Category: Children

Observe

How do you learn a child’s love language? Observe how they express love to others. If they are always wanting to help you do things, then ‘acts of service’ is probably their love language. If they say, “You’re such a good mommy”, then words of affirmation is likely their language. They are loving you in the language they wish to receive.

Another clue is what do your children complain about? If Johnny says, “We don’t ever take walks in the park since the baby came.” He’s telling you that ‘quality time’ is his love language. If your daughter says, “You didn’t bring me anything?” she’s revealing that her love language is receiving gifts. Learn to speak your child love language and watch their countenance change.

Feeling Loved

One of the most important goals in parenting is to make sure that our children grow up feeling loved. If they are secure in your love they will be far more responsive to your teaching and training. Fundamentally, there are five ways to express love to children. I call them the five love languages. They are: words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time, and physical touch.

Each child has a primary love language. One of these speaks more deeply than the other four. Ideally, as parents we want to give the child heavy doses of their primary love language and then sprinkle in the other four. We want them to learn how to give and receive love in all five languages. This produces an emotionally healthy child.

Love Tank

Do you know your child’s primary love language? What I discovered years ago is that what makes one child feel loved, does not necessarily make another child feel loved. If you treat all children the same way in an effort to be fair, you are really not being fair at all.

I like to picture each child as having an emotional ‘love tank’. If the tank is full, that is the child feels loved by the parents, then the child grows up normally. If the tank is empty, the child will grow up with many internal struggles. And, in the teenage years will go looking for love, typically in all the wrong places. Learning what fills your child’s love tank is one of the secrets to successful parenting.

Time and Space

Do you have children who are getting married? The scriptures say that they are to ‘leave’ you and ‘cleave’ to each other. What are the implications of that for you? You must make it easy for them to leave. Don’t demand that they call you daily and keep you informed. Give them time and space to start their own lives.

If you want to give advice, wait until they ask for it? Or, at least, ask if they would like your opinion. If you want to give them money, ask if it would be helpful. And don’t give your money in such a way that they become dependent upon you. Let them know that you love them and are willing to help, but want only what is best for them. You make it easy for them to honor you when you foster their independence.

Honoring Parents

“Honor your father and your mother” is one of the ten commandments. It is not rescinded when we get married. We are told to ‘leave’ our parents, but that does not mean that we stop honoring them. Our parents gave us life. We are deeply indebted to them. Even if they were not the best of parents, we would not be here without them.

One way we honor parents is by keeping in touch: by phone, visits, or e-mails. Letting them know that we still love them and want them to be a part of our lives. Failure to communicate with parents is saying in effect, “I no longer care.” Honor means that we speak with kindness and respect. We look for things we can do for them, remembering what they have done for us.

Leave and Cleave

The scriptures say that when we get married we are to ‘leave’ our parents and ‘cleave’ to each other. What does this leaving and cleaving look like in daily life? It means that we no longer ‘lean’ on our parents, but on each other. It means that we do not allow parents to dominate our lives. We show them respect by listening to their ideas or suggestions, but we make our own decisions.

We do not run to them with a list of our spouse’s failures. Parents are not in the best position to be our counselor. Leaving means that we seek to be financially independent from our parents as soon as possible. We are grateful for their contribution to our lives, but now we want to make our own way. Leaving means that we build upon the foundation which they have given us.

Will Take Effort

Have you hugged your child today? Or, if you’re married, have you hugged your spouse today? How long has it been since you kissed each other? Physical touch is one of the five love languages. Some people grew up in homes were family members seldom touched each other. For these people, learning to speak the love language of physical touch will take effort.

The good news is that you can learn to touch. I remember the father who said, “I know that my son’s love language is physical touch because he’s always touching me. But, I have a hard time touching him. My father never touched me, so it doesn’t seem natural to me.” My advice? Learn, one touch at a time. Begin with one finger on the shoulder. Every time you touch, will make the next one easier.

When They Leave and Return

Physical touch is one of the five love languages. For some people, it is their primary love language. If you want them to feel loved, then give them a hug, or a pat on the back. This is true for children as well as adults. If a child’s love language is physical touch and you seldom hug the child, the child will grow up feeling unloved.

I remember a prison inmate who told me that he grew up feeling unloved by his mother. When he read The Five Love Languages, he discovered that his love language was physical touch. “But, my mother never hugged me,” he said. “The first time I remember her hugging me was the day I left for prison.” How tragic. Don’t let that happen to your child. Hug them every time the leave the house and when they return.

Need to Feel Loved

The most fundamental emotional need of children is the need to feel loved. Other significant emotional needs are the need for security or safety, the need for self-worth or significance, the need to belong or be accepted, the need for productivity or accomplishment. When these needs are met children grow up to be healthy adults.

When these needs are not met, children grow up with many internal struggles which often follow them for decades. Each of us is leaving our children an emotional legacy. The legacy we leave depends largely on how we meet the emotional needs of our children. It’s a huge responsibility.

Right and Wrong

What kind or moral legacy will you leave your children? Morality has to do with our belief of what is right and wrong. We say to our children, “Don’t ever steal.” Or, “Always help others when you can.” These are moral teachings. The closer our behavior corresponds to our stated beliefs, the greater our moral legacy.

One lady said, “I know that my mother was not perfect, but she came as close as anyone I’ve ever known. She taught us what was right and wrong and, more importantly, she modeled it for us. On the occasions when she did wrong, she always apologized and asked our forgiveness.” I repeat my question: What kind of moral legacy will you leave your children?

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