The Best Way to Love Your Child

Family counselor Gary Chapman describes five languages that keep kids from feeling neglected
The Best Way to Love Your Child

Parents go the second mile to make their kids feel loved, but the message might not be getting through.

"Sometimes a child has good reason for feeling he isn't loved," asserts pastor and family counselor Gary Chapman, co-author with Dr. Ross Campbell of The Five Love Languages of Children (Northfield). "That's why we need to learn how to communicate love in a way that makes the child feel loved."

According to Chapman, each of us uses a primary love language to express love to others. It's through that same language that we most readily receive love. Here's how we can start speaking a new language to make sure our kids are getting the message.

Knowing how much parents love their children, it's amazing that the kids wouldn't feel loved. What are we missing?

Most of us love our kids in the way that comes most naturally to us?the way that we can best accept love. If your child speaks a different love language, he will feel loved at some level. But he won't feel the deep love that he craves.

So parents need to zero in on the language that speaks the loudest to each of their children. What are the love languages?

There are five of them, and they're pretty simple: acts of service, physical touch, giving gifts, sharing quality time together and speaking words of affirmation. We need to love our kids using all five languages. But to make sure your child knows without a doubt that you love him, it's important to speak his primary love language.

How can a parent identify the primary love language of a very young child?

You can't pinpoint it with infants and toddlers, so just give them a lot of love using all five languages. But by age 3 or 4, a child's love language starts developing, and by age 5 or 6 it's pretty evident.

Once a child develops a love language, how can a parent figure out which language it is?

It's a three-step process. First, observe how your child expresses love to you. For example, our son's love language is physical touch. When he was about 5, I noticed that when I came home from work he would jump on me and mess up my hair. He was touching me because he wanted to be touched. If your kid's always coming up and giving you a hug, physical touch may be his language.

Gifts: A simple pine cone speakes volumes to the right child.

Or let's say your child is always saying "You're the best mommy in the world." If he often praises you, then hearing words of affirmation is probably his primary language.

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