Identifying the 5 Love Languages in Children

A few months ago, as I was scrambling to get lunch on the table, I called for my two kids to start cleaning up. I was just spooning macaroni and cheese onto plates when I heard the two of them laughing from the other room. I was on the verge of exploding when I peeked my head around the corner and nearly had a heart attack. The room was spotless. The kids had actually cleaned up the entire living room, and I hadn’t even needed to repeat myself once. It had been my son’s idea, and it was only one of many times that he went out of his way to serve. My son loves through acts of service, which is a beautiful way of loving, but one completely unfamiliar to me.

My primary love language is quality time, but as an adult, I know how to speak the other languages a bit. I know how to love people who don’t love the way I do. But most kids can’t do that. Most kids show love the same way they want to receive it, so knowing your child’s love language and how to speak it is extremely important. Take a look at these tips for speaking each of the 5 love languages to your children.

1. Quality Time

My son absolutely loves spending time with me. When I announce that I’m heading to the store to pick up a few things, my son immediately volunteers to come along for the ride. He does the same with my husband. At first, we both got internally annoyed when he asked to tag along- errands with even one kid takes twice as long as those without- but eventually we realized that this was how our son best received love. A trip to the grocery store might not sound like “quality” time, but when you have siblings, one-on-one time in any capacity is worth it.

2. Acts of Service

As I already demonstrated, one of my son’s strongest love languages, especially when it comes to showing love to others, is acts of service. Children who speak this love language often will anticipate the needs of others with startling accuracy. They will look for opportunities to help their loved ones and often need little encouragement to do something kind for someone else. Just remember that with children, their definition of “helpful” might not be the same as yours.

3. Physical Touch

My daughter’s primary love language is unquestionably physical touch, as was mine as a child. Some of my most restful and pleasurable memories of my childhood include getting back rubs or having my hair braided by my mother. The physical contact was always soothing, and now I can see the same desire in my daughter. She loves sitting in my lap and being held while we pray and talk, and even when we’re just sitting on the couch watching TV, I can always feel her subtle shifts as she edges closer to me until we are touching.

4. Gift-Giving

Children whose primary love language is gift-giving can often be found creating artwork and other gifts for their loved ones. They often are very aware of what gifts they receive and from whom. They might be reluctant to part with old gifts, since they are all tokens of love in the mind of these children. If your child speaks the love language of gift-giving, you might consider letting them pick gifts for their parents and siblings for birthdays and other holidays.

5. Words of Affirmation

All children crave affirmation, but it is especially important for those kids whose love language is words of affirmation. They will often look for praise and recognition for their accomplishments, however small. They need to hear that their parents love them, and in a very real way, it is not enough to show these children that they are loved. As I once heard from a teen-aged student- “My dad never told me that he loved me, and I was probably in middle school before I realized that all of the things he did for me- that was how he was showing me that he loved me. I just didn’t know it because I needed to hear him say it.”

You Might Wish You Were Me, But I Would Love to Be You

I saw you from across the park this morning. You had a preschooler and a toddler running all over the playground, and you were holding an infant in your arms as you watched them. You were dressed in sweats, and your hair was in a messy bun. You looked so tired, and so beautiful too.

We made eye contact across the playground, and you smiled at me. Then your toddler fell off the swing, and you had to rush over to help him. We made eye contact a few more times as I walked laps along the park path, and the envy in your eyes was painfully obvious. You might have thought that I was a childless woman enjoying a morning walk in the park. You might have thought my kids were grown and my baby days happily behind me. I know I certainly looked the part, with my well-rested eyes, my makeup and hair done, and my clean dress. For at least a moment, you wished you were me.

In reality, I have more in common with you than you think. I haven’t had three children, but I do know what it’s like to chase after a toddler and a preschooler. My eyes might be clear and my clothes might be clean now, but I’ve had my fair share of sleepless nights, colicky babies, and spit-up stains. But my two children are older now, and my chances of having a third are slim.

You might wish you were me, but I would love to be you. I would love to be pregnant again, knowing that I held the newest member of our family within me. I would love to cradle a newborn in my arms as I watch my preschooler and kindergartner play on the playground. I would love to see my son and daughter fawn over their new baby sibling. I wouldn’t even mind suffering another year of sleepless nights, spit-up stains, and tired arms, if it only meant the chance to cradle another child in my arms.

You might have been jealous of me, but I was probably a bit more jealous of you. You might wish you looked more put together, that you had more time to wash your hair and do your makeup. You might wish that you could wear nice clothes without worrying about spit-up stains. I’m sure you wish you could have a full night’s sleep. I know I wished for all those things when my children were little, and now I have them. But when you suffer from infertility, you realize that having those things isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be (though getting a full night’s sleep truly is heavenly). You’re willing to temporarily trade all of those things (since we’ve already learned that these things do in fact come to an end) to have another baby in our arms.

I saw you from across the park this morning. I looked into your eyes, and I saw just a hint of envy. But what did you see in mine? Did you see my envy? Did you see how badly I want another baby of my own? Or did you just see what I want the world to see- a woman perfectly content with her lot in life, a mother who is happy to have just two children? But do you want to know the truth? You might wish you were me, but I would love to be you.