Family & Education

Teaching the Language of Love in the Home

BY Poppy Richie TIMEMarch 1, 2022 PRINT

How do we know for sure that our children feel our love? We may wonder about this key aspect of our relationship with them, or we may just take it for granted that it’s all working out. Does one child think that I love her sibling more? Is my son feeling upset because he doesn’t think I love him? These are questions I asked when we were raising our three children. Then, I read “The 5 Love Languages of Children” by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. After reading it, I made some changes.

The authors claim that there are five basic love languages: physical touch, gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, and quality time. We may respond favorably to all of these loving actions, but for each of us there is a primary love language, which is the one through which we feel most loved. The book describes in detail what these languages are and how each of us can recognize what approach works best for us. Those interested can take a quiz that has questions and answer choices. You can find it at: https://www.5LoveLanguages.com/quizzes/love-language

The quizzes are designed for different age groups: adult, teenager, and child. Based on the answers, the primary love language is revealed. For children under the age of 8, parents can ask the survey questions and get responses from their child.

Why is that important? It provides us with a tool so we can relate to our family members according to their specific need for love. As Dr. Chapman says in this groundbreaking book, “You have to know how to communicate love to a child so that he genuinely feels loved.”

When I took the quiz, I had some major realizations about why I experienced an emotional disconnect with my mother. My primary love language was “quality time,” and in second place was “words of affirmation.” Looking back to childhood memories of my mom, I could see that her primary love language was “service.” Indeed, she made beautiful clothes for me and provided many services that allowed me to receive an excellent education. However, on an emotional level, we were like two ships passing each other in the night, not able to connect. I didn’t hear enough words of affirmation, nor did we spend much quality time together. When we did spend time together on vacations to the Adirondack Mountains and Fort Myers Beach, Florida, our family was more relaxed, and it made us all feel more connected and happy. Overall, I doubt that she experienced much gratitude from me, since I wasn’t able to interpret her acts of service as expressions of her love for me. It wasn’t until several years after cancer claimed her life at 50 that I understood that she really did love me after all.

I encouraged my husband to take the quiz, and we both realized that our love languages were different, so we made some adjustments in our lifestyle. We started spending more quality time going on bike ride adventures all over California. My husband’s primary love language was service, so I did more of home improvement projects and fixing meals he liked. We both needed more words of affirmation, so we appreciated each other more frequently.

It wasn’t until our children were young adults that I discovered this useful tool, so there was some catching up to do. By that time, they weren’t around as much, so they didn’t take the quiz, and I had to depend on my own observations. I guessed that the oldest preferred quality time, so we planned some adventures like renting horses and galloping on the beach, mud baths and hot springs with friends, and snorkeling at Kanapali beach on Maui. These activities provided the excitement and quality time that helped her feel loved. She often remembers these experiences because they made a big impact on her; hopefully she could feel the love I’ve had for her since her birth, in a very concrete way.

I learned about “The 5 Love Languages” from a couple who has 7 children. This family was very smart. The parents posted their results and that of each child on the refrigerator so that the whole family could be aware of each person’s love language. Their oldest son told me that there was a lot of love and harmony in the home due to knowledge of everyone’s love language. They consciously practiced this awareness and still do as adult siblings.

In the book, there is a heart-warming testimony about healing in a father–daughter relationship. Neither was aware of each other’s love language, and consequently, there was awkwardness and friction in their communication. When they both took the quiz and discovered the other’s love language, the change was profound and wonderful. Each became more conscious of the other’s needs and took the time to act on that information. Knowledge of another’s primary love language is one of many tools that can improve a relationship, but that alone won’t transform or heal. Experiencing real love within the family and beyond isn’t that simple. However, we can use this very practical approach and make some changes that will make a difference.

Another resource that has helped me to understand more about love within the family is “Real Love in Parenting: Nine Simple and Powerfully Effective Principles for Raising Happy and Responsible Children” (published September 2005). I would recommend that adults read Greg Baer’s first book, “Real Love,” in order to understand his perspective. Through difficult life experiences, he came to realize that everything he had tried in his pursuit of happiness wasn’t working, even though he was externally successful. His career as a surgeon and civic leader brought him wealth and respect, but he felt so unhappy that he eventually became a drug addict with suicidal inclinations. Through his quest for lasting happiness, he discovered what was missing and launched a new career of writing, teaching, and speaking on the topic of Real Love. RealLoveParents.com is a website that may help provide answers to your most troubling questions about parenting.

In his own words, Greg Baer explains:

I started RealLoveParents.com which uses these teachings to give parents the “instruction book” they didn’t get—but need—to learn how to raise happy and responsible children. I am dedicated to helping create a generation of emotionally stable adults by teaching parents now how to raise happy and responsible children. Effective parents experience more joy and have naturally eliminated a need to respond to stress. Happy and responsible children grow to be effective leaders in their own families and in society. My goal is to teach you the real meaning of love, replacing anger and confusion with peace and confidence in your individual life and in your relationships.

The family can be experienced as a school of love because it’s where children begin to learn about relationships. When they grow up, they can apply what they learned in their interactions with parents, siblings, and extended family members to people they meet in their community. Many of us believe that the family is a God-created institution and a necessary cornerstone of a good society. Ronald Reagan supported this belief when he made this statement: “The family has always been the cornerstone of American society. Our families nurture, preserve, and pass on to each succeeding generation the values we share and cherish, values that are the foundation of our freedoms.”

This article was originally published in American Essence magazine.

Poppy Richie
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