Love can be a ‘generously’ used term when it comes to children. Welcome to ParentalGrit, where we’re taking a trip back into the 1990s to adapt Gary Chapman’s mega-bestseller into the family life. While researching for this article, I discovered that Gary himself actually wrote a Five Love Languages for Children after the first book was such a success…but we’re going to pretend that didn’t happen and provide our own unique angle. For those unfamiliar, the Five Love Languages was written to identify which forms of affection different people identify with (i.e. gifts, compliments, or physical touch). The theory is that if you better understand how your own love manifests as well as your partner’s, you’ll be better suited for relationship happiness. That’s all well and good for your marriage but, if you’re reading this, you most likely have a bite-size tyrant or three running around your house. What about them? Let’s look at Gary’s original list of the five love languages to see how they translate to children today…
Words of Affirmation:
Just as it sounds, words of affirmation is all about using positive expressions to experience love. For example, yesterday when I (daddy) gave my daughter a hug after work and said how much I missed her, she responded with “Mommy is my best friend.” Can’t you feel the love for her father in the response? Children offer all sorts of words of affirmation, such as:
Can I have peanut butter? (after looking at your home cooked meal)
Watch Paw Patrol! (when I ask her what book she wants to read)
I DON’T WANNA (whenever I ask my child to do…anything)
These blessed words of affirmation really help me feel loved as a parent.
Acts of Service:
Acts of service requires one to complete tasks for a partner, such as some dreaded housework. What better way to show affection for a loved one than to cook a meal or do some laundry? My children view acts of service in a slightly different light: create more housework. How might I show daddy how much I love him? I’ll ruin six outfits in an afternoon, spill juice on the carpet, and throw an unused roll of toilet paper into the toilet BUT I’ll also be sure to point out each mess dutifully as it occurs. Those are the acts of service I receive in my house.
As straightforward as it sounds, receiving gifts is all about those unexpected little surprises and trinkets a love one can buy or create for you. My daughters focus mostly on the creation side of the equation (despite knowing exactly where daddy hides his wallet) and make me all sorts of surprises to show their love. At least 28 times per day, I receive a custom made pile of the foulest rubbish ever known, tidily held by the flimsy remains of a poorly made diaper. What a gift! It’s really the small things that count, like when my daughter gave me my car keys that had been missing for several weeks and had already been replaced. Other gifts I’ve recently received: the right eye shade from my nice sunglasses, several pages torn from various books, and a wide assortment of lids from my wife’s makeup, markers, deodorants, etc. Children can be so loving.
Some people show and experience love through quality time with a partner or loved one. That can certainly be a recognizable show of affection with children as well; what better what to say ‘I love you daddy’ than by watching Baby Shark 6000 straight times? That ringing sound I started hearing after the first 200 renditions must just be the echo of quality bonding time with my daughter, I guess. Eliza and Everly also show their affection through quality time by dictating each and every moment of this time. For example, if we go on a walk in their wagon, I hear the angry commands of a toddler dictator: TURN LEFT! GO SLOWER! TOO SLOW! SNACK! DON’T STOP!
Last but not least, some people give and receive love best through physical touch. Surely this is an easy experience with children, right? Of course! I can absolutely feel the love when my daughter delivers a heel straight into my kidney 17 times a minute if I let her co-sleep. The affection absolutely emanates as each of my girls do their crocodile death spiral on the changing table while I desperately attempt to rip off a saturated diaper. And, of course, nothing says “I Love You” like an infant grabbing a tuft of hair and not letting go until you have a bald patch.
The joys of parenthood! Sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek aside, it can sometimes be difficult to find your children’s expressions of love, especially when the days are long and times are stressful. If you’re ever feeling discouraged, just remember that your child’s eye roll was probably just code for You’re the best parent ever.