You love your littles. We're here to help you learn their love languages so you can love on them even better. Check out our guide on how to learn your child's love language here!
What are the 5 Love Languages?
Gary Chapman first shared his concept of "love languages" back in 1992 when he published his novel, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.
If you haven't heard of them before, the 5 love languages (Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch) are usually discussed in romantic relationships. They're nothing radical - they just help you understand your partner and how to love them better each day. But the more I've learned about these love languages, the more I realized: they can be applied to every relationship - especially ones with your kids.
Why Are They Important to Know?
You'll spend more time with your family than anyone else, especially your kiddos. And every kid is different - one might feel loved when you snuggle, another might squirm at the thought.
It's important to know how to best love your kids so you know how to comfort, support, and cherish them in a more meaningful way to them. You want them to really feel how much you love them right? Learning their love language equips you with the tools on how to do that.
Disclaimer: It is easier to identify your child's love languages the older they are, ideally 5+. That being said, nothing stops you from observing your child as a baby and noticing what comforts them the most! We are always learning more about our kiddos, and the learning never really ends. There's no harm in trying to figure out your child's love language earlier - just don't be discouraged if it's harder to determine when they are younger.
How to Learn Your Child's Love Language:
Before we dive into the different specific love languages, here are a few practical steps to observe your kiddo and learn what makes them feel most loved:
1. Watch How Your Child Loves Others
Just like adults, kids often love others the way they want to be loved. If your child is constantly giving you little bouquets of dandelions at the park, take note of this gift-giving habit. If your little one loves encouraging their little sib through words, notice that. Of course, this isn't a surefire way of discovering your child's love language, but it's a good way to notice (and appreciate) how your love bug loves others.
2. How Does Your Child Feel Most Comforted?
Your child probably has one or two things that truly comfort them - whether it be rocking with mommy in the rocking chair, being reminded how brave they are, or kissing their scraped knee and getting them a bandaid. Notice what is most comforting to your child, and consider what love language they appreciate the most.
3. What Do They Ask for Most Often?
Kids ask for a lot of things - so we totally get how easy it is to tune out the questions sometimes LOL. But as you're learning your child's love languages, notice what they ask for most often (especially when they are upset). If they ask you to play a lot, they might appreciate quality time. If they constantly fish for compliments or reassurance, they might be hungry for words of affirmation.
4. Notice Voids
As your kids get older, notice any voids your child voices. Voids often sound something like "you never play candy land with me anymore" or "you never listen to me!" In the moment, it can seem hurtful or frustrating - but a lot of the time, your child is just expressing a void they feel and a love language that may have gone unfulfilled. Lean into the that.
5. Still Stumped? Give Them a Choice
If your kid is a mystery, that's okay! Learning your child isn't easy, and it takes time. If you really want to try a short cut, try giving them a choice of reward. For example, if your kid scored at their soccer game or got an A+ on a test, give them the choice between a few rewards: going out to lunch with you, picking out a toy at Target, etc. If your kid confidently picks one option over another, you might have a better indication of what their love language is.
Love Languages Might Look Different in Children
It's obvious but easy to forget: how your child gives and receives love might look a lot different than an adult! If you're used to picking out the "tells" in adults as to which love languages they have, you might have to adjust to a kid's perspective. For instance, acts of service might not look like doing their laundry for them - but it might look like helping them with a homework assignment.
Here are each of the love languages and how they could manifest in your child, one by one:
Words of Affirmation
Words of Affirmation includes compliments, validation, and any loving thing you could say to your child! A child who appreciates Words of Affirmation will light up when you compliment them, and hold onto your words for years. They might seek your approval in many areas, so keep this in mind when they show you something they are proud of. As they get older, they also appreciate your advice more than kids without this love language. As parent, keep in mind: your words carry much more weight if your child shares this love language, and you can use your words to either build them up or tear them down.
Indicators for Words of Affirmation:
- Your child might ask what you think about something they make, the game they played, or their friends. Remember your words carry a lot of weight!
- Your child might ask you to reassure them a lot
- Your child responds better to positive reinforcement than negative
- When anyone says something hurtful to your child (a friend at school, their sibling, etc.) they might be more hurt.
How to Love Them:
- Leave an encouraging note in their lunch box
- Remind them how proud you are of them consistently!
- Show them you are listening to them by nodding, smiling, and validating how they feel
- Talk positively about your kid to your spouse just within ear shot, so they can hear your conversation (Ex. "Emily was so brave at school today, I was so impressed!)
- Say affirmations with them every day, like "I am strong," "my voice matters," and "I am beautiful."
- Look for any reason to compliment them ("your outfit is so cute today!")
- Say "I love you" often, and never have strings attached (never say "I love you, but...")
A lot of people misunderstand gifts - this love language isn't just about spending tons of money to love your kid! Gifts really has to do with the feeling of being loved by someone thinking about you when you aren't there. If your kid feels loved and comforted when they know you're thinking about them always, even when they aren't with you, this could be their love language.
Indicators of Gifts:
- Your child begs for toys at the store more than any other
- Your child loves giving you gifts - small bouquets of wildflowers, rocks, drawings, or lego creations
- Your child struggles to get rid of gifts they were given in the past - even if they don't use it anymore
- Your child looks forward to Christmas gifts and birthday gifts just a little more than their peers.
How to Love Them:
- Grab their favorite snack or treat next time you go grocery shopping
- Find a leaf on a walk and give it to them, saying it reminded you of them
- Reward your child with star stickers or m&m's for doing well (works especially great for potty-training)
- Create a chore system with gift rewards (ex. earn 10 chore points to pick out a toy at the store)
- Have them write a gift idea list every Christmas & birthday
Acts of Service
Acts of Service is one of the harder love languages to identify in children! When we think of Acts of Service, we often consider adult chores or favors. But kids can appreciate Acts of Service too! Think about what makes your kid feel served - maybe it's through your cooking, advice, or hands-on help. This love language includes any action that takes a little bit of the load off your kiddo and makes them feel seen and loved.
Indicators of Acts of Service:
- Your child asks for help often (whether if be with a homework assignment or brushing their teeth)
- When you cook something they like, they absolutely light up
- They love their siblings or friends by helping them with their chores
- Helping others is a big way they express love
- They love surprises
How to Love Them:
- Cook their favorite meal or make their favorite dessert
- Warm your kid's clothes or towel in the dryer on a cold day
- Help them with a school project
- Fill up their water bottle before they ask you to
- If you have teens - fill up the gas in their car or buy them lunch for school randomly
Quality Time may be the most common love language, and it's a little easier to identify in kids! This love language includes any investment of time, and heavily focuses on relationship. You know your child appreciates Quality Time if they love spending time with their favorite people.
Indicators of Quality Time:
- Your child looooves daddy or mommy dates (one on one dates to get ice cream, go on a walk, or go to the park)
- Your child might get jealous of your time if they have a sibling
- Your child might get frustrated if you or your partner has to work
- They don't care too much what they do, they care more about who they do it with
- You child absolutely loves spending time with friends
How to Love Them:
- Set aside 1:1 time with your kid each day. This can be as simple as reading books to them before bed, sitting down and asking how their day at school was, or carving out 10 minutes in the afternoon to play. Be 100% present!
- Schedule 1:1 time weekly/monthly. Show your child you love them by taking them on "dates" every once in a while. Walk around the mall, or treat them to lunch. No siblings allowed! This is your special time between just you two.
- As they get older, invite them to every family event. Even if they might be busy, they appreciate the gesture.
- Invite them into special time. If your child is the oldest, let them stay up a few minutes later than the other kids to hang out with mom and dad. If your youngest is too young for school while their other siblings are away, eat lunch together.
- Get into their world. Set aside your worries about work, responsibilities, etc. Really dive into their world; be 100% present, enjoy what they enjoy, and get on their level.
Physical Touch is just what it sounds like - anything physical! Hugs, snuggles, kisses, and subtle gestures like a hand squeeze are all included. You might be able to easily identify your snuggle bug, but you might be surprised about simple gestures that will really make your child feel loved.
Indicators of Physical Touch:
- Your child runs to you for hugs and kisses whenever they are hurt
- Your baby only calms down or falls asleep in your arms
- Your child runs to give you a hug when they see you after Sunday school, daycare, or school.
- Your child might seem clingy, especially in the baby/toddler years
How to Love Them:
- Cuddle! - with your PBC Quilt of course;) (It's the most relaxing afternoon activity, so honestly mom win)
- Brush and style their hair gently
- Hold hands during your next neighborhood walk
- Scratch their back before bed
- Give them lots of kisses!
- Give them a high five or pat on the back anytime they do something they are proud of
- Play wrestle with them! (this one might be better suited for dad;)
Give Yourself Grace
Your child is an individual, whole person - and it takes a while to understand them. Especially if they are still little! There will be times you try something and it doesn't land, and your child doesn't appreciate as much as you were hoping. Other times, you'll nail it right on the head without expecting to.
Give yourself grace. You are the best thing for your babies because you are their mama! You know them best, and you are doing amazing. You love them so much, and that's really what matters most.