Comedian George Carlin famously said, “Everyone smiles in the same language.” And sure, he’s not wrong! However, when it comes to things like joy, comfort, and love, we all have unique ways of communicating.
In 1992, author, speaker, and counselor, Gary Chapman, PhD, published his revolutionary book The Five Love Languages. Since then, his ideas have been used to help people understand how they can have more successful relationships.
Traditionally, the love languages were applied to romantic relationships, but they are easily (and beneficially) applied to platonic relationships. For parents and caregivers, using the correct love languages with children can strengthen bonds, build a child’s confidence, and promote a safe space for growth.
What are the love languages?
Gary Chapman’s original five love languages are acts of service, physical touch, quality time, receiving gifts, and words of affirmations.
Acts of Service: This one boils down to the common adage actions speak louder than words. For acts of service, someone taking the time to do something helpful is the clearest expression of love.
Physical Touch: Probably the most self-explanatory of the love languages, people whose primary language is physical touch deeply value tactile interactions.
Quality Time: When someone makes the effort to carve out time in a schedule to spend time with a person, this is most affirming for the love language of quality time.
Receiving Gifts: Though this love language is sometimes bad-mouthed, its communicators aren’t greedy. For those who speak in receiving gifts, they feel intimately valued when knowing that they are on someone’s mind and that they are seen as they are.
Words of Affirmation: People who communicate using this love language don’t need praise heaped upon them. Rather, they know they are loved when someone says so and speaks to and about them in caring ways.
The love languages are not all-encompassing, and, as with almost any psychological label or category, people have bits of all of them! We all have moments where we need to be loved in each of these ways, but there are specifics we gravitate towards.
How do you know your or your child’s love language?
Luckily, with these ideas having been around for nearly thirty years, there’s no shortage of Internet quizzes to tell you which you are! The “official” quiz can be found on The Five Love Languages website at https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/love-language.
Beyond quizzes, your love language should be somewhat evident. Look into the five love languages, and you’ll probably find that one or two make more sense to you than the others. The same will likely be true if you put yourself in the headspace of your child.
We can also determine love languages by thinking about what actions hurt us most. If your child is deeply hurt by being criticized, this may be because words of affirmation is their love language, and they are seeing words used against them. If a sibling or friend refusing to play with them puts them at their saddest, it may be because they most value quality time.
One tricky thing about love languages is that the people involved in a relationship may have two different love languages. And particularly in caregiving relationships, parents may sometimes have to set aside their love language in order to best communicate love to their child.
This is why it’s important for caregivers to both identify their own love languages as well as their child’s. That way, parents can adequately care for themselves, thus allowing them to be there for their children in the best possible way.
When you speak in a child’s love language, they intimately know that they are valued, they are wanted, they are safe, and they are loved exactly as they are.
To learn more about love languages, visit:
Chapman also has a book specifically about designed for parents, The Five Love Languages of Children