Do you ever feel like you are doing LOADS for your kids, but they don't seem to notice much? Well, I've been looking more into this over the past weeks and it's been eye opening to say the least. I thought I knew what makes my children feel loved, but after some more investigation it turns out my assumptions were wrong...
For those of you that joined us last week – you will know that we are talking about ‘Love Languages’ at the moment. A book that was recommended to me by a friend and that is all about understanding and learning what really makes us (and our children) feel loved and appreciated.
I’ve been exploring with my children what makes them feel loved and I have been surprised at how different this has been for each of them (and how I was off for my two oldest children).
So how do you find out what makes your children REALLY feel loved?
Step 1: (for under 5s)
For really little ones (under 5) lots of things will make them feel loved and they are likely not to have
a preference yet. They also won’t really be able to verbalise what really makes them feel loved yet. I found this with my youngest – I tried asking him, but he didn’t really understand what I meant and instead he started talking about a situation that had made him sad (which was also useful in its own way).
So the best thing to do for younger children is to keep showing them love in lots of different ways and seeing what might resonate most with them. This will not only help them determine what makes them feel loved most, it will also be a great role model for them to see and learn lots of different ways to communicate love – as, as they grow up they will meet many different people that will ‘speak’ many different love languages.
Step 2: (for 5-8 year olds)
For children 5-8 you can ask them some general questions. I tried the following with middle child: I asked her what made her feel loved and how parents make their children feel loved. It was slow going and I found it hard not to prompt too much or ask questions that were too ‘leading’. In the end the one thing that she kept going back to was that she felt loved when she did something with Mummy or Daddy 1 on 1. So that makes me think her primary Love Language might be ‘Quality Time’. This is when you spend uninterrupted time with someone and their focus is completely on you, with no distractions. My plan is to spend some more time this coming week showing my daughter love in different ways and try to gauge what she responds to most.
Step 3: (for 9-12 year olds)
For children 9-12 there is a more detailed questionnaire that you can ask your child to answer. I tried the following with my eldest.
The questionnaire can be found at the back of the book that you can go through with your child. It has simple statements that they need to pick from and then you add up at the end what type of love language they’ve ‘gravitated’ to the most. An example is:
What would make you feel more loved:
a) I give you a hug
b) I tell you ‘You are terrific’
a) I’ve got a special birthday present for you
b) I’ll help you with your project
To make it more interesting, both my husband and I guessed what our son’s preference would be before he did the questionnaire and we were surprised to find that our initial guess was not correct! I thought my eldest responded most to Quality time, but he actually thrives most on hugs, rough housing and high fives, which is all about being tactile.
Equally I had assumed my middle child needed lots of hugs and ‘tactileness’ but based on the conversation I had with her, it actually looks like she thrives on spending quality time with me (and my husband) most.
So I guess the lesson for me is to keep exploring different ways to show my children my love and appreciation and see where it takes us. Over the coming week I plan to test different ways to show the individual love languages in my family and see whether this confirms what the initial conversations with each of them indicated.
I am going to commit to testing a couple of things in each of the 5 love languages:
1) Physical Touch
have at least 1 pillow fight with my eldest and see whether that makes him feel loved
continue story time snuggles with my youngest to ensure I communicate in as many love languages as possible with him, as I am unsure which his love language is yet
2) Quality Time
Take my middle one out for an ice cream or a swim, just the two of us, as according to the question she answered, spending 1 on 1 time with us the primary way she feels loved.
Play some football with my youngest - again to continue to test as many love languages as possible with him
3) Acts of Service
Bring my husband a cup of tea in bed (as I know that makes him feel appreciated)
4) Words of Affirmation
Compliment each of my children and see what their reaction is - to determine whether this was of showing appreciation resonates more (or less) with any one of them
Bring them each a small gift back when I do the weekly shop (a small bag of gummi bears) and see if their reactions vary
I love the concept of the ‘Love Languages’ and I always see a difference in how my husband and I appreciate each other when we remind ourselves of what really matters to the other person. It always amazes (and delights) me how striking, simple and marvellous these effects are!
My one reservation is that at the moment (after the initial excitement) it feels like another thing to keep on top of in our already busy family lives. I am hoping once I know what everyone cherishes most, it will be a simple 'no brainer' to build some of those things into our daily lives – and the benefits will be massive as all of us feel better understood and seen, loved and heard as individuals in our family. But until then, it feels like a bit of effort to explore different things and activities with each of the children.
Next week will be our final session on this topic and I will share a list of practical ideas on how to explore your children’s ‘love languages’ and what worked and what didn’t for us (based on some more research I'll do).
The week after I’d like to explore the topic of time outs. Do you believe in them? Do you do them in your family? Do they work for you? Or do you think they are the wrong way to go about discipline? I’d love to hear your thoughts and continue the conversation in our Facebook group too.
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