Children have a great need to feel unconditionally loved. God created us to need love, and He sent His Son to die for our sins to show us His unconditional love. Jesus said we’re to follow His example of loving others in John 13: 34-35:
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
As parents, we need to show our children unconditional love, in part because the way we love our children and spouse will show others that we’re Christ followers. But, also because our children need to know they are loved! Their emotional maturity depends on it.
5 Love Languages:
Many years ago, author Gary Chapman wrote the book “The 5 Love Languages” and it quickly became a best seller. The concept of people having preferred ways they want to be shown love has continued to be popular ever since. In fact, many marriages have been saved because couples applied the principles of this book and began to love one another the way they yearned to be loved.
He has since written books on the 5 love languages of children and of teens. These concepts can be applied to almost any close relationship that you have!
I believe that if you understand your children’s preferred love languages, and you show them love in the way they prefer to be loved, you’re more likely to have better attitudes during your school days!
But just in case you haven’t heard of the five love languages, let me summarize the concepts here for you before we go into how they can help your school days:
In his book, Gary states that there are basically five emotional love languages, or ways that people express love to one another and receive love from others. People tend to prefer to show and receive love primarily in one or two of these ways. They will feel more loved if you show them love in their preferred love language.
The five love languages and how they relate to children are as follows:
- Words of Affirmation- a child who prefers this love language feels loved when you speak words of affection and endearment, praise and encouragement. Words are powerful for these children. This isn’t just praising what they do, but even more so, genuinely speaking about the good things you see in them a as a person. Leaving little notes of encouragement for these children will go a long way. On the flip side, words of criticism can be very painful for children who have this as their primary love language.
- Quality Time – a child who prefers this love language feels loved when you give them your undivided attention. Most children want their parent’s undivided attention on a regular basis, but this child will want it more than the average child. They just love being together. Loving eye contact while you’re together means a lot as well as quality conversations about what’s important to them.
- Receiving Gifts- a child who prefers this love language finds the giving and receiving of gifts to be a powerful expression of love. The gifts are a symbol of your love for them. But the gifts don’t have to be big and expensive. Even a small token of love shows that you were thinking of them when you made it or found it. Most children like to receive gifts, but these children will tend to make a big deal out of giving and receiving gifts.
- Acts of Service- a child who prefers this love language feels loved when others think of their needs or wants and strive to meet them. As parents, we’re often serving our children, it’s what we do, especially when they’re young. However, as they get older, in our quest to help them become independent, we need to be careful that we don’t miss opportunities to serve them to show them love, especially if this is their primary love language.
- Physical touch – a child who prefers this love language feels loved when you hug and kiss them, or give any appropriate physical contact. Snuggling on the couch reading a good book, a simple touch on the shoulder when they’re working on their school work, holding hands, etc. Even a dad wrestling with his son can fall under this love language and will make him feel more loved if this is his love language.
I would encourage you to read the book to learn more:
There you’ll find a lot of specific suggestions on how to love your children in each of these love languages.
When we love people in the way they prefer to be loved, Chapman says that we fill their love tank and they feel completely loved. This in turn affects their behavior towards us.
“People behave differently when their emotional love tank is full”
Gary Chapman from “What Are the 5 Love Languages: The Official Book Summary”
Children need to learn how to love the important people in their life in all the different love languages, and we should show them love in all the different love languages. But they also feel more secure if you make a point to show them love in the love language that they prefer.
How can you determine your child’s love language?
- Realize it takes time!
Show them love with all the five love languages, especially when they’re little, but even when they’re teenagers, they need to experience love in all these ways. Teach them to show love in all the five love languages. Then:
- Watch their behavior and see how they try to show you love.
Do they frequently tell you how much they love you?
Do they often do something kind to help you and to show you love?
Do they want to be close to you, hugging and touching you a lot?
Do they often want to have you spend time listening to them, doing things with them?
Or do they tend to give you gifts throughout the week, a dandelion, or a picture they colored, etc.?
- Focus on showing them love in the way they show you love, and see how they respond. Do they seem more content and happy, more secure in your love? You’ve probably hit on their preferred love language.
How can loving your child in their love language help your school day go better?
Chapman states the following in his book “The 5 Love Languages of Children: the Secret of Loving Children Effectively” :
“The most important fact to know about a child’s learning ability is this: For a child to be able to learn well at any age, he must be at the emotional maturational level of that particular age. As the child grows, his ability to learn increases because of several factors, the most important of which is his emotional maturity. And parents have the greatest effect on the child’s emotional growth.”
A child’s emotional development has a great impact on their ability to learn!
A child who is doing well emotionally can concentrate better, has more motivation and will typically do better with their school work.
If a child feels unloved, they will have little motivation to tackle the challenges of learning.
How can you avoid having your child feel unloved?
Love them with all five of the different love languages, and watch to see which ones they seem to respond to most. When you discover what your child’s preferred love language is, lavish the love on using that language!
You’ll find that your child will respond with a desire to please you and will be more cooperative with their school work!
When their love tank is full, they will be more content! And a content child will do their school work more diligently and more willingly. Their focus and concentration will improve. It’s a win-win situation. And it’s not that hard to do.
Of course, loving your child using their preferred love language isn’t like a magic ticket to good behavior.
Discipline is also very important in raising emotionally mature individuals. Discipline comes from the Greek work “to train” and involves training our children to become mature adults who function well in society.
One of the most important aspects of teaching our children at home is discipline. If our children won’t obey us, or accept our training, it’s very challenging to teach them academically! They need to respect us enough to do what we tell them to; to respect us as their teacher as well as their parent.
I want to be clear, discipline doesn’t just mean punishment when they do wrong, it also means keeping their emotional love tank filled and using positive encouragement as you train them to be respectful and well behaved.
Children are typically self-focused and are instinctively trying to be sure that they are loved. If they feel unloved, or their love tank is low, they’ll start testing us to see if we love them.
How we respond is key.
If they still feel unloved by our response, they’ll continue to test our love by their behavior. That’s where unconditional love comes in, we need to love them unconditionally, no matter how they behave. I’m not saying we allow bad behavior, but in our response and even in our discipline, we need to be sure that they know that we love them. If we can use the love language that they prefer, then it will be even more meaningful for them and their love tank will be refilled.
When a child misbehaves, ask yourself: “Is my child’s love tank filled?” If not, “What can I do to fill their love tank as I deal with this misbehavior?”
I encourage you to the time to learn what your child’s love language is and strive to show them love the way they crave to be loved!
If you’ve learned some ways to show love to your children in one or more of these love languages, please share in the comment section so others can glean from what you’ve learned! I love to hear from you!!