How can you show your child that you really love them?

You may well be thinking: ‘How ridiculous Lisa, of course I love my child – 100% without a shadow of a doubt.  I don’t even need to think about it.’

I love my kids 24/7. FACT!

You may even continue to back that up with ‘I love them when they smother me in snotty, dirty kisses after a fun afternoon at the park.  I love the way they get up all sleepy with bed hair and ask me, ”What’s for breakfast?’  I love it when they say the rudest things at the most inappropriate moments and get away with it.’ (I quote: ‘That lady smells or why has that man got a big belly?)

So you really do love them then?

‘Yes,’ you insist.  Could I challenge you a bit further and ask if you still love them just as much when they are incessantly whinging at you for more treats or TV time?  ‘Oh yes!’ you cry, ‘I love them when they hang out bed time and I lose the will to ask them to clean their teeth one more time and GET TO BED!!   I love them when they terrorising the cat and think I can’t see them.  I love them when the word why makes a car journey seem like a episode of  Mastermind (because I said so never being the right answer).  I love them when they are late, stubborn, sulky, cheeky, disobedient…………..’ said no parent ever!!!

In fact, I would go as far as to say that sometimes after a particularly fraught and manic day with your little darlings, you may love them most when they are asleep.  Gaaaaasp!  Yes I really did type that on the Internet for everybody to read.  Don’t beat yourself up, you’re human after all!

OK, you see my point.  I know they don’t always behave in ways that you like, but you know that you love them.  So how do they know that you do?

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways

So how does the love that is oozing from your every pore (yes I know it is because you really really love your kids even though sometimes they cause you to shout, despair and all manner of uncomfortable feelings) get translated to your child?

At this point, I would suggest finding a piece of paper and drawing two columns.  In the first column, make a note of all the ways you think you show your child you love them.   This may take some time and you might want to pick it up and put it down over a number of days.  It will definitely bring it to your attention and let you be an observer of the love between you and your child.

I can think of some of the ways my Mum and Dad showed me that they love me – my Mum would often send me cards when I had done well at school.  Both my parents would tell me they loved me every night before I went to sleep and at the end of phone calls if I was not with them.  My Mum would cook yummy food and my Dad would buy sweets and comics every Saturday on his way home from work for me.  They were both very affectionate and generous spending as much of their free time with us as they could.  My Dad taught me how to swim and ride my bike.

Now examine your list more closely and see if you can put your ways of love into one of the following Love Language categories:-

  1. Physical Touch
  2. Words of Affirmation
  3. Quality Time
  4. Gifts
  5. Acts of Service

Now in the second column next to each item you have on your list, write a love language next to it.  There maybe a primary language of love that you speak to your child, but are you both speaking the same language?

You may truly love your child but unless they feel it, they will not feel loved

This simple and maybe obvious (to some) insight came to me via the New York Times best selling ‘5 Love Languages of Children’ by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell.  This book tells you how by discovering your child’s language of love (one of the 5 listed above) you will keep your child’s emotional tank topped up.  An emotional tank is a place of emotional strength that can fuel your child throughout the challenging days of childhood. Just like a car needs petrol to run, your child needs a large supply of unconditional love (real love is unconditional) to get them through.  Apparently, you cannot do this until your child is 5.  Before this age, the book recommends that you use each one of the 5 love languages in which there are many fab ideas to demonstrate each one.

But I tell my child I love them every day!

Lots of parents just assume their kids will know that they love them or think that by saying ‘I love you’ is enough.  Wrong.  Children are behaviourally motivated and they respond to actions – what you do with them. So to reach out to them, you need to love them on their terms.  You need to speak their language of love.

What is your child’s language of love?

If you have more than one child, they are very likely to have different love languages.  I took the online love language assessment to discover that mine is words of affirmation, closely followed by acts of service.  I would say this is because my Mother was excellent at doing all sorts of things to support me when I was growing up – she was very domesticated and practical in her parenting.  I would also say that I’m an approval seeker and I like to be told I’m loved appreciated, needed, wanted etc. etc.

What about you?  If you’d like to, you can have a go at the love language assessment here.  You can take it for yourself as a parent and for your child.  Or even as a wife or a husband.

 

If you want to do this for your children and they are still little (5-9yrs), there is a lovely book called ‘A Perfect Pet for Peyton’ which tells the story of how 5 children discover their own personal love language.

Love is the foundation

Speaking your child’s love language does not mean he or she will rebel later in life.  When a child feels love they are more open to instruction from a parent.  Of course it is necessary to discipline your child but only after their emotional tanks have been filled and refilled (they deplete regularly).  If you know your child’s love language, you can also discipline them and help them learn in the way that is suitable for them.

“No child can receive too much appropriate unconditional love.”

Love is the solid foundation that gives a child security, hope and a strong sense of self.  The child who feels genuinely loved and cared for can do their very best.

Conditional vs. Unconditional Love

Love is a child’s greatest emotional need.  Without love a small baby would die.  Love creates an environment for positive personal growth and therefore, healthy self esteem.  And boy do we need this as adults when life is throwing the the pants stuff our way.  When you love your child with conditions and love them only when they please you or do as they are told, that instantly becomes a breeding ground for insecurity.  Think how you would feel if your partner only loved you when you were doing things that he liked or approved of.  Yuck.  Or what about conditional love only when your child meets your requirements?   The child gets a very clear message that says, if I don’t do what you say, am I incompetent.  The child could even end up believing that their best is not good enough.  Hello a lifetime of insecurity, anxiety, low self esteem and anger.  Double yuck.

If you have a stab at the love language assessment and would like to share your findings or even make a comment about what love looks like in your family, please leave your wise words below.  Thank you!

 
Image credits © http://www.studio49photography.com and © http://www.sxc.hu

 

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