Speaking Your Child’s Love Language

Love Language

“Chill out.” “It’s totally cool.” “Get a life.” 

Our children at times speak a language we may not, at first, fully understand. But when it comes to our children understanding what we say, we may not fully communicate our ideas, either. Of all the ways we can miscommunicate our intentions, perhaps the way that has the greatest potential for harm is to not properly communicate love to our children. Can you speak—and do you speak—your child’s love language?

There are basically five ways children (indeed, all people) speak and understand emotional love. They are: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. 

Physical touch is the easiest love language to use unconditionally, because parents need no special occasion or excuse to make physical contact. They have almost constant opportunity to transfer love to the heart of a child with touch. Many people have drawn back from giving healthy forms of touch because of fears about sexual abuse. We may need to observe certain precautions, but we must not allow fear of being accused to keep us from appropriate demonstrations of affections.

Words of affection and endearment, words of praise and encouragement, words that give positive guidance all say, “I care about you.” Such words are like a gentle, warm rain falling on the soul; they nurture the child’s inner sense of worth and security. A child reaps the benefits of affirming words for a lifetime.

Quality time is a parent’s gift of presence to a child. It means giving a child your undivided attention. It conveys this message, “You are important. I like being with you.” It makes the child feel that he is the most important person in the world to the parent. He feels truly loved because he has the parent all to himself. 

Giving and receiving of gifts can be a powerful expression of love, at the time they are given and often extending into later years. Children whose primary language is the receiving of gifts will always make much of receiving the gift. The gift holds a special place in their hearts because it is in fact an expression of your love. Seeing the gift reminds them that they are loved.

Acts of service that are genuine expressions of love will communicate on an emotional level to most children. If service is your child’s primary love language, when that child asks you to fix a bicycle or mend a doll’s dress, he or she does not merely want the task done; your child is crying for emotional love. As children live with the example of parents who serve the family and those beyond the walls of their home, they too will learn to serve.

Every child has a primary language of love, a way in which he or she understands a parent’s love best. Only the child who feels genuinely loved and cared for can do her best. You may truly love your child, but unless she feels it—unless you speak the love language that communicates to her your love—she will not feel loved. Love is the foundation to a secure child who grows into a giving, loving adult.

Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell, M.D., The Five Love Languages of Children, Chicago, IL, Northfield Publishing, 1997. Used by Special Permission from Moody Press.