Since we are in February, the month of love, we decided to talk about love languages, something to identify in yourself and your children/teens. Knowing love languages can assist you in communicating the love you feel in a way your children, teen, spouse, and friends, prefer to receive it. It can also assist in determining rewards in behavior modification plans.
In his book, The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman speaks about how we all have a primary love language, and we tend to give love in the way we like to receive it, often not taking into account the love language of the person we want to receive our love. For example, Joanna’s love language is gifts. She buys presents for her husband on every holiday and even “creates” her own special occasions just to surprise him with a gift. John, her husband, forgets anniversaries, but continually tells her how much he loves her, and that while she is the best thing that ever happened to him, not to spend her energy and money buying him gifts he doesn’t need. His primary love language is words of affirmation. You can see where this is going. Joanna doesn’t feel loved because John never buys her anything and doesn’t appreciate what she buys for him, and John doesn’t feel fulfilled either since Joanna spends her time buying gifts rather than telling John how much he means to her, his love language. Arguments ensue. Learning love languages would help Joanna and John, and it can help parents as well.
While this book was initially written for couples, Chapman wrote a teen and kid version, The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers and The 5 Love Languages of Children respectively, which can be helpful in not only showing your kids love using their love language, but also in determining rewards for those who are not internally motivated.
The following are the 5 Love Languages created by Chapman:
Words of Affirmation
Receiving kind words or praises (Good job, well done, you’re the best, etc.)
Receiving material goods (items, gift cards, money, video games, etc.)
Spending time with family members (sporting events, movies, special time together, etc.)
Acts of Service
Receiving cooked meals, folded laundry, a ride somewhere, helping them with their work load, etc.
Receiving hugs, kisses, a pat on the back, arm around shoulders, etc.
Which is your child’s love language? Try giving your child each of the five love languages, not at the same time, and pay attention to how your child responds to each of them. At IET, we have found that gifts is one of the easiest love languages to identify since students ask to earn items or if they can take some of our “cool” items home with them. A problem that can occur when creating behavior modification plans is parents choose things as rewards and then conclude that behavior modification plans don’t work if this doesn’t motivate their child to change. It’s often not the plan but the type of reward that is the problem. Finding your child’s love language can assist you in determining the appropriate reward. Whether you are doing a behavior modification plan or trying to incentivize your child TO DO anything, getting them involved and asking them what they feel would be an appropriate reward may also assist you in being successful in your quest and determining your child’s love language. Give your kid(s) ideas of rewards that come from gifts, quality time or acts of service love languages and see what they choose. Asking them if they want to receive a “good job” as a reward is awkward, so you can just praise them and see if they light up. Physical touch can be another awkward reward. Give them a hug or a pat on the back (teens) and see how they react instead of asking, ”Would you like a hug as a reward for your chores?” Do it a few times since kids can be fussy, wanting it at one moment and shying away at another, again depending on age. You may be doing something you don’t usually do, and they are adjusting.
As you can see, love languages can be helpful for the entire family.
For more information on love languages or to take the quiz, check out some or all of Gary Chapman’s Love Language books.
If you are a current client, we are happy to help you assess your child’s love language. Just let us know.