By Joey and Carla Link
May 12, 2021
Your child is cranky all the time and you can’t figure out why. He obeys most of the time, he/she gets their stuff done on time and they are doing well in school. He just doesn’t seem happy or like he is in a good mood. If you came to us with this scenario about your child, the first question we would ask you is how consistently you and your spouse are having couch time. The next question would be this: ARE YOU MEETING YOUR CHILDREN’S LOVE LANGUAGE NEEDS? Why do we ask this question? No amount of discipline will be effective if a child’s emotional needs are not being met. The #1 emotional need every human being has is the need for love. Gary Chapman first introduced the concept of love languages to the Christian community in his book “The 5 Love Languages” in 1992. The premise of love languages is that we need love spoken to us in a certain way and we also speak that same language when we are expressing love to others. The 5 Love Languages are: Acts of Service (we all want these kids in our homes!), Physical Touch and Closeness, Quality Time, Words of Encouragement, and Giving Gifts. Are you having trouble figuring out what your child’s love language needs are? The following are some examples of how a young child would show you how he loves you.
- Is she always telling you she loves you, how nice you look, how good dinner is, etc.? Consider “words of encouragement”.
- Does he bring you pictures he has drawn/colored, or rocks he found in the yard? Consider “giving gifts”.
- Does she follow you around asking what she can do for you? Is she helpful? Consider “acts of service”.
- Can he not walk by you without giving you a hug, or climbing in your lap? Consider “physical touch and closeness.”
- Is she always asking you to read her a book, or color with her? Consider “quality time“.
How can you really know what your child’s love language is? Watch him/her for a few days and see if their behavior towards you and their siblings falls into one of these categories. If you are still unsure, ask him! Ask your childwhat it is that you do that makes him feel special or loved by you. Pay close attention to his/her answer. It will fall into one of the above five categories. We cannot tell you how many times when we found ourselves frustrated with the attitude of one of our children, the culprit was not the discipline we had used, but rather that their emotional “well” or love tank wasn’t full. Before our son Michael got his driver’s license, I drove him to band every day, which was about a ten minute drive, and I picked him up when that period was over. (He was homeschooled the rest of the day.) Since our office is in our home and Joey usually was home during that time, I often left the girls at home when I made this drive. I didn’t realize how often however, until an incident that happened one time when I had the girls with me when I picked him up. I needed to take them shopping for new shoes, and decided to pick up Michael and take them all at one time. As soon as he saw us in the van waiting for him, it was apparent he was upset. I asked him what was wrong, and after pressing him repeatedly, he finally blurted out, “What are the girls doing in the van? This is my time with you!” I was surprised at the anger in his tone. I took him home, and then took the girls shopping, during which time I thought about how to deal with the matter. I had not put the same value on that time as he had. Michael’s primary love language is “quality time’”, and having those few minutes with me each day was a way that he was getting it filled. When I returned home, I told him I would try to honor that time for just us. However, in return, should I on occasion need to have the girls with me, I expected a better response from him in the future. There were a few times I did have the girls with me before the term was over and he handled it well. Now, with love languages, we have found that there are two categories of people. The first is what we call the “accordion”. This type of person usually has a “high need” in 2 or more of the love language categories. Just when you think you have really worked hard to fill his “well”, you find that he is feeling unloved because another area has been overlooked. We think of an accordion, because their need to have love expressed to them in a number of different ways is squeezed together like this old musical instrument is! How do you keep your “accordion” child’s tanks full? I would write in my journal something I was going to do to fill a different tank each day. When I was consistent in doing this, it wasn’t difficult to figure out which one needed extra filling because I didn’t have to look too deep because all the tanks were near full. The other type of individuals are those who have a great need in 1 area and only one. The other areas are fairly well spaced apart. My love language is words of encouragement and the rest are way down the ladder. I don’t see how this would be difficult to keep filled, however, I married a man with the Melancholy temperament. “Encouragement” is not a word easily found in the Melancholy’s dictionary! If you are uncertain as to what your child’s primary love language is, then take steps to figure it out and develop a plan to start filling his tank all the way to the top! “This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you.”John 15:12