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              Parental Arts

              Learn Your Child's Love Language

              In advance of Valentine's Day, we caught up with Dr. Gary Chapman, co-author of "The 5 Love Languages, The Secret to Loving Children Effectively," on how to learn and speak your child's love language.

              “The question is not do you love your children,” said Dr. Gary Chapman. “The question is, do your children feel loved?” All parents want the answer to that question to be a resounding “Yes!” So in advance of Valentine’s Day, it seems appropriate to revisit the 5 Love Languages and consider how they might help us better love our children every day of the year.

              Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Physical Touch and Quality Time are, according to Dr. Chapman, the five ways in which we show and receive love. And they are all pretty self-explanatory. The important thing to keep in mind is that each child (and adult, for that matter) has a unique way of feeling loved.

              Here are a few tips for learning and speaking your child’s love language this Valentine’s Day and beyond.

              Discover your child’s love language.

              “Your child’s love language is there pretty early. At least by four years old, sometimes even three," said Dr. Chapman. “And it’s discovered primarily at that juncture by observing their behavior, how they respond to you and other people. My son’s love language is Physical Touch and when he was young and I got home, he would run to the door, he would hug my legs and he would climb on them. My daughter, she wanted quality time, so she would ask me to go for a walk.”

              “You also want to listen to their complaints because their complaints will reveal their love language,” said Dr. Chapman. If your son notices and complains about not getting to run a boring errand with you, for example, his love language is probably quality time.

              And finally, consider what they request most often. Are they constantly asking you to help with homework (Acts of Service) or to buy the latest object of their desire (Receiving Gifts)?

              “If you put those three together,” said Dr. Chapman, “you can pretty well figure out a child’s love language.”

              Still not sure? There’s also a quiz you can take.

              Speak your child’s love language (on Valentine’s Day and beyond.)

              If your child’s primary love language is Words of Affirmation, a hand-written card saying what you like about them might go further toward making that child feel loved than a stuffed bear or an afternoon in the park. But if it’s Receiving Gifts or Quality Time, a card could fall short. If your child most appreciates Acts of Service, you might start the day by preparing their favorite breakfast or helping them to make their bed. The idea is to match the gift to the love language and, further, to the individual child. For more inspiration, read our guide to Valentine's Day ideas for kids based on their love language. 

              Keep these tips in mind, too:

              In addition to making your child feel loved, it’s helpful to consider your child’s primary love language when it comes to discipline. “If their love language is Words of Affirmation, and you respond to them with hateful or angry words, it really speaks to the heart of that child. If you take a child whose primary love language is Quality Time and your method of discipline is to isolate them, that is severe punishment. But another child may not even feel like they’re being punished.”

              Finally, Dr. Chapman emphasized he is not suggesting parents speak only their child’s primary love language. “You give heavy doses of the primary language and sprinkle in the other four,” said Chapman. “Ideally, you want your child to learn to give and receive love in all five languages."

              That is the best Valentine’s gift of all.