My son deeply needs to connect with his family. It is beautiful yet developing the skills can be messy at times. I was away on a ministry trip while he stayed at a friend’s house for the weekend. I reminded the girls he would need to reconnect upon returning, and they eagerly created plans to connect. About an hour later, I got a text saying he walked away and didn’t want to play anymore. I called to check in with him and asked if he felt like the girls were connecting with him, and he said, “NO!” Upon inquiring with the girls, they recited that they grabbed his favorite meal, ate together, and played games. In other words, they gave him a gift and quality time. I asked them what his language was, and they both realized immediately that it was words of affirmation. I asked if they affirmed him with their words, and they realized they labored so hard to connect at that moment, but through their language, not his. This is a classic example of people’s hearts in the right place, wanting to intentionally love someone else but missing the boat because they are speaking the wrong language.
CLASSIC LOVE LANGUAGE MISUNDERSTANDING
Once you know a child’s love language, you learn how to fill their hearts easily. I could spend my last dollar on a child, but if their love language is quality time, it won’t hit their heart as much as the child with the love language of gifts. I could spend every waking moment with a child, but if their love language is words of affirmation, they will still feel empty/low after spending all that time together. I could smear my child with endless praises, kisses, and words, but if their love language is acts of service, they will wonder why I don’t love them enough to help them. If you want to hit a bullseye into their heart, LEARN your child’s love language and go after it daily.
The best thing I ever did was teach my kids each other’s love languages. Ellie came to tell me how good Hudson was reading. I reminded her that his language is words of affirmation and told her to go tell him directly. They have been best friends since. When a kid says they are bored, I ask them what Emma’s language is, and they say, “quality time.” The light bulb goes off, and they run to her, knowing she will always play with them. Taking ownership of loving each other is such a blessing in this household! How do you teach your children each other’s love language? Print out the results from the online quiz, call a family meeting, and share. I encourage you not to just say “words of affirmation” but to give examples of how they can do that.
The hard thing about a child’s heart is that it is small and empties quickly. The good thing about a child’s heart is that it is small and fills fast. Be intentional about filling them back up again today!
We were at the pool one day, and Hudson sneaked up behind Emma, who was sitting by the edge, not wanting to get wet. He motioned to me if he could throw her in. I responded, “You can, but will it help your connection with her?” He took a second to realize the joy of the victory would not be worth the splash it would make in their connection. I have taught my children over and over and over that the way they treat each other today will affect tomorrow. It may feel ‘good’ to be powerful today, but tomorrow you will reap the fruit of a low account with them.
Oh, that we would grasp this revelation and run our homes and churches to reflect the Father’s heart.
Hudson has been a bear – like the mean grizzly kind. He would not heed the multiple warnings and continued to operate out of disrespect for all of those around him. Finally, in frustration, someone walked away and said they could no longer be around him. He found himself disconnected from the group. The next morning as he was cleaning up his mess, he created another one, but this one had serious consequences. I was so frustrated as I felt like we kept putting out fires but never getting to the source. I knew I had to go deeper into getting the Lord’s heart and strategy for him, as he was clearly stuck in a cycle. As we asked Jesus, he said he wanted revenge (which is exactly how he was acting). We asked Jesus to show us what he wanted revenge for, and he started crying. He said the girls kept ignoring him. I called a family meeting, and we began to realize that we thought the girls were responding because Hudson was being unkind, but in reality, the girls were the ones not being loving, and it was causing him to feel rejected and like he didn’t belong in his own family (which was the root of his behavior).
All the discipline in the world would not have addressed the real issue – the girl’s hearts. He was not the ISSUE. His behavior was simply waving a FLAG that there was an issue. I went from being so frustrated with him to being so thankful for his reaction because it alerted me to something greater for the girls.
I knew one of my kid’s love tanks was low with her sibling because of the way he treated her. Hours later, he came to her with a request. I could predict her response, “NO!” Not because she really cared or didn’t want to give it to him, but because she had little in the ‘love tank.’ He tried to cash in a favor, and her tank was so low she didn’t want to give it to him. I responded by saying, “Sweetie, if you want to walk in favor with her, you might want to work on filling her love tank.”
Want to teach this to your children? Here is a great exercise. Call a family meeting and sit around the table. In the center, place a large bowl of water filled to the top. Give each family member a glass and a spoon. Tell them that you are going to play a timed game of seeing how full you can get everyone’s glass by putting the spoon in the center bowl and scooping up the water and placing it in their glass. The rule is that no one can fill their own glass, just everyone else’s. At the end of a minute, see which glass is the fullest and which one is the least. Share with the children that the center bowl represents God’s love, which is full and plentiful. We can grab His love anytime we want, and it is always there. Share that each glass represents their family member’s hearts, and the spoon represents our words, actions, choices, and interactions. Either we are putting love into their tank or choosing not to.
One day, Emma came to me all upset about something her brother did. I could tell she needed some help working it out, so I called Hudson to join us. The first question I asked him was, “Do you know why you are here?” and he immediately said, “Yeah, I am going to get disciplined.” He was making my job very easy! So, I asked him for what, and he said, “Being a boy!” Hmm. Apparently, he was taking his bow and arrow and shooting it in the living room, where the girls were watching a movie. I had to explain to Emma that he wasn’t doing anything wrong – that boys are like that and that it was just his way of playing. However, I then needed to explain to Hudson that while he did not do anything wrong, he failed to see WHY shooting a bow and arrow around the girls was upsetting to them. It made Emma feel threatened and unsafe to have the arrows whizzing by. It is so important, especially as children get older, that they don’t just see the rules but the heart behind them. The arrow was not the issue; Emma’s heart was. I want my children to be sensitive to the hearts around them, even if it means laying down what is fun and okay for them.
When I had four kids under 4, including twins, the one area that drove me nuts was sharing. The constant need to referee who had what toy and someone else crying over it was a full-time job! I remember thinking there was no way I would survive 18 years of this. God gave me a great solution which we named the ‘2-minute rule’. Anytime someone wanted something you had, you ONLY had two responses, “Yes!” and be a joyful giver on the spot, or you could say, “In 2 minutes,” which taught the other person to be patient. It was a win/win situation. No need for tears because they were empowered with how to handle the situation. When conflict broke out, I would go back and help guide them back to the two options, and peace would resume. To this day, I am able to reap the fruit of this because their character had a chance to grow in the midst of conflict.
What is something in your house causing chaos? Ask Holy Spirit to give you a creative way to equip your children to handle the situation and aid in their character development.
I want you to ponder your children and the way they interact and speak to each other. What does it look like? What do you tolerate? What don’t you tolerate? What are the stated household rules for getting along? What consequences can be expected when they don’t? I am not asking for what you hope for; I am asking what the current reality of your household is. Are your children allowed to hit their siblings? Are they allowed to slam doors? Say, “I hate you”? Are they allowed to pick their friends over their family? Every family has its own rhythm, and no two families will flow alike. Every family will have a different set of core values and different standards which they are governed by. As parents, it is important to be able to see the vision you have for your family. If you don’t know what you are aiming for, you will parent inconsistently, which will produce inconsistent and frustrating results for the whole family.
For me, growing up, there was freedom to hurt and hate each other, which affected me greatly. When I started having my own children, I drew a line in the sand and was determined to teach them that we would be a family that communicated belonging and acceptance. True change doesn’t come from just outward performance; it comes from within. Instead of giving you a list of tools to use to whip your children into shape and force them to love each other (which, by the way, never works), I want to help you come into alignment in your heart first. It is out of that place where real change happens. Spend time pondering and processing this with the Lord. Ask Him to shine His flashlight into your heart (Psalms 139:23) and show you how He sees and feels about the way the siblings treat each other. Oftentimes there is a pang of great guilt for parents because they WANT their children to get along more but simply don’t know how. Confess that to the Lord – that perhaps you have allowed (for whatever reason) your children to be unkind to each. Allow Him to speak to your heart. I am going to provide you with some questions to ponder with Him. I encourage you to get a journal and write down whatever you heard or see Him saying to you. If He is really the head of your household, then give Him room to speak into this situation.
“Father God, would You please show me what makes You happy when you see family?”
“Jesus, would You be willing to reveal to me what in our family needs to come into alignment?”
“Holy Spirit, what does my child really need from me when there is conflict?”
“Father, what area do You want me to focus on with my children?”
“Jesus, if You were here today in the flesh, how would You handle my children?” (You may be surprised by the answer).
God is a perfect Father and knows how to lead your family into greater peace. Holy Spirit is your Helper, and there is nothing but hope ahead to have the family you have dreamed about. Let the Children Fly!
“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!”