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 GREATEST GIFT
I am not seeking to offend anyone with this, nor am I turning this into a debate, but I believe that the following story is KEY to understanding the NECESSITY of communicating LOVE to our children.
Years ago, I led a small group with a friend I had known for years. I adored him and felt like he was my brother. One day he announced to me that he struggled with same-sex thoughts. I was dumbfounded; how could a man who loved and obeyed Jesus struggle with something so profoundly and I did not know of it before as his friend? Something in my heart demanded a breakthrough to understand his journey. I remember him telling me that his mom and dad were the best parents ever and that they loved their four kids passionately. The dad, however, never spoke his love language. The other kids shared the language of quality time, and the dad was excellent at that, but my friend’s language was touch, and his dad was not a touchy-feely kind of guy. He explained that as a child, he longed to be held, touched, kissed, patted on the back – just touched by his dad – and he never got it. He explained how he was almost obsessed with being touched by a man as a child. When he entered his hormonal teen years, he would find himself fantasizing, not about sex with another male, but about a man’s strong arms or big chest and what it would feel like to embrace them. The enemy will use anything, and soon, as his hormones were raging, confusion began to wage war, and he found himself moving inch-by-inch into sexual thoughts about another man. At that point, he had never acted on it, but it was a daily battle to control his longing to be held and touched by a man.
Do you want to know what the saddest thing about this story is? Think about those struggling with these desires, and what happens to a person when they finally share their deepest secret with the parent from whom they long for love? They get rejected and stamped as unacceptable. And guess what that fuels? Their need and longing for love. Love matters!
Morning School routine for a child: Get dressed – Eat breakfast – Chores – Brush teeth.
Morning School routine for a parent: Fill their love tank – Create pockets of JOY – Remind them of who they are – Fight for peace.
Before you send your child out into the world, arm them with: A belly full of healthy food – A mind anchored in the truth – A heart tank overflowing with love.
Children with the love language of gifts are often viewed as materialistic. They are not really wanting the gift itself, but your love spoken through the gift. It is communicating the message, “I was thinking of you.” A Hershey’s kiss, balloon, or note on a gum wrapper has profound meaning to a person with this language. They look at your object as a token or symbol of being loved.
Here are some creative ways to speak their language: **Make birthdays and holidays a huge deal. **Bring home small tokens from shopping trips (“I bought your favorite fruit”). **Celebrate milestones such as losing a tooth, getting good grades, overcoming a challenge. **Tuck notes in their lunch bag, under their pillow, or in their laundry. **Give them a dollar or two to spend at the store – just because. **Cook their favorite meal. **Pick out a rock or flower on your walk and return home with it. **Buy a package of Hershey kisses and intentionally play a game of spontaneously putting them where they can discover them. It took me a month to empty the bag, but she felt so loved and seen. **Keep a small stash of inexpensive gifts. When you see your child struggling, working through hurts, or just having a hard day pull something out.
I must note that the worst thing you can do for this person is to be flippant about it. Thoughtless gift-giving is like a harsh tone for a word of affirmation person. If your heart is not in it, you might want to hold off on giving it. Oftentimes they are givers of gifts too and like to leave notes, save souvenirs from trips, parties, and outings (like the napkin from the party or an empty container from the Tic Tacs that you bought them). When they give gifts of any kind to others, help them to make the connection between their action and speaking love, such as, “I love that you want to tell your sister you love her by leaving her that note.” “Thank you for loving me by giving me that flower.” Again, the focus is not on the item/gift; it is on the heart need and communication of love. Learn to value lavishing on others as it models a side of our Father, the Creator of the universe who owns the storehouse and lavishes richly on His children. Often when people were raised with a poverty spirit or parents who had fear over finances, this language can be challenging to speak. However, God uses this language in our children to re-align our thoughts and heart back to Him. I get this every time we talk about gifts – “So that means I just have to buy them whatever they want?” Of course not! But it does mean you would be wise to see what they are really asking for. They are saying, “Will you show me you love me by buying this for me?” In those moments, the key to their heart is discovering how you can tell them “No” in a way that still fills their heart.
I had four little children under four hanging on me ALL DAY LONG. It took a while to realize the reason it agitated me deeply was that touch IS my love language, and it was being used in a way that was depleting my tank, not filling it. The solution?
FIRST – Acknowledge that your love language matters and give yourself validation that it is hard to have touch being used in a way that drains you.
SECOND – Make sure your love tank is being filled with life-giving touch.
THIRD – Take breaks and have some intentional ‘no touch’ space. Hire a mother’s helper to come and play with the children while you are still home. Use nap time as downtime. If you do not have nappers, you can still create quiet time where everyone is in their own space playing quietly.
FOURTH – It is okay to teach your children HOW you want to be touched. I had to intentionally teach them not to hit, tap or hang on me. I explained the tank in my heart, and when they came and hit my arm to get my attention, it made my heart feel sad. I role-played how I wanted them to get my attention. When they were little, I would often say, “When you shook my arm, it made my heart feel sad. Can you do it in a way that gets my attention AND heart?” They were learning self-control, honor, and respect.
I will never forget the father who took our online Kingdom parenting class and wrote to me weeping as he told me how all these years, his daughter had annoyed him with her constant chatter. Holy Spirit revealed to him that that was her way of trying to connect with him and her love language. He was weeping for all the times he had become annoyed with her and told her to be quiet. He never saw her heart until that day, and it broke him. Love languages matter!
How else will your child learn how to relate to their future spouse, boss, or friends unless they are taught? The day-to-day issues between siblings are your God-given training ground to equip them. The conflict can be used for good when you see it as an area in which they need help growing.
It is so important that we understand this reality: Every person speaks a language, but that does not mean that he or she is communicating. We often assume that children should know we love them because we express it in a variety of ways. The reality is, however, that children are living in homes where parents are fluent in a language they know nothing about. Just because you work hard, provide a big home, clean, cook, do laundry, wipe snotty noses, change diapers, travel to Disney, and then repeat, does not mean that you are speaking their language. It means that you are an incredible parent who loves your children so much that you are willing to sacrifice your time and finances for them but have perhaps missed how to make sure all your hard work is actually being received.
Have you ever had those days when you feel like you are constantly butting heads with a child or when they seem to be going out of their way to be a bully to their siblings, yet nothing you do seems to work? Children with empty tanks, even with siblings, will often fight to get it filled. Disconnected kids act out like kids starving for attention! We are sending our children out into the world where they will encounter a wide variety of situations. They are growing and learning spiritually, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and physically at a rapid rate. Sending them out with a heart tank full of love helps them process, weather, endure, overcome and succeed far greater than the child who is on empty. The more they experience love at home, the more they will be able to handle what comes their way. Isn’t that true for you?
Picture an airport full of people wanting to board a particular flight going overseas that is only made once a month. It is a crucial connection for many people. There isn’t an option of getting there by another airline. People need THIS flight. An announcement is made that the plane has moved to a different gate, but it is in Arabic. How many people would miss their flight simply because THEIR language was not spoken? All the components to make the connection are there: the plane, pilot, purchased ticket, and even the announcement, but the communication was not received. How many kids miss that their parents love them simply because THEIR language isn’t spoken? These parents have given them everything, worked hard, and have a heart full of love, yet their kids wander through life not experiencing it. I find it interesting that CONNECTION is one of the words used to describe communication and that the opposite of communication is defined as WITHHOLDING. This is where understanding our individual love languages is such a vital key. I look at effectively speaking someone’s love language like an umbilical cord connecting two people. When you accurately speak another person’s language, what you release actually enters into their heart and soul. Knowing their language is like hitting the bull’s eye!
Homework – Go to The Love Language™ Quiz (5lovelanguages.com) and have YOUR CHILD take the quiz. Print them out and talk about them as a family (even Mom and Dad’s language). At the end of the quiz, there is an option to sign up for the weekly email, which is a short and sweet list of creative ways to speak love each week. Make sure you sign up for the newsletter, and they will send you short, quick, easy weekly reminders and creative suggestions for how to speak each language. A child’s heart is smaller, so they leak quickly. But the good news is that they fill fast! We owe it to our children to do our part in giving them what they need each day to succeed. Be intentional. Fill the tank. Reap the results!!
Sibling conflict is God’s training ground. Use it for their good.
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.
Each morning, set up a date with your child. Five minutes feels like a long time for a child. They can pick whatever they want to do with your time, and they normally pick something they need from you – talk, spend time cuddling, or play a game. It is a great way to get those tanks filled and get you focused on hearing what they have to say! (Don’t tell them it is only five minutes, though). I like to make a big deal about it by saying something like, “Meet me in the living room at 2 pm today,” or “Let’s have a date, just you and me.” Love languages matter!