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Parenting Through Love Languages

There’s a popular book out called
target="_blank">The Five Love Languages
, which sets
forth the belief that there are five different ways we say “I
love you” to someone, and if we can learn which ways are
preferred for a person we can make them feel more loved more
easily. The five different languages are (and realize I’m
distilling an entire book into a paragraph here) Words and
Affirmation; Physical Touch; Acts of Service; Gifts; and Quality
Time. My husband, for example, is Physical Touch and Quality Time,
so he feels far more loved if we spend some time cuddling on the
couch watching a movie together than if I vacuum out his car as a
surprise. I, on the other hand, am Gifts and Acts of Service, so
the best way my husband can say “I Love You” is by
giving me money to go shopping for myself (gifts) and watching the
kids while I do it (acts of service).

This has a connection to parenting, I promise.

The point is that it’s not just the
spouse who has a love language in a family – the kids all
have one, too. And figuring out Maddie and Cora’s love
languages has helped me be a more effective and appreciated parent.

Take Maddie: she is very strongly in the Quality Time and Gifts
camps. So if I go to the grocery store and bring home a rose to
place in her room, her face is wreathed in smiles when she runs to
thank me. And if I’ve been working a lot I know I need to
make extra time to simply hang around and let her talk to me one on
one about nothing in particular.

Cora, some of you might guess from my many blogs about the whole
attachment thing, is definitely a Physical Touch girl and,
I’m beginning to think, Words and Affirmation. If I’m
in the room Cora is firmly attached, and will sit behind me
contentedly stroking my hair or snuggling my neck. She climbs all
over me like a monkey and I try to grit my teeth and bear it. And
in the past few months she’s become very verbally
affectionate, telling us all “I love you” very
sincerely, so I spend time snuggling with her every night and
showering her with words of love, watching her bloom while I do so.

Having this knowledge helps me to discern what the girls are truly
after when they’re bugging me or having a meltdown of some
kind. I know that leaving Cora in a room with a closed door while
she’s melting down does not help her calm down and get
control of herself – it makes her feel abandoned and that
I’m removing my love to punish her. We’ve had to alter
her “breaks” so she can see me, which didn’t work
as well with Maddie who would then want to talk to me if I was
within eyesight.

I also know that when Maddie’s trailing me around asking me
to play a game or color with her, she’s not being a pest or
too lazy to come up with something to entertain herself –
she’s craving quality time with me, and if I can drop my
“to-do” list for a few minutes and focus intensely on
her she will walk away contentedly and play quietly by herself

This love languages thing explains why Maddie’s been having a
hard time with Cora’s potty-training rewards: every time Cora
gets an M&M for using the potty, Maddie thinks I’m saying
I love Cora more. So I give Maddie a little quality time to make up
for it and she’s adjusting much better. And when Cora’s
babbling on in the car, pushing me for some sort of a response, I
know it’s not simply toddler annoyance but a girl looking for
a verbal affirmation of Mommy’s love and mere presence.

Knowing these things doesn’t make me the perfect parent, but
it does help me keep a grip on my sanity. I can remind myself that
Cora’s attachment will eventually loosen up, and forcing that
break right now could cause an irreversible change in our
relationship. And as I lie next to Maddie during our bedtime
routine and listen to her run on and on about every minute detail
of her day at school, I don’t try to hurry her up and get out
of the room so I can get on with my night. I show her the love my
presence gives her, and she goes to sleep happy.

Take some time to think about what makes your child blossom and
find ways to massage that particular language – you might be
surprised at how easy it is to earn a hug and a kiss. Which means
“I love you” in any language.


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