A child’s heart is smaller, so they leak quickly. But the good news is that they fill fast! An encouraging word, positive declaration, 60-second back rub, eye contact with a huge smile, notes in their lunch box, message on the mirror, helping them with homework or chores. It can also look like a balloon at the breakfast table, sitting together, helping them with their hair or outfit, eating together, etc., are all simple, quick ways that communicate love.
A CHILD’S HEART
Every child needs to do this exercise! Do it 1:1 with each child, so you can hear their heart and pick up on any resistance. Have them outline a body on a piece of paper. Start with their hair and walk through their mind, eyes, nose, mouth, body shape, stomach, height, etc. Think of their interests and the things that make them come alive (sports, music, dancing). Write it out on the paper as you go through who they are, top to bottom. You are helping them see who they are. While we are constantly being transformed on the inside, there are some things we cannot change, such as our nose shape, eye color, height, gifts, what makes us come alive, etc. This is the package of who they were created to be. Now have them make a circle around the entire body. Explain to them that who they are is to be guarded and protected as if it is inside a bubble. Read Proverbs 4:23 and explain if any person, peer, teacher, sibling, social media post, song, friend, movie, leader, or thought tells them that something is wrong with their body, gifts, talents, etc., they are to reject it. Empower them with how to reject it. Perhaps they will take that thought captive and say to themselves, “That is not something I agree with, and do not give that voice permission to speak to me.”
When I was teaching my children this concept, Hudson (age four at the time) got up, went to the front door, made a kicking motion, and slammed the door. I asked what he was doing, and he said, “I had a bad thought, so I was kicking it out” Yeah, like that, buddy! They can write it on a piece of paper, rip it up, cross it out, or shred it. I had a season that we were going after this and put a set of colorful markers in the bathroom and would have my children write the lie on a piece of toilet paper with the colorful marker and then toss it into the toilet. The color would lift, making a beautiful swirl in the toilet bowl (isn’t that true of what God does with whatever we give Him? It turns it into something beautiful.). Teach them that there is a difference between being humble and allowing people to speak into their lives and give healthy feedback and constructive criticism vs. someone or something being used as a spokesperson of the enemy to tear down what God has built and designed. Give specific examples such as a friend saying, “Shut up. You are so annoying when you talk,” and a teacher saying, “I need for you to manage your mouth when I am teaching the class.” Both are addressing the issue of their mouth, but one is to be rejected and the other is to be received. How do they know the difference? It is generally tested by peace.
If while doing this with older children, you feel resistance or they say things like “This is stupid,” “Why do we have to do this?” “What’s the point?” Please do not back down. The resistance is telling you that they have already allowed a voice inside their bubble, which needs to be exposed. I would take it as far as you can, and then if it is time to back off (Holy Spirit will lead you), say something like this, “Okay, yeah, we can stop, but I need for you to hear this. Your resistance and wall to even talk about who you are is revealing that you have allowed a thought to enter your bubble. It is there to steal your joy, rob you of your peace, and tell you that something is wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with you, and I am here when you are ready to deal with it.” I would intentionally speak their love language and look for creative ways to bring them joy because it releases a chemical in their brain that gives them the will to fight and endure hard things. Give it a few hours or a day but circle back by saying something like, “Hey, remember when I asked you to draw that picture? What was happening inside of you when we talked about who you are?” Listen to them. Do not fix or correct them but listen to what their heart has to say. For many older children, simply exposing it helps them reject it and realize that they are feeling icky about themselves because of a lie, not because something is wrong with them. Others may need to ask Jesus to show them who they need to forgive for speaking that their body, gifts, and personality are unacceptable.
Moms and dads, please do not ignore this exercise. Children who grow up with the wrong voices inside their bubble carry them around for years, shaping who they become. We can empower our children to reject lies and protect who God designed them to be.
Are you willing to put in the effort and help your child understand their value and worth?
What happens when the tanks run low? While everyone will experience an ebb and flow with their love tank when a person, especially a child, runs on a low love tank as the norm, it can open them up to greater issues and wreak havoc on the growth of their mind, body, and spirit. A low tank makes them susceptible to the following: Isolation – physical, mental, or emotional; Negative words that stick; Unhealthy choices; Orphan behavior – begging and striving; Acting out (negative attention is better than none at all); Aggression; Anger; Building walls to protect their heart; Disconnection; Miss the healthy training ground with siblings; Feeling unsafe; Taught to conform to someone else’s expectations.
When the tanks are filled on a regular basis, it creates an environment where: They are safe and protected; Can try new things without the fear of failure; Negative words roll off their back; Are free to be careful and joyful (a child’s nature); They are seen and heard; Trust you; It is safe to be themselves; Deep sense of belonging; Have the courage to do brave things; Increase the will to overcome and endure.
The Word says if you have EVERYTHING (money, fame, status, awards, a big house, a perfect-looking family, IG followers, Pinterest-worthy snacks, A+ students, fancy cars, leadership titles, etc.), but have no love, you have NOTHING! Love matters because God designed our heart, mind, and soul to need it. May your parenting be defined by what matters the most – L-O-V-E!
I want to remind you that if you are a born-again believer, you have a Shepherd over you in this hour. He knows how to keep you safe, protect you and lead you to green pastures. He knows when you are wandering off and how to go after you.
Years ago, we were in a store shopping when Hudson asked for a Lego set. Before I could reply, he began to beg me with intense emotion. Watching him plead and beg like a fish flopping around out of water was repulsive to my ears. I stopped him, put my hand on his shoulder, and asked, “Who am I?” He was reminded that he was talking to his mother, who fearlessly loves, provides, and protects him. The one who carried him for nine months and knows him better than anyone else on earth. The one with a track record of being kind, loving, and attentive to his wants and needs. Having his full attention, I said, “Ask me like my son, not a begging orphan,” and he quickly changed the way he approached me. He wanted the Lego set so badly but failed to see that he could trust me with his heart. I wanted him to see that he could trust me, even with the thing that mattered most to his heart at that moment, even if I said not now because I was for him and loved him. It was a trust issue, not a Lego issue.
Repent for partnering with any belief that tells you that God is not a good father or does not care.
Testimony from a father. This is what it is all about! The best parenting in the world means little if it does not love big.
“My wife and I discovered today which love language each of our children gravitates toward & made an intentional effort to fill them. The results were immediate & noticeable! It was as if their cup was running over & they had extra to share. Really neat!”
When children have the love language of acts of service and are told, “No, you can do it yourself,” it hurts their heart. They know their hands can do it alone, but their heart wants you to do it with them. This can be quite annoying for a parent who has intentionally taught their child to be independent and self-sufficient. Yes, we want our children to take responsibility for their world and manage themselves well. No, we do not want to coddle them, stifle their growth, or baby them forever. But we do want to hear their heart cry to be loved, and these children hear it loudest when you do things that they are capable of doing on their own together. Do you have one of these kids? Has this happened to you?
Responding to life as an orphan is normal. It is what we were born into. But once we become a believer, we are instantly adopted into a new Kingdom. While the adoption papers are complete, some of us need the REVELATION of what that really means so that we can forgo our previous operating system. We will spend the rest of your lives learning what our adoption really means.
“We all already were familiar with the love languages, so we focused on what each language actually LOOKED like to us. I realized that there were things that I thought were filling but weren’t, as well as things I had done that DID fulfill someone, but they never told me, so I didn’t even know! My husband and I decided that we needed to go deeper and really try to understand each other! I bought four glass jars with lids at the Dollar Tree, and each of us got one jar and chose a color to represent him or her. I cut pieces of construction paper in the chosen colors and then color-coded the lids and wrote our names. So how this works: If I do something to contribute to my husband’s love tank, he will put my color paper in his jar and let me know what it was that I did. This way, we are aware of what means something to someone else and what doesn’t. We wanted to do something visual that would make us more aware and help us learn each other better. So far, this is bringing so much awareness to each other and making us dig a little deeper to find out what works for someone. I thought my older ones would think it was childish, but they didn’t. I even got my grown 33-year-old son (who just moved back to Alabama and is temporarily staying with us) involved with it. I was expecting some eye-rolling, but they all are on board!”
Grab a bag of Hershey chocolate kisses or a package of paper hearts and randomly place them where your child will find it. Attach a sticky note with a sweet note and let them find the surprise on their own.
Hide them throughout the house like an Easter egg hunt. Call a FAMILY MEETING and fix the ‘rules’ according to your family needs (such as many younger kids focus on a certain room where they are more obviously hidden, while older kids have to find the harder ones). Don’t think this is just for little ones – big kids love the adventure too! Fun way to release JOY!
Kids need to HEAR and SEE your love for them now more than ever!
Parenting these kiddos can be a mixed bag. They care deeply not so much about what is being said but HOW it is said. They can get their hearts hurt easily by tones and harshness. Yet they come alive and are rejuvenated by words alone. I am convinced God gave us children with this wiring so that the rest of the family can learn how to walk in love, even when they are upset and frustrated. As a parent, I have had to grow and anchor myself to Proverbs 31:26 – “When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule for everything she says.” This has also been a great training ground for the other children in learning how to tone their speech. I have learned to be sensitive to how my son is responding. If I sense a wall is being built and he is isolating himself, it is generally because he got his heart hurt. It generally just takes a “Who do you need to forgive?” and the offense is revealed. This is also my child who beams ear to ear with a kind word, verbally noticing his effort, calling out the good, and telling others about him in front of him.
The other day Ellie came to me and said, “I know I am loved, but I am just not feeling it today.” The following day I felt led to lavish on her through her language of love. She thanked me, and I told her, “I did not do that to love you. I did it to REMIND you that you are already loved.” As a busy parent, it is easy to feel pressure with the love languages as if it means our children are not loved or are lacking something essential if we don’t fill their tanks daily. The truth is they are ALREADY loved, and speaking their language stirs up what is already there. Take the pressure off yourself of ‘having to’ give your child what they need and view the love languages as a privilege to stir up, call forth and remind them of what was theirs all along.