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Children: Speaking Their Language

Author: Michele Tryon, CCLS
Published Date: Tuesday, May 07, 2019

On a weekend visit, my 8-year-old granddaughter hardly left my side. She soaked up as much physical contact with me as she could, proclaiming: “Grandma, I’m gonna be your cling-on this weekend.” She sat next to me whenever she could. If I left the room to retrieve something, I was greeted with a hug when I returned.

She was speaking her preferred love language: physical touch. It’s one of the five preferred languages that children use to give and receive love. The other love languages are: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and gifts.

According to Gary Chapman, author of “The Five Love Languages of Children,” it is important to communicate our love with a message children can understand and receive. While it’s important to tell a child that you love them, many children need to experience love beyond hearing the words.

How do you know which language your child speaks? Check out the information below, observe your child, and do something from each of the categories to see what fits.

Physical Touch

If your child’s preferred language is physical touch, they will be physically affectionate, sharing hugs and kisses, climbing on your lap, or sitting close. They might rest their head on your shoulder or touch your arm when talking, or even wrestle to make physical contact with you.

Words of Affirmation

If your child beams with pride when praised or asks, “Do you like my picture?” or “ Did you see me dancing?” they are seeking words of approval. They tuck those treasured words into their sense of self and are assured of their value.

A mom told me her child would ask several times a day, “How much do you love me?” and she would respond, “A bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck.” For him, the game never got old. She remembered that he was filling his love bucket with his love language, and learned to appreciate the game, too.

Quality Time

Quality time is more about the focus of your time together than the amount of time you spend. Some children feel most loved when they have your undivided attention. There are countless ways to enjoy your child’s company: read a book and talk about the characters, take a walk after dinner, do an art project, go fishing, or kick a soccer ball around. Quality time leads to quality conversation. I still remember car rides and conversation with my quality-time kiddo even though she is grown with children of her own. When your child feels connected, they just might tell you about the important things in their life. And, of course, you should practice nodding and not interrupting or correcting for the moment. You fill your child’s love bucket by being present when you are together.

Acts of Service

Does your child ask for help with homework or appreciate it when you cook their favorite meal? When you find yourself fixing a bike chain, repairing a toy, or helping with a project, notice your child’s reaction. If it is one of appreciation, you might be speaking their language. It is important that children learn to do things independently, too. Teaching is an act of service. Teach your child to make a family recipe or take care of a garden box. Children who love receiving service from others often love giving it, too.

My granddaughter told me one day, “Grammy, you take good care of me. You’re a ‘carer’ Grammy.” Although, children under age 5 may not have developed a preference for one love language or another, she was demonstrating her appreciation for how I fill her love bucket when she visits me.

Appropriate Gifts

For some kiddos, thoughtfully chosen gifts are a tangible reminder that you were thinking about them and care for them. Does your child comment on wrapping paper or have a treasure box under the bed with all of their keepsakes? Gifts might be their love language. Be careful with this one, it is not about buying their love. It is about recognizing them with something that they can see and touch. Whether it is a sticker on a chart, or a pair of shoes they’ve been eyeing, it’s truly “the thought that counts.” Every time they see that gift, they are reminded of their connection to you.

For more information, check out Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages of Children,” or check out the CHKD calendar of events to see when the next class is offered.



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About Michele Tryon, CCLS

Michele Tryon, CHKD community outreach coordinator and parent educator has worked with children and families for 30 years, providing services in the hospital, home, school and community setting. Michele is a Certified Child Life Specialist, a Certified Positive Discipline™ parent educator, a nationally recognized trainer/consultant for Nurturing Parenting Programs™ and co-author of The Nurturing Program for Parents and Their Children with Special Needs and Health Challenges©.