Listening to your child’s love language

Twenty-five years ago, pastor and author Gary Chapman released a book titled “The Five Love Languages.” His theory is that we all express love, and experience it, in the same five ways — through physical touch, gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service and quality time — but everyone has one way that matters most. 

“It’s not enough to love your kids,” said Chapman, who years later co-wrote “The 5 Love Languages of Children.” “You have to know how to communicate love to a child so that he genuinely feels loved.”

Words of affirmation

This love language expresses love with words that build one up. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Short and simple praises can be best. Just as positive praises are effective, negative comments can be damaging. 

If this is your child, let them catch you speaking positively about them to friends, telling them what a great kid he or she is and how much you love when they do certain things. 

Acts of service 

This means doing things that you know your child will love. Cooking their favorite meal or helping them with their chores are a couple of examples. 

This love language definitely takes thought and effort to accomplish. Again, positivity is necessary. If it’s done out of obligation, it will not be received as love. “The best act of service you can provide is walking your child through a new process and teaching him, step-by-step, how to be more capable,” said Chapman.


Receiving gifts can certainly be just that — tangible gifts. This love language could also be as simple as picking up their favorite snack or dessert at the store. 

Thoughtful gifts make a child feel loved. Stickers and star charts are also ways of giving gifts to your child. 

Quality time

This is all about undivided attention. With no distractions, make your child the center of your attention. Every time you cancel plans or aren’t present during your time together, it can be hurtful. Also, isolating a child for punishment will feel very severe to them. 

Physical touch 

This is a love language that expresses itself by hugs, kisses and cuddles. If this is your child’s primary love language, words and gifts won’t matter as much. They feel connected and secure when they are close to you. 

When you’re trying to figure out your child’s love language, first pay attention to how they show love. People tend to show love in the way they receive it. If a child is constantly in your space, they probably crave physical touch. When they experience big emotions, consider a special handshake or simply holding their hand. 

Lastly, consider that just like adults, the love language of a child can change just like personality traits. From year to year or in different stages, they may receive love in different ways. You can continue to connect with your child as you pay attention to their behaviors and the way they express love.

Brittany Gilbert
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