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The Languages of Love

By: Darleth Romana-Bantiles, MDThe Languages of Love

Whenever my child sees me reading in one corner, she would stop tinkering with her toys to approach me. Then she’d say, “Ah, harga nanay…” This she does often, without having any particular reason to be carried other than her desire to be hugged or cuddled. As a parent trying to be sensitive to the needs of a toddler (my toddler), my immediate response is to always put aside what I am reading and hold my daughter, or play with her for a while. Some people may say this is pretty much straightforward; however, not all children (even adults at times) may verbalize their needs or express them completely.

Media or even science will say that a parent will have natural instincts to care for her offspring. After all, it is also the responsibility assigned by our society, and it requires the parents to provide food, clothing, shelter, and other needs to their child. But being a loving parent is a complicated business. Sometimes, parents feel that they have already done everything and yet their daughter or son will swear that he or she feels neglected. This is why miscommunication tends to happen. But the issue can be solved by exploring love languages.

One thing humans have in common is the deep yearning to be loved. This need is among the basic, if not the most important, for general well-being and optimal functioning every day. The need for human connection does not only fulfill emotional requirements but assures adaptation to any situation, whether the experience is good or bad. Even early in life, the need to be loved should be met by a child’s caregiver; otherwise, the person may not be able to reach her full potential, and may even be destructive at times. A renowned psychologist and counselor, Dr. Gary Chapman, proposes the concept of love languages in practicing love in daily living.

Every child speaks differently

The idea of love languages supposes that there are distinct and practical expressions of love. While humans may practice all the expressions, they often have a dominant one. There is no such thing as one size fits all, just as not all children may be placed in the same mold or should be “loved” in the same way.

For example, when your child is fond of hugs and cuddling (like my daughter), the preference is obviously the language of physical touch. Hugs and kisses are the most common ways of expressing this language, but holding hands while dancing or lifting a kid on your shoulders also speaks a lot.

For some, it could be spending time together and devoting full attention, which is said to be the language of quality time. In spending time, the type of activity is not very important as long as the parents give their child undivided attention. It conveys the message to the child that she is important. In this case, even if you shower a child with lavish gifts or long letters, she will feel uncared for if you do not provide attention.

If your son likes to help in household chores, or pitches in folding clean clothes or looking after a younger brother, he may be keen on the language of acts of service. Sometimes, a child may ask for favors, like organizing his school bag or fixing a broken bike. These requests are just not asked to have the task done, but they are calls for emotional support. It may be impossible to fulfill every demand for assistance, but a loving response is definitely required each time.

Toys and other tokens are appreciated by youngsters, but some will cherish them more than others. A child who has a dominant language of gifts, as a love expression, will appreciate even small things or handmade crafts. For these children, material things given are extensions of the parents sharing with their child.

Finally, there are kids who are reassured by kind words or praises. In this case, their dominant love language is words of affirmation. The pronouncements, endearments, or positive words of guidance may be uttered quickly, but their effect endures for these individuals. Words, be it written or spoken, have a strong impact in loving your child in this instance.

See with your heart

Amidst the fast-paced routine that most families have, a parent must be purposive in identifying and addressing the love language needs of a child. If your son or daughter is around seven years of age or older, asking simple and direct questions may help you.

For example, asking “would you like me to watch your ball game and cheer for you, or would you rather have me buy you a gift to celebrate your team’s victory?” will help distinguish whether your son prefers the language of gifts over the language of quality time. However, when your child is younger, keen observation and sensitivity to cues will give you clues about the expressions of love that he or she prefers.

It may seem to require more effort, but discovering your child’s love language will enable you to convey your care and concern more effectively. Nowadays, love is associated with a warm fuzzy feeling and oftentimes even likened to roses and butterflies. However, it also entails sacrifice, patience, and understanding so that love will become fulfilling and nurturing.

Love begets love

We all have love tanks. It is an abstract container of all our love experiences. Conversely, when our emotional needs are not met or we do not feel support from family and friends, the tank gets depleted. As parents, we need to have our love tanks filled to be able to support our children’s needs, too. What’s good about being able to give love to your child in the way she’ll appreciate most, is that she may respond to you in the most loving manner possible, too. In this way, your efforts will not be futile or unappreciated.

Furthermore, a well-loved child also grows into a confident person who takes more chances, supports others effectively, and contributes significantly to society. Some educators even say that in order for a child to learn, she must first feel loved. An environment that conveys support and concern is also the one conducive to learning. So there’s the secret to teaching your child or raising her to be an effective learner!

Utilizing the concept of love languages will have a positive impact even in how you deal with others. In the long run, loving your child effectively will also improve the quality of your marriage and other relationships. In my case, I have been applying the concept in interacting with my child, and even in my husband. There are times that it can be quite challenging, especially because we have different dominant love languages. As my love language is mainly words of affirmation, I need to exert effort in being frisky and expressive to my daughter, even when I’m physically exhausted. Also, I need to be understanding to my husband, who is frugal with words yet lavish in his acts of service. Good thing though, we are all partial to having quality time! Naturally, people may see us often hanging out or just being together a lot.

It is highly encouraged that one is multilingual, so to speak. To truly love a person, you will strive to show love in the way that he or she will appreciate the most. It will be a mutually rewarding experience, and it is like investing even for future generations.

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