Welcome to our Mummy Made This Blog. Our mission is help make parents’ lives a little bit easier by sharing with you the things that do (and don’t) work in our family, keeping things real and building a supportive community of likeminded parents (you can join our newly created private Facebook group here.)
Each week we share a different topic based around our Monday Night conversations (see below for more details) and today’s topic is all about understanding and appreciating what really makes our children (and us) feel loved. But first, let me give you an example…
The other day my husband brought me a cup of tea in bed. I acknowledged it, and saw that he was doing something nice for me. But if I am honest it doesn’t register particularly deeply with me (in fact sometimes it doesn’t register much).
Whereas, I realized that if he had spent that time to sit with me and have a chat about virtually anything at all and give me his full and undivided attention – no phones, TV, or other distractions – THAT would have got my attention and made me feel appreciated.
So why is that? Why is one way of showing me affection so much more effective than another?
The answer is LOVE LANGUAGES. What makes me feel deeply loved and heard is different from what this is for my husband, and each of our children. We are all different! And it will be the same for you and your family.
One of my husband’s ways of showing love is by doing things for others – cooking, unloading the dishwasher, cups of tea, jobs around the house. So to him, he is showing me deeply how much he appreciates me by doing those things.
Unfortunately for him (and me) this effort doesn’t have as much effect as he would like it to have, because my primary way of feeling loved is when people spend quality time with me and give me their undivided attention. Which is why when he sits and talks to me it has a much more profound effect on me than bringing me a cup of tea in bed…
Equally, when I say to my husband, ‘I am here for you, tell me all about it’, he may feel grateful and know that I am there for him, but it doesn’t communicate love as much to him as if I brought him that cup of tea in bed, or prepared that meal just for him, or put the kids to bed so that he can just relax or get on with what he wants to do. When I do those things (even though they don’t resonate as much with me), I know he feels deeply loved, seen and heard.
According to Gary Chapman who wrote a book with his colleague Ross Campbell (called The 5 Love Languages of Children) there are 5 ‘Love Languages’ in total.
Ever since this book was recommended to me a few years ago, I have found it truly helpful in understanding my children (and husband) better and appreciating what makes us all ‘tick’.
So what do each of these Love languages look like?
#1 Physical Touch:
Good examples of this way to show love to your children are lots of hugs and kisses. Other ways include things like rough housing, or (particularly for younger children) being flung into the air and caught again. Tickle fights, lots of giggling and having fun together physically. Another example might be to sit
with your little one on your lap and reading them a story. It is one of the easiest ways to show unconditional love. Even for busy parents it may just be a touch on the shoulder or back to let your child know you are there for them, or to encourage them.
#2 Words of Affirmation
Examples of words of affirmation are words of encouragement or praise, like ‘Well done, I think you played really well today’, or ‘You did a great job helping me in the garden today, thank you for that.’
It can also be words of endearment like, ‘I think you are an amazing, kind and caring person’. They help our children build up an inner sense of worth and security and it builds their self-esteem. Like any form of feedback, they are most effective when they are focused on a specific effort the child has made and the comment is sincere (children know the difference!).
#3 Quality Time
This one is all about giving someone your undivided attention. The most important thing is not what is done in that time, but that you are doing something together, or just being together. It is all about having positive eye contact, taking the time to just sit and talk; sharing thoughts and feelings together. Or it could be doing an activity together with no distractions, completely focussed on the moment (and not rushing things either). For me, I find having time to be with each of my children individually is not easy, but I have noticed over and over, that when I do make the effort, the effects are astounding - particularly for my children that feel appreciated most this way.
This is an easy one to understand – the giving and receiving of presents is a strong way to show love in our culture. But, it doesn’t have to be anything bought – it can be little treasures that your child gives you (or you give them). I know that one of my little ones will regularly bring home rocks, twigs, a feather, or anything else they have found and thought was interesting. As with all ways of showing love, if you give gifts, it needs to be unconditionally to be most effective.
# Acts of Service
The example I gave at the beginning about my husband bringing me a cup of tea in bed would be an example of showing love through ‘acts of service’. Another one would be unloading the dishwasher, or making someone a sandwich. For children, an example might be to help them get ready for school in the morning by putting our their uniform, or helping them to get ready rather than just telling them to hurry up. Another one might be to tuck them into bed at night, taking the time to fix something that is important to them or teaching them a new skill.
Punishments are harsher too
Interestingly, the way we withdraw love also has different effects on us and our children, depending on our 'love language'. So, if your child feels particularly loved through words of encouragement, words of criticism will hit them harder than those same words will hit other children. Equally, not accepting a gift or withdrawing cuddles will wound a child whose primary way of feeling loved this way harder than other children. And finally, removing eye contact or stopping doing things for our children when we are mad, hurts those more deeply that feel particularly loved that way.
When I realised how we are all different in our family – and that I may be spending a lot of my time telling and showing my 3 children how much I love them, but doing it in my own 'love language' rather than theirs, I wanted to find out more. Like all parents, I want my children to feel truly and deeply loved and understood - in the ways that matter most to them.
I have started to very slightly adapt the way I show love to those around me – and test what works with each of my children - with striking and marvellous effects! I think, all of us feel better understood and seen, loved and heard as individuals in our family as a result. I have put the ideas from the '5 Love Languages' book into practice in my home and it has made a huge difference to me and my family.
Next week’s session will be about these practical things that you can do to communicate better with your children and fill their 'love and attention' buckets quickly and effectively. Plus, how you can figure out what really matters most to each of your children (i.e. what their love language is).
Does this concept of 'love languages' resonate with you? I’d love your comments and do share any topic suggestions that you might have. Simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or respond to me on Instagram or FB at mummymadethis.