Parent expert and author, Sue Atkins, says that each one of us has a primary love language that we prefer and that helps us to make sense of the world. Take some time out to spot the way your child expresses love to you, other children, other family members or friends. Do they give you little gifts, ask you to listen to them, hug you, or want reassuring words from you? How your child expresses their love to you shows you the way that they would like to receive love from you.
Sue explains the five languages of love and shows you ways to express that type of love back to your child:
1. Physical touch – hugs and kisses are the most common ways to express this kind of love, but so are tossing your toddler in the air or spinning them round, reading a story with them sitting on your lap, or even rustling a teenager’s hair. Physical touch is one of love’s strongest voices and shouts: “I love you”
2. Words of Affirmation – words of affection, endearment, encouragement and guidance are ways of really saying: “I care about you.” Words can nurture your child’s soul and give them a deep sense of security. So, if this is your child’s primary love language, choose your words carefully and be gentle in your tone of voice. Appreciate, don’t criticise, and look for lots of ways to be positive in encouraging your children.
3. Quality Time – this is about receiving your undivided attention. We have all heard about “quality time” over the years, and many of us beat ourselves up about not providing enough. Ten minutes talking with your child and doing nothing else at the same time, is quality time. Fifteen minutes doing a jigsaw together is quality time. It’s the gift of being present in a moment and not reading the paper or preparing dinner. It’s simply just being together.
4. The giving and receiving of gifts – giving and receiving gifts has long been a natural human activity. It is a way of saying: “thank you.” Be careful not to fall into the trap of giving a gift instead of spending time with your child, or giving your child a reward for tidying their room, as these are manipulative tools to control your child’s behaviour. This type of “gift” is really a bribe and could send out a mixed message that confuses your child. A surprise special gift for your child, like a buttercup when you’re out walking, or an unusual pebble, speaks volumes to a child whose primary love language is the giving and receiving of gifts.
5. Acts of service – parenting is by its nature, service orientated. The ultimate purpose for doing acts of service for your child, like making their bed or washing their clothes is to help them emerge as mature adults able to do things for themselves and to become independent. Parents need to be sensible and not to overdo the cosseting – it doesn’t help your son not to teach him how to use the washing machine or the iron! But by fixing a bicycle, mending a dolls dress or picking your teenager up from a disco you’re showing your child that you love them.
Sue advises: “Children need to know that they are loved for being themselves – known as unconditional love. This helps them to develop self-esteem and self-confidence and allows them to grow into responsible, well-balanced and happy adults, free from resentment, guilt, fear and insecurity. It makes sense for us to know and understand our child’s language of love and fill their emotional tank for them to reach their true potential.”
See www.positive-parents.com for further information about Sue’s work.