Using Choices to Discover Your Child’s Love Language


how to express love

When it comes to your kids you can put forth a lot of effort in loving them, but if they aren’t receiving or recognizing it then it won’t yield any fruit. You need to know how to express love to them in a way they will recognize and receive. Last week we shared Dr. Gary Chapman’s “5 Love Languages of Children”. Dr. Chapman has written extensively on the importance of identifying which of the five love languages your child has. Use these choices as part of the discovery process.

Choices for a Five-Year-Old

The choices you offer your child depend on age and interest. The following are merely examples to stimulate your creativity. To a first-grader you might say:

“Would you like for me to bake you an apple pie (acts of service) or for us to take a walk in the park (quality time)?”

“Would you rather wrestle (physical touch) or read a story together (quality time)?”

“While I am out of town for two days, would you rather I bring a present (gift) or write you a poem about what a wonderful boy you are (words of affirmation)?”

“Would you like to play our game, ‘I like you because…’ (words of affirmation) or would you like me to fix your broken toy now (acts of service)?”

The game, “I like you because…” is one in which parent and child take turns completing the sentence, “I like you because…” For example, the parent says, “I like you because you have a beautiful smile.” Then the child may say, “I like you because you read stories to me.” The parent says, “I like you because you are kind to your sister.” This is an enjoyable way of giving affirming words to the child and teaching him to affirm the parent. The game may also incorporate the ABCs so that the first “I like you…” must start with an A, as in, “Because you are active.” The second beings with a B, as in, “Because you are beautiful.”

Choices for a Ten-Year-Old

If your child is closer to ten years old, you might ask questions such as:

“For your birthday, would you rather have a new bicycle (gift) or a trip with me to Washington, D.C. (quality time)?”

“Would you rather I fix your computer this evening (acts of service) or that we play basketball together (quality time and physical touch)?”

“When we see Grandma this weekend, would you prefer that I tell her what a great job you did in school this quarter (words of affirmation) or that I buy you a surprise when we are there for doing so well (gift)?” You may choose to do both.

“Would you prefer I watch you practice your gymnastics (quality time) or that we buy you a new set of tights (gift)?”

Choices for a Fifteen-Year-Old

For a fifteen-year-old, the following choices might be appropriate. You and your child have bought an old car that you are trying to get in good condition by the time he is sixteen. The option is, “This Saturday, would you like us to work on the car together (quality time) or would you rather that I work on it while you spend time with your friends (acts of service)?”

“Would you prefer we buy you a jacket Saturday afternoon (gift) or that the two of us spend time at the cabin while Dad is away (quality time)?”

“Since you and I are the only ones at home tonight, would you rather we eat out (quality time) or that I fix your favorite pizza (acts of service)?”

“If you are feeling discouraged and I wanted to build you up, which would be more helpful to you—if I sat down and told you how much I love and appreciate you, and then mentioned some of your positive traits (words of affirmation) or if I simply gave you a bear hug and said, ‘I’m with you,'(physical touch)?”

If You have Teenagers…

A teenager in this difficult stage may not be able to receive any love language except physical touch, and only then if you are quick about it. Of course, these teens do come up for air now and then, and during their more coherent times you will want to show them all the love you can, especially in their own primary language.

Giving choices will be helpful only if you do it often enough to see a pattern showing a clear preference in love languages. You will probably need to offer twenty to thirty choices before you can see a clear pattern emerging. Isolated answers may just indicate the preference of the moment.

Still Speak all 5 Languages

Whatever your child’s love language may be, remember that it’s important to speak all five languages. Then we also will be helping our children to learn how to give and receive in all the love languages. As we are faithful in loving and providing examples, we can then envision our children moving into their adult lives able to share love with others in so many ways. When this happens, they will be outstanding adults!

Tell us! How did you discover your child’s love language?

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

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