A few years ago I noticed a shift in my fourth-grade son. Typically talkative, he had become slightly withdrawn, moody, and just less himself. Ironically—and thankfully—at the time I was reading Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages of Children. After thinking about his personality, I felt compelled to use more verbal and physical ways of connecting. When we talked about his school day I mussed his hair, rubbed his shoulder, or simply touched his arm. Within a few days, I couldn’t believe the difference—he was back to himself.
Fabulously, a small shift in the way we “speak” our child’s love language can make a difference that quickly. And yet, what we do doesn’t have to dramatic. A few minutes daily of showing love how they best receive it can bring big results. Dr. Chapman’s five key areas include physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service.
First, consider a child that’s concerning you. Which of those love languages do they most resonate with? To figure this out, think back to see how they most often communicate their affection to others. Likely, there will be at least one or two. Then choose a simple action you can do to jumpstart change. Several of my children like words of affirmation, but I have found that a mix of verbal and written is best. I bought apple-red mailboxes, tiny little things but big enough for an index card and a treat. Displayed in our front room they are perfect for a weekly note, scripture card of the day, or tasty treat. My children—even the older ones—look for the upright mailbox flags that show, “You’ve got mail.” It’s fast for me but meaningful for them.
For those children more electronically focused, I also text a favorite scripture, quick quote, or loving thought—“Hey, sure appreciate you caught up on homework.” Words of affirmation simply say, “I want to connect with you.”
After determining the language and some simple actions, stay with it for a week or two. Forget filing and cleaning out the cabinets—allow this to be priority one. Watch for changes or things you may need to do differently for a better result.
As our children got older, I noticed my husband and I had less individual time with them. So we opted for more quality time—one of the other love languages—by creating Gender Nights and Date Nights. On the former, my husband would take the boys to their kind of fun (sweaty, action-packed, involving some kind of sport), and I would take the girls to theirs (savory, shopping-packed, involving some kind of park). Then he and I would rotate through the six children for an individual Date Night. It wasn’t weekly, but within every window of a few weeks we had both spent a dinner, or at least an ice cream and a chat, with each child. This one consistent action alone has kept our children close to us and has helped us stay in the know about the details of their lives.
Love languages truly work. Take a few minutes and think about your children and their particular love language. Consider a simple action you can start, and then do it for at least a week. If you’re not sure what their love language is, try reaching out to them in all of them to a greater degree to see which they respond to most (this could be a good idea even if you do know their love language).You might be surprised to find that the love languages you identify with most are more often spoken by others as well, just from simply and more consciously speaking theirs.
Connie Sokol is a mother of six—expecting her seventh—and a presenter, former TV and radio host, and author of several books, including Faithful, Fit & Fabulous. For tips, columns, and books, visit 8basics.com.