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There are few books I read during my college years that still stick with me even to this day. Most were academic in nature, things that I learned but did not affect me personally. However, during that time I learned about the 5 Love Languages.
How I responded to actions and comments from friends and acquaintances, as well as how I acted towards them, began to change as I began to see them in a new light. Up till then, I had not even realized my helping set up for a meeting or my willingness to go with them somewhere was how I expressed love. I had assumed it was the thoughtful thing to do and that everyone did it.
I was wrong.
I learned it was how I showed and received love. It was the form that spoke strongest to me personally.
Once my husband and I met, it helped both of us to know our preferred love language. While our languages are different, we are able to express our feeling in the way the other is most likely to receive it best. We are also able to give grace when we realize they are not giving us what we need at the moment, because they do not always think the way we do.
While my husband may not always bring me flowers, he does do the dishes at times, or helps clean the kitchen. Those are the times I feel like he is spoiling me. He is speaking my language.
When we walk or go somewhere, we hold hands or sit close, and my husband greatly appreciates this. I am speaking his language.
Without knowing these things about ourselves and our spouse, we could have been spinning our wheels sitting in the same room together watching our favorite movies and sending heart felt cards to each other, yet never feeling truly loved.
When we added to our family, we both knew we needed to find our children’s love languages. The problem was, how?
How do you figure out the love languages of your children when they can not even talk? Are they the same as the languages of adults? Are they expressed in the same way? Do they have a primary language and a secondary language, and do they stay the same as they grow older?
Enter The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. The first parts of the book talk about why the showing love is so important in your relationship with your children. Then a chapter is devoted to each of the various love languages. If you have never read these books, practice a form of parenting or working with children that has not taken into account what is going on inside them, or are beginning your journey with kids, you will want to spend time in the beginning of this book, considering why this is important.
It was interesting to see how these languages are felt and expressed differently in the lives of our children. Touch, for example, may not mean holding your child’s hand like it would your spouse. Instead, it might mean touching their back as you walk past them at the dinner table or picking them up to hold them in your lap. Time might be shown in helping with homework or playing a game.
These love language explanations are followed by the chapter I had been waiting for – Discovering Your Child’s Love Language. Now I could figure out if I needed to keep rubbing George’s back or if Time was his main one and we should bake more together. Did Jack appreciate me playing games with him or should I continue to do the soft touches on his arms when he sat on my lap? The conclusion? I should keep doing all of them.
As it turns out, children’s language may change over time. They do not have a primary one, though they might respond to various languages at different developmental stages. So, while I will keep rubbing George’s back and playing with his hair (one way we found to almost instantly calm him down), I will keep baking with him and sitting near him for homework.
To be effective in discipline, parents must keep the child’s emotional love tank filled with love.
The next chapters of the 5 Love Languages of Children cover topics related to learning to love your children effectively which I had not thought so much about – Discipline, Learning, and Anger.
I have been told over and over, through our many (foster) parenting classes and books read, discipline is not always a negative thing. It does not always mean punishment, but instead means guidance and teaching. It comes from a place of love, not a place of anger and annoyance. Sometimes easier said than done. However, I personally have noticed a change in my kids when I make sure to love on them more, or take a deep breath before addressing the situation. Sometimes a hug or verbal reminder is all they need – “I am right here. Please lower your voice.” Other times, they do need firm reminders of expected behaviors. The balance is a tough one to keep at times.
At night time, Jack is still in need of close physical presence, he prefers at least line of sight to an adult; even after 5 years, he does not feel safe. It had improved to the point of me being able to sit in the living room “drinking coffee”, out of his sight, while he went to sleep; then we moved and progress went backwards at least a year. I got really annoyed at him last night for disobeying and not staying in bed, responding harsher than I should have. Once I realized his need and got past my “this is how it should be” thinking, things got better and we all slept (albeit two hours after he his bed time).
One point they make, and where I think some parents go wrong, even I at times, is to make requests instead of commands. I understand saying “please” always is better then “go do ____”. Where I used to go wrong, and where I hear other go wrong is saying, “Do you want to go brush your teeth?” instead of “Please, go brush your teeth.” The first is truly asking them if they want to or not, so do not get mad if they say “no” and keep playing. One of my kids would take that question at face value then wonder why you are getting mad at him when he says he does not want to go. The other child would understand that you really are telling him to go brush his teeth. When wording something as a request, make sure you are willing to accept a true answer and not just the result you are wishing to obtain.
The same literal child above was reminded last week, that it was time to go and he needed to put on shoes. The second time I said the same sentence with out any acknowledgment of hearing me I reworded the request into a statement: “We are leaving whether you have on your shoes or not. If you do not want your socks to get wet, you need to put on your shoes.” He was over putting on his shoes almost immediately. No threats, but straight forward fact about the consequences of not doing what was asked.
Parents who do not take time to speak the five love languages, but simply seed to meet a child’s physical needs, are neglecting her intellectual and social development.
We have seen the results of this in our children. When they first came to us, their emotional ages were several years behind where they should be. It was hard to teach them anything as they did not trust us, were hyper-vigilant, etc. They were focused on surviving and had no mental energy left for learning.
Over time, they have learned to calm down some. However, they are still anxious. Anything taught to them during these times may as well be taught to a brick wall. Their emotional ages,while improving, are still about a year behind, depending external factors and what exactly you are asking them to do (change in schedule vs. deal with a difficult person vs. doing something they would prefer not to be doing, etc.).
The last of these three – love and anger, was a chapter that unfortunately I really needed to read. With all the changes going on in our home, emotions have been running high. Anxiousness, sadness, happiness, excitement, nervousness, shyness, uncertainty … all these emotions mixed in with having to schedule appointments, set up services, start new school/church, continue home schooling, leaving an old job, learning a new job, finding your way around a new town, leaving friends, meet new friends, gather paperwork, organize chaos, decide what to keep and what to get rid of, finishing up activities around the house … well, honestly it leads to many days where sadly not everyone responds in the most appropriate of ways. I see myself referencing back to this chapter in the upcoming months and days, as I am the one to set the example for my kids, helping them walk a path of appropriate handling of anger.
The last two chapters were aimed at the parents reading this book, either single or married. They covered various aspects of parenting, of being parents, and how it relates to our children and their love/growth. These chapters held encouragement and tips for creating a solid foundation in us and those around us.
Finally, at the end of the book were several resources: an epilogue, notes from chapters, and The Mystery Game for parents to play with their kids in order to help them determine the child’s love language.
One of the things I have liked best about this book are the practical examples and solutions presented. These examples helped me visualize what was being talked about, seeing ways to apply it in our home.
Another aspect I appreciated is actually something that is missing – a new parenting style. The point of the book seemed to focus more on the relational side of parenting your children, rather than telling you how to raise them.
If you have previously read another version of The 5 Love Languages, then you will see some repeat, especially in the first few chapters. The parts I found to be different or specific were the application area, or how it is expressed.
In the end I was glad I read this book. It is a great addition to some of the other parenting books we have read and our (imperfect) method of parenting. The 5 Love Languages of Children was also a great encouragement to keep moving forward even if we are not perfect in our parenting, especially because we are not.