How to Use Your Child’s Love Language to Fill Their Tank
Until recently, I never knew or even thought about my children’s love languages. The question “What is my child’s love language?” never crossed my mind. Which I feel a little ashamed of considering that I owned and read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman at the start of my marriage. Surprisingly enough the concepts are similar but also quite different when it comes to children versus adults.
So while this may still be somewhat of a foreign concept to me, the more I read about it, the more I want to learn all the ways I can help fill my child’s love tank.
Learning your child’s love language can help you make informed decisions when parenting them. Speaking to your child’s love language can ensure your child knows without a shadow of a doubt that they are loved.
If you have a child under five it may be hard to determine their love language. Check out this toddler love language quiz for a starting point. Keep in mind that yes, It’s good to know your child’s primary love language, but practicing ALL five of them is a most powerful expression of love for any child.
The 5 Love Languages of Children
When you think of love languages, remember that we all express love and experience it in different ways. The common thought on this is that there are five love languages. Within these five we each have a primary one. How we express love to others is ultimately how we wish to experience it.
While they can be described in a number of ways, the love languages list boils down to this;
- Physical Touch
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
So when it comes to your child, think of how they may be showing you affection. This will be a telltale sign of how they wish to be loved.
It’s important to remember that each child is going to crave attention and affection differently. Finding out which means the most to your individual child can help not only create a strong bond with your child but even ward off unwanted behaviors.
One of the easiest ways to find out your child’s love language is to take a love language quiz for kids. You can take it for them or if they are old enough have them answer the questions themselves.
Known as acts of service, a child who appreciates thoughtful gestures fails into this love language. Things like helping them tie their shoes, or carrying their book bag to the car without them asking really speak to them.
How to Tell?
Most kids are going to appreciate you bringing them a gift or going the extra mile to do something, so how do you know if this love language is how your child seeks love? When a child asks you to fix a bicycle or help put their pants on, he or she does not merely want to get a task done; this is their cry for love and attention.
Having a child whose primary love language is acts of service may seem daunting. I mean, are you required to do every task they request of you for fear of them growing up feeling unloved? Thankfully not.
If your child’s primary love language is acts of service, this does not mean that you have to jump at every request. Instead, try to be sensitive to the requests. Remember that your response may either help fill their love tank or slowly empty it. Each request calls for a thoughtful, loving response.
While most children love getting gifts, a child whose primary love language is gifts will be happy with even the smallest tokens that represent your love.
How to Tell?
These are the children who go out of their way to give you gifts. Think of the time you went on a walk and they handed you a flower they had just picked. Or when they spent hours decorating a card for your birthday. For these children, the time, thought and effort of the gift are what truly matters. More than the actual present itself.
With so many different expressions of love, it can be hard to get them all straight. When a child’s love language is words of affirmation what that means is speaking encouraging and endearment and affection to them. This can look like giving them praise for completing a task. Tell them how much you love them. Or even telling them much you enjoy when they draw, sing or color. Be mindful that besides giving words of affirmation, the tone of voice, gentleness of the mood and sense of caring all communicate emotional warmth and love to your child.
How to Tell?
As powerful affirming words would be for this child, harsh, criticizing words will have an equally negative effect. The same will be true when they are yelled or screamed at. Words are very powerful for anyone, but especially for a child who thrives off of them.
I think in life, we have so many things battling for our time. From our jobs to our children. And it can seem like such a struggle having to choose. But for parents of a child who feel loved by the time a person gives them, the victor of this never ending battle has already been chosen.
Quality time is more than just being in the same room as your child. It’s focused attention. It involves giving a child your undivided attention, even if for just short periods at a time.
How to Tell?
Children who speak quality time as a love language crave their parents’ undivided attention. They need you to be fully present in order for their emotional love tank to be filled! This can look like always asking you to play with them. Watch as they do some silly trick or ask to help you with things. It’s more about being in the moment with you than anything else.
A great time to fill this portion of a child’s love tank is right before bed. Spend some time asking them how their day was. What were some of their favorite parts of the day or if they had anything they’d like to change about it. Reading a book is another great way to spend quality time with your child.
We’ve all felt a warm embrace from someone and instantly knew we were loved. Or maybe you’ve had a reassuring pat on your shoulder that was just what you needed. Physical touch means more than hugs or kisses. Pats on the back, holding hands, high fives or even an arm around the shoulder are all great ways to show affection for a child with this love language.
How to Tell?
While all children need physical contact with their parents throughout their lives, even when it’s not their primary love language. For children who do have this as their primary love language, physical touch communicates love to them more deeply than any other love language can.
Creative Ways to Fill Your Child’s Love Tank According to Their Love Language
It’s great knowing what love language best makes them happy and feel valued, but knowing is not just enough. Now you have to speak your child’s love language. Once you’ve determined your child’s love language there are things you can do to help fill their love tanks in a special way.
Think of writing them love notes everyday for the month of February if they resonate with words of affirmation. Or maybe quality time is really their jam, in which case teaching them how to tidy up around the house could serve as a win for the both of you!
There are so many ways you can get creative and help your child feel loved, seen and valued. Some of which may even surprise you!
If Your Child’s Language Is Service
Acts of service may seem a little daunting, at first glance it seems as if you are going to be sending the rest of your days in servitude to your child. But I can guarantee that is far from the truth. When thinking of ways to express love to your child, refrain from looking at it as if it’s a chore. Instead make it fun!
Is it bedtime? Instead of telling them to go to bed, carry them. Once you get to their room, make a game out of tucking them in! Dinner or any meal time can be another opportunity, cooking their favorite meal, making a creative “animal” with their food, or even blending their favorite fruits into a smoothie and bringing it to them.
Other ways to demonstrate acts of service for you child include:
- Finishing a chore for them
- Doing a surprise room makeover
- Making their bed for them one day
- Fix (or replace) a broken toy
- Breakfast in bed
- Picking them up from school early one day
- Got a reader? Buy that next book in the series they’re reading.
If Your Child’s Language Is Gifts
It’s important to remember the gift is less important here. Thinking of them, knowing who they are and what they would like, means the most for a child whose love language is receiving gifts. For example, for my daughter’s eighth birthday we surprised her with an American Girl Birthday Party. Complete with her own American Girl Doll, that she got to name, dress and even pick accessories for.
And while I am absolutely sure she loved the party, what really mattered to her was that I remembered how much she wanted an American Girl Doll. I mean, this was something she had been talking about for almost a year at that point. Every chance she could, she’d mention how cute they were and how she would love to have one. By throwing her that party, I told her not only do I listen to you, but I think about you and I love you.
Receiving gifts can look like:
- Creating a photo album or book about them and some special moments you’ve shared
- Hand picking flowers for that nature lover
- Writing your child a song or poem and then giving it to them
- Creating a photo album or scrapbook all about how special they are
- Picking up something at the store to add to their collection of…(rocks, cars, trading cards etc)
- Hanging a special photo of you and them
- Buying small toys / gifts “just because”
If Your Child’s Language Is Affirmation
The love language words of affirmation is closest to my heart because it is one of the ways I feel most loved. Words mean a big deal to a child who’s love tank is filled by affirmations, which means while we as parents must be conscious about telling them how much we love them. We also need to be mindful when we discipline them.
With that being said, there are traditions, especially for valentines day, you can implement that will surely fill their emotional tanks.
- Start a love journal with them. The two of you can write letters and love notes back and forth
- Give compliments randomly throughout the day. Things like, “I love being with you. I love being your Mom.”
- Be loud in singing their praises for their efforts and achievements
- When a mistake is made, acknowledging their good intentions, creativity, efforts, or determination
- Painting rocks with encouraging sayings to give to them
- Writing love notes in their lunches
If Your Child’s Language Is Time
When it comes to quality time, it’s less about what the child does and more about who they do it with. This particular child is going to want your undivided attention. And while that may not always be possible, here are a few ways to make it happen:
- One on one dates – try to do this one a month or even once a week if you can
- Be present and have open and honest conversations
- Reading a book to them before bed
- Finding ways to have special moments with just them (I brush my teeth with my four year old each night before bed. Just him and I)
- If you have multiple children, try having scattered bed times so you can have a few minutes alone with each child
- Showing up for class performances, presentations or shows
- Find a shared hobby (My oldest and I put puzzles together every Friday).
If Your Child’s Language Is Touch
There are so many ways to express love through touch, and they go beyond simply giving hugs and kisses. Think of epic tickle fights, wrestling matches, or even something as simple as having your child sit on your lap as you read to them.
When your kiddo’s love language is touch other ways to demonstrate it can include:
- Holding hands as you walk through the store
- High fives after they’ve completed their homework
- Creating an at home spa and giving each other facials
- Piggyback rides on the way to check the mail
- Create a secret handshake just for the two of you
Identifying your child’s love language is a key part of nurturing their emotional development. But as mentioned in the first half of this post, showing love in all five ways is best. And don’t be surprised if the way your child craves love changes. As we grow our needs change along with our mental development. What that means is a child who once loved hugs and kisses may be less interested in all that mushy stuff and just want to spend some one on one time with you. Do what you can to be mindful of how you child shows love as they grow. This continued connection will help foster a strong relationship as they grow, even if their need for affection changes.