Our children have love languages, too

  • Published
  • By Paula Tracy
  • Family advocacy
I hate grocery shopping. It ranks up there with getting my teeth cleaned or giving the cat his medicine. Still, this past weekend I resolutely made my grocery list and headed out. By the time I finished, I was irritated, tired and wanted nothing more than some nice quiet alone time. So when I pulled into my driveway and saw my 23-year-old son, I was delighted at the prospect of some help with transporting my expensive cargo into the  house.

Allow me to backtrack a little. As a little boy, my son was very active,.energetic and talkative, with a wicked sense of humor. He adored attention and was happiest when one or both of his parents spent one-on-one time with him.

So there we were, my son and I, with a trunk full of groceries. Anticipating my coveted solitude, I grabbed the first load and headed in. And then it started. "Oh, Mom! You've got to see what I found today at the mall!" He then thrust his size 13 foot up in the air for me to examine his new sandals, effectively blocking my path into the house. "They're  memory foam ... you've got to feel them. Here, try them on!" I admired them, but resisted,
citing my looming task as the reason for my reluctance. "No, really! It'll just take a sec.  and I swear you're going to love them. You'll want a pair as soon as you see how great they feel on your feet!" He kicked them off and placed them directly in front of me, looking as happy and expectant as a 5-year old boy. And that's when it hit me: in his heart, he still is a 5-year old boy.

"The Five Love Languages of Couples" is a great book that provides tremendous insight into understanding how to better meet your partner's emotional needs. As adults, we don't just spontaneously develop those love languages; the roots begin in our childhoods. So the five love languages of couples -- acts of service, quality time, physical touch, gifts and words of affirmation -- are just as applicable to kids. My son's primary love language as a little boy was quality time. Every time I stopped what I was
doing, looked him in the face and gave him direct attention, I was conveying my love to him and reaffirming his importance in my life. The adult son still thrives on that one-on-one interaction.

My oldest is now 24; as a child, gifts was her primary love language, hands down. It still is. The youngest at 17 "speaks" the languages of physical touch and acts of service. My 5-year-old granddaughter? Quality time and physical touch. My 3- year-old grandson responds best to words of affirmation. Now that I've really paid attention to what is
most meaningful to each child, I'm impressed with how much easier it is not just to meet their emotional needs, but also to understand what drives and motivates their interactions with others.
  What about your kids? Have you ever wondered why a parenting response that seemed so effective with one child simply didn't have thesame impact with another? Or why, no matter how much you expressed verbal and physical affection to a child, s/he just never seemed to "feel loved" enough? As parents, it's easy to feel frustrated or guilty when this happens, wondering what we're doing wrong. Probably nothing. Instead, while you're doing everything right, you and your child are merely speaking different languages and trying desperately to translate one another's messages.

In a nutshell, hugs, kisses, pats on the back and affectionate shoulder squeezes will reinforce your love to a child who speaks the physical touch language. Praise, words of encouragement and gentle guidance shout love to a words of affirmation child. For kids who speak the quality time language, moments spent together, sharing thoughts and feelings matter most. Try to spend one-on-one time with that child. Meaningful gift-giving  is what fills the love tank of a child who responds to gifts. And while most of us appreciate a thoughtfully chosen present, these children respond to the entire  experience of receiving: the anticipation or surprise, selection, the way it is wrapped, the gift itself and how it will be worn/used/proudly displayed. Last, when an Acts of Service child comes to you with a request for help, a positive response communicates far more than just the accomplishment of the immediate task.

So I tried on the sandals. I compromised. I kicked off one shoe and tried it on to see what the fuss was all about. And he was right; I do want a pair.