The Five Love Languages of Children
by Gary Chapman
and Ross Campbell
Reviewed by Melissa Rice
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 3, May-June 2000, pp. 104-105
The Five Love Languages of Childrenis like a quart of rejuvenating oil injected by skilled technicians with the latest factory training using Genuine Good Mother Parts. This book takes a positive approach to raising children, advocating preventive maintenance rather than waiting for a crash on the parenting highway.
The authors assert that children and adults can be loved in five ways: physical touch, affirmative words, gifts, acts of service, and quality time. This book explains how a parent may douse a child in one love language, such as gifts, while the child remains dry inside. If a child craves touch but his parents are physically distant with him, he feels alone. Learning how a child perceives love helps parents choose the most effective means to express love to him.
Some ways mentioned to discern your child's favorite love language are to observe how your child expresses love to you and others, listen to what he requests most often or complains about, and offer him choices between activities such as shopping together or a backrub.
When our middle son was small, we joked that he would nurse through graduate school. He clearly adores physical touch. When we say prayers at night, he thanks God for family members and climbs on each one's back as he says thanks! If he spots a bend in any major limb, he considers it a lap and invites himself to plop down. He jumps on his brothers randomly, wrestles them to the ground, and loves tickling. As I read this book, I was reminded to make the time to hold him more, stroke his hair and rub his back. His mood sweetened amazingly! My eldest son, on the other hand, enjoys focused time with a parent, even it if involves washing the car. In the darkness at the edge of night, he steals moments and private conversations, a broad, contented smile on his freckled face.
People need to hear all the five love languages to some degree and their favorite a lot, to fill up what the authors refer to as "the love tank." They note that a child who feels loved and can identify with his parents is much easier to discipline. Actions and words need to match up. Let's say Ima Parent wants her children to share their toys with others. Ima really likes imported chocolate cookies and treats herself to them occasionally. Ima's three-year-old begs for a bite. She lets him have one, whereupon he gnaws off the chocolate and throws the rest of the delectable cookie into the (gasp) sink. She's lost her treat but her child has learned that even mommies share. Her actions spoke louder than countless shrill reminders.
The authors have a profound perspective on discipline. It means teaching or training and isn't necessarily punitive. They remind us that children act like children. Even if childish behavior is unpleasant, it's part of being a child. If we do our part and love them unconditionally, they will mature feeling secure and give up childish ways. The authors urge parents to use requests rather than demands as much as possible and mention that "many parents view parental guidance as an exercise in prohibition" (page 51). Parenting isn't just about forbidding certain behaviors, but involves cultivating good behavior by example and support. "Parents who offer words of encouragement will be looking closely at the interests and abilities of their children and giving positive verbal reinforcement of those interests" (page 52). When a child does misbehave, we should ask, "What does my child need?" (page 117). And if chastisement must be administered, "it is wise to give a child a conscious expression of love both before and after administering a punishment" (page 124).
"Quality time is a parent's gift of presence to a child " (page 61). The authors note that although the idea of quality time has gotten a lot of press, children still aren't getting enough. It is even possible to be home all day and not level one's attention directly on an individual child. Giving attention to your child is the most meaningful offering possible. Be at your child's disposal for games, conversation, or a backrub. In my mind, quality time is the essence of all five languages. The authors urge parents to provide the strengthening effect of personal time with their children, as it is an investment in the future. "In many homes, children would miss their TV sets more than they would miss their fathers" (page 61). We don't want a generation of hollow, hurting people. We have in our power the incredible ability to convey peace, civility, and security to future doctors, construction workers, teachers, and parents. Our children are important people, no matter who they become. Living out our love for them in a language they can understand is a priority that can hardly be topped.
I encourage you to delve into this book. It is clearly written and eminently helpful in building strong relationships with your children, spouse, friends, extended family, and business associates. Many great examples bring the text to life, and the subjects of learning, anger, single parenting, and marriage are given good coverage.
In one instance the authors point out that parenting is not about doing what comes naturally. It is a commitment that requires attention. It's easier to bring home a package of candy than it is to play catch for a half hour but your child may be far hungrier for your time than for chocolate. What your child needs may be something more than what is most convenient to give but the reward is long-term growth, deeper affection, and enduring respect. Consider this book a timely tune-up for your parental engine.
The Five Love Languages of Children is published by Moody Books © 1997, and is available through LLLI (19-7, $11.99).