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Love Language: How to Discover Your Child's Primary Love Language

Once you've looked over Dr. Gary Chapman's 5 love languages of children, consider the five ways to discover your child's love language below.

Here's what Dr. Chapman says in his book, The 5 Love Languages:

As you begin to look for a child's primary love language, it is better not to discuss your search with your children, and especially with teenagers. By nature, children are self-centered. If they see that the concept of love languages is important to you, they may well use it to manipulate you to satisfy their momentary desires. The desires they express may have little to do with their deep emotional needs.

For example, if a child has been begging you for an expensive pair of basketball shoes, he may see the love language idea as a way to manipulate you to buy the shoes. All he has to do is to tell you that his primary language is gifts and that if you really love him, you will buy the shoes. As a conscientious parent wanting to find his primary language, you are likely to buy the shoes before you realize that you have been hoodwinked. Remember, positive parenting does not mean giving your children everything they want. You can employ the following methods as you seek to discover your child's primary love language.

1. Observe How Your Child Expresses Love to You.

Watch your child; he may well be speaking his own love language. This is particularly true of a young child, who is very likely to express love to you in the language he desires most to receive. If your five to eight-year-old frequently gives you words of appreciation such as, "Mommy, I loved supper," or "Daddy, thanks for helping me with my homework," or "I love you, Mommy," or "Have a good day, Dad," you can rightly suspect that his primary love language is words of affirmation.

This method is not as effective with fifteen-year-olds, and particularly with those who are accomplished in manipulation. They may have learned by trial and error that if they say positive words, you are more likely to give in to one of their desires, even if you are not completely convinced that you should. For this reason, this first method is best used for children who are between five and ten years of age.

2. Observe How Your Child Expresses Love to Others.

If your first-grader always wants to take a present to his teacher, this may indicate that his primary love language is receiving gifts. However, be careful that you are not suggesting presents for the teacher. If you are, your child is merely following your lead and the gift is not an expression of love, nor is it a clue to his primary love language.

A child whose language is gifts receives tremendous pleasure from getting presents and wants others to enjoy this same pleasure. He assumes that they will feel what he does when they receive a gift.

3. Listen to What Your Child Requests Most Often.

If your child often asks you to play games with her, take a walk together, or sit and read a story to her, she is requesting quality time. If her requests seem to fit this pattern, she is asking for what she needs most emotionally, namely, your undivided attention. Of course, all children need attention but for one who receives love most deeply this way, the requests for time together will greatly outnumber all the others.

If your child constantly solicits comments on his work, then his love language may be words of affirmation. Questions such as, "Mommy, what do you think of my drawing?" or "Did I do a good job on my homework?" or "Does my dress look nice?" or "Did I play my piece well?" are all requests for words of affirmation. Again, all children need and want such words of affirmation. Again, all children need and want such words and will occasionally ask for them. But if your child's requests tend to focus in this area, this is a strong indication that his love language is words of affirmation.

4. Notice What Your Child Most Frequently Complains About.

This approach is related to the third, but instead of directly asking for something, this time your child is complaining that he is not receiving something from you. If he complains, "You don't ever have time for me," or "You always have to take care of the baby," or "We never go to the park together," he is probably revealing more than a simple frustration at the coming of a new baby. He is expressing that since the baby has arrived, he is feeling less love from you. In his complaints, he is clearly requesting quality time.

An occasional complaint about the lack of quality time does not indicate the child's love language. For example, "Daddy, you work too much," may repeat what a child has heard the mother say. Or, "I wish our family took vacations like Ben's family" may express a desire to be like Ben.

Every child complains now and then, and many of these complaints are related to immediate desires and are not necessarily an indication of a love language. But if the complaints fall into a pattern so that more than half the complaints focus on one love language, then they are highly indicative. Their frequency is the key.

5. Give Your Child a Choice Between Two Options.

Lead your child to make choices between two love languages. For example, a father might say to a ten-year-old, "Eric, I'm going to get off early Thursday afternoon. We could go fishing together of I could help you pick out come new basketball shoes. Which would you prefer?" The child has a choice between quality time and a gift. A mother might say to her daughter, "I have some free time this evening. We could take a walk together or I could hem your new skirt. Which would you prefer?" This obvious choice is between quality time and an act of service.

As you give options for several weeks, keep a record of your child's choices. If most of them tend to cluster around one of the five love languages, you have likely discovered which one makes your child feel most loved. At times, your child will not want either option and will suggest something else. You should keep a record of those requests also, since they may give you clues.

If your child wonders what you are up to, giving such choices so frequently, and asks what is going on, you might say, "I've been thinking about how I invest my time with the family. When we have time together, I thought it would be good if I knew your thoughts and feelings about what we do with that time. It has been helpful for me. What do you think?" You can be as philosophical or as simple as you wish. However, what you are saying is true. As you seek to discover your child's love language, you are also giving him an exercise in choice.

Taken with permission from The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.


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