When I’m chatting with parents about their little one’s sleep, I often say, make sure that their love tank is full before starting your bedtime routine, but what does this actually mean?
Each and every child has a “Love Tank” (in fact adults do too, it’s not just children).
When we spend good quality time with our children, when we sit and listen to them, play their favourite games, make them laugh, teach them new things, comfort them, show love and compassion and so on we fill their “Love Tank”.
In doing so their self-esteem is boosted, they feel happy, cared for and respected and subsequently their behaviour improves as they feel good about themselves. If you speak your child’s love language, they will become confident and emotionally stable children.
The Five Love Languages of Children, by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, M.D. is a wonderful book which highlights the importance of understanding the primary love language that your child speaks – the way that communicates love best to them.
Working out your child’s love language will depend partly on their age. Babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers don’t yet have a primary love language and need to be shown love in lots of different ways, frequently and directly.
If your child is aged 5-8 years, a bit of detective work will be required to work out their love language. You could try them all and see which gets the best reaction or ask them how they could tell that a parent loves their child. Their response might give you a clue as to what they think love ‘looks’ like.
So here are the ‘Five Love Languages’:
1. Words of Affirmation
This refers to verbal compliments or words of appreciation. These are best expressed in simple sentences and obviously need to be sincere. Here are some examples:
- I love you
- I really appreciate you helping me fold the washing
- You are so good at colouring in between the lines
- I love that you made a good judgment in X situation
- I love your smile
2. Quality Time
This is quite self-explanatory and literally means to give someone your undivided time and attention for a period of time. This all about being present without distractions so put your phone down! Just like adults, they want eye contact, to share thoughts and feelings and to know that they are important and you like being with them.
- Talk together one-to-one
- Go on a fun date together for example to the ice-cream shop or to look at the animals in the pet shop
- Do chores together
- Kick a ball around in the garden together
- Play their favourite game together
3. Receiving Gifts
A gift is something you hold in your hand and say “here I was thinking of you”. It doesn’t have to cost anything. Gifts are just visual symbols of love. Some ideas for gifts include:
- Leaving an unexpected treat in their bag or under their pillow such as stickers, a book
- Mail them a small gift when you are away
- Give them a small gift after a particularly challenging time
- Creating a photo album or book about them
4. Acts of Service
This is all about having things done for them, not because they are lazy or can’t be bothered doing it themselves, but because they enjoy being looked after. This could include:
- Cooking their favourite food as a surprise
- Filling up their water bottle for them when they could have done it themselves
- Putting the toothpaste on their toothbrush before they ask
- Brushing their hair
- Carrying them to bed and tucking them in
- Mend a broken toy
5. Physical Touch
For children who have this as their primary love language, physical touch communicates love to them more deeply than giving them praise, buying a gift, or fixing a toy. There are lots of ways to express love through physical touch such as:
- Touching them whilst talking to them
- Giving them a back rub
- Hugs, cuddles and kisses
- Offer to massage
- Sitting on your lap
- Holding hands or high fives
- Wrestling or tickle fights
- Snuggling close on the sofa and reading together
How often to fill up?
Throughout the day ask yourself.. “How full is your child’s love tank?”
I like to say that kids have love tanks the size of sippy cups and adults have large water bottle tanks! So kids need constant refills. Some need it hourly and some a few times a day. School age kids need a huge refill on the weekend so that they can start their week filled to the brim.
The purpose of learning to speak your child’s love language is for you to connect more deeply with your child. As you focus in on your child’s love language you will hopefully find that they really respond as they feel especially loved. But remember that while one way might be particularly meaningful for them, it’s still important to show them our love in all five ways.