. They will not be the same – and that is OK. It is important to value and appreciate them for who they are – not who you want for them to be. I challenge you to erase the idea in your mind of having a “perfect child,” and learn to love them for who they are.


2. Take the time to learn your child's Love Language. 

Going along with not comparing one child to the other, learning how to love them will take some time to get used to, and will take an intentional and a conscious effort in order to learn what makes them feel loved. If you are not familiar with the “Love Languages,” there are 5 that we can learn from:


Each of these Love Languages are different, just as every child is different. For a child
whom feels loved with gifts, bringing them home their favorite snack or candy bar from work and putting a love note in their lunchbox will make them recognize that you thought of them before you left your house and when you were on your way home as well. When a child whom feels love with words of affirmation, saying things such as “you are special to me,” “I love spending time with you,” “I am always here for you,” and “I will always protect you” can make them feel safe and cared for. For children with a love language of physical touch, hugging, hand holding, scratching their backs, etc. will be the building blocks that make your physical presence a safe haven for them. Acts of service such as helping them with their homework, teaching them how to build a Lego set, helping them fix a broken toy, or coaching their favorite sports teams can show them that you want to be a part of their life and will always be present. Lastly, quality time can be done through setting out Saturday mornings for a ride around town, making it a priority to set up “dates” with them, enjoying a meal together, and anything else that gives them the opportunity to know that they are a priority in what you fill your time with. 

Learning the love languages of a child can help decipher what to do with each individual in order to make them feel loved. 

In talking about my babysitting experience earlier, I was shown that the child I was watching needed something other than what I was used to. Instead of punishing him from being different, it should be taken into account and remembered for next time. Andrews (2017) says again that:

“We can meet each child at the door, and help him find just what he needs. Within our communities, we have the potential to serve a wide range of differences, of challenges, and serve all the children. When we let go of any preconceptions of what we think children are supposed to be, or what work is “supposed to look like,” we open our minds and our eyes to a new vision: Difference is not only normal, difference is expected, and difference is celebrated.”


McConnell and Moss (2011) say that throughout childhood, children develop “internal working models.” These models help children make sense of what is going on around them, and help them know what to expect based off of their past experience. When a parent learns their child’s love language, it helps the child build a positive internal working model – knowing that their parent wants to be there and wants know them on an individual and intimate level. 

My goal and challenge is this: accept change in differences among children, be flexible, and love the crap out of your children for who they are. This can probably be easier said than done, but there is always room for growth. I am sure that there are going to be days where you want to complain when one child was easier to take care of than the other, and I am sure that there are going to be days where you wish your child would stop crawling all over you – but in those moments, remember that you are the one whom they are coming to in order to feel safe, cared for, loved, and known. That is a beautiful thing and should absolutely not be taken lightly.



For further reading on Love Languages, read one of 
Gary Chapman's Love Languages books:





References

Andrews, Sarah W. “The Myth of the ‘Perfect’ Child.” North American Montessori Teachers'                    Association, vol. 2, 2017.

McConnell, M., & Moss, E. (2011). Attachment across the life span: Factors that contribute to stability and change. Australian Journal of Education & Developmental Psychology, 11, 60-70.
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