Does Your Child Feel Your Love?
by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell
Nearly all parents deeply love their children, yet not all children feel that unconditional love and care. Why this contradiction? Often, parents assume that their kids just “know” they love them, or that saying “I love you” will be enough. But children are behaviorally motivated. They respond to actions—what you do with them. So to reach them, you must love them on their terms.
There are advantages to this approach for parents. For example, if you have had a hard day and you’re down and discouraged when you return home, you don’t feel especially loving. But you can behave in a loving way, because behavior is simple. You can give your love to your children, even when you don’t feel loving.
You may wonder if that is being honest and if your children can see right through you. In a way they can, because they are exquisitely sensitive emotionally. They know when you don’t feel loving, and yet they experience your love behaviorally. Don’t you think they are even more grateful and appreciative when you’re able to be loving, no matter how you feel inside?
Your children will sense how you feel about them by how you behave toward them. It was the apostle John who wrote, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” If you began to list all the behavioral ways to love a child, I doubt that you could fill more than one page. There just aren’t that many ways, and that is fine, because you want to keep it simple. What matters is to keep your children’s love tanks full. You can simply remember that behavioral expressions of love can be divided into physical touch, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and words of affirmation.
Beginning with chapter two, we will help you uncover your child’s primary love language. A word of caution, though. If your child is under age five, don’t expect to figure out his primary love language. You can’t. The child may give you clues, but his love language is rarely clearly seen. Just speak all five languages. Tender touch, supporting words, quality time, gifts, and acts of service all converge to meet your child’s need for love. If that need is met and your child genuinely feels loved, it will be far easier for him to learn and respond in other areas. This love interfaces with all other needs a child has. Speak all five languages when your child is older, too, for he needs all five to grow, even though he craves one more than the others.
A second caution: When you discover your child’s love language and thus she receives the love she needs, don’t assume everything in her life will be problem-free. There will still be setbacks and misunderstandings. But your child, like a flower, will benefit from your love. When the water of love is given, your child will bloom and bless the world with beauty. Without that love, she will become a wilted flower, begging for water.
Because you want your children to grow into full maturity, you will want to show them love in all the languages and then teach them how to use these for themselves. The value is not only for your children, but for the people with whom they will live and associate. One mark of a mature adult is the ability to give and receive appreciation through all the love languages—physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, and acts of service. Few adults are able to do this; most of them give or receive love in one or two ways.
If this is not something you have done in the past, you may find that you too are changing and growing in understanding and in the quality of your relationships. In time, you will have a truly multilingual family.