“Parent and Child”
It’s a special bond that spans the years
Through laughter, worry, smiles and tears,
A sense of trust that can’t be broken,
A depth of love sometimes unspoken,
A lifelong friendship built on sharing,
Hugs and kisses, warmth and caring,
Parent and child, their hearts as one –
A link that can never be undone.
– author unknown
Do you love your children? Of course, who doesn’t? Maybe I should rephrase the question: Do your children feel that you love them? In their book The Five Love Languages of Children,Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell explain that there are five main “love languages” through which children perceive love. While one child might feel loved when you tell him or her “I love you,” another might feel loved by cuddling on the couch and reading a book. Parents can use all five love languages to communicate with their children, but figuring out your child’s primary love language and communicating mostly in that way will make him or her feel most loved and secure. After all, you may truly love your child, but unless he truly feels that love through a language he understands, he will not feel loved.
Chapman and Campbell write that children (and adults) have “emotional tanks,” or fuel for tough and challenging days. We need to fill those emotional tanks with love in order to help children operate and reach their potential. These emotional tanks will be best filled with unconditional love in their particular language.
First, let’s talk about what unconditional love is. Unconditional love means no matter what. It means that you love your child no matter what he looks like, what you expect from him and how he responds, and even if his behavior is poor. This doesn’t mean that there is no discipline in your home. It simply means that when you discipline, your child has a full “emotional tank” and can respond to the discipline positively. After all, discipline only works if children feel loved.
It’s important to remember that children are children. They will act immaturely. But, if we love them unconditionally, they will mature. This unconditional love can act as a foundation for self-esteem and success. Conversely, if we love them conditionally, they will be insecure and lack maturity.
But, you can love your children without them feeling your love if you don’t speak their love language. Let’s go over what Chapman and Campbell have identified as the five love languages. See if you recognize them in your children.
Physical touch: Some children understand that their parents love them through touch: hugs, kisses, wrestling, or reading on laps. A lot of parents don’t realize that they often only touch their children when necessary – going in and out of the car, tucking in at night, or helping to cross the street. For children whose primary love language is physical touch, the best way to let them know that you love them is to cuddle with them. Sit next to your son on a couch and read a book. Braid your daughter’s hair.
Words of affirmation: Other children understand love through words. If a parent provides positive guidance, praise, or concern this indicates to the child that his parent loves him. On your way to school for the first day saying something like, “I’m so proud of how much you have grown this summer.” “You are such a mentsch,” is a language of love for some children. Of course, saying “I love you” is also an affirmation. If a child is consistently asking for comments on what he or she did (e.g., “How do you like my science project?” “Isn’t this a great necklace I just beaded?”), her primary love language might be words of affirmation.