Speaking Different Languages

A good friend recently asked me why her daughter was “acting out (being short, non-compliant, angry).” She explained, “I’ve done everything to make her happy. I buy her whatever she wants. No matter what I do for her she is still defiant, and seems unhappy. I’ve tried sitting her down and asking what’s going on, but she says nothing.” I could tell my friend was trying her best, and, as a mother, was extremely frustrated.

As a child therapist, when I hear this, I start to wonder if maybe the problem is that the child is not receiving the kind of attention she wants and needs to be happy and successful. I asked my friend if she had ever heard of the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It turns out she had, but she thought it only applied to couples. Well, there just so happens to be a companion book: The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. I suggested that she read the book, with a focus on how to improve her relationship with her daughter.

According to Chapman and Campbell, the healthy development of the love relationship between a parent and child depends on how well they are able to express their love for each other in meaningful ways. As we all know, when children feel loved they are at their best. So how can we make sure that our children feel loved? Chapman and Campbell believe that each child expresses and receives love through one of five communication styles. Let’s take a look at The 5 Love Languages of Children:

1) Receiving Gifts – this does not mean you have to go out and decrease your bank balance, but give thoughtful gifts that mean something special.
2) Quality Time– this means giving your undivided attention, being together and enjoying an activity like creating an art project.
3) Acts of Service– this means showing your child that you love them by performing a service that they value, like cooking her favorite meal or repairing a toy.
4) Words of Affirmation– this means using kind words to communicate affection, praise and encouragement.
5) Physical Touch– this is one of my favorites, and can include high fives, hand holding, back rubs, or a hug.

So, going back to my friend, it seems clear that receiving gifts is not her daughter’s love language. Fortunately, there are four other languages for her mother to explore. Her daughter may be craving more one-on-one quality time, positive words of affirmation, acts of service, or even more hugs. My friend devoured the book. A week or two passed and she decided to reach out to me again to let me know how much she had learned from reading it.

She realized that her daughter simply wanted to spend time with her mother, where she was the sole focus of her attention…not shopping or buying “things.” My friend also came to learn that she has a love language of her own, and decided to share this with her daughter. It turns out that her love language is not the same, but is just as important for both of them to know and honor.

If you and your child seem to be speaking different love languages, and you’d like to work on opening the lines of communication, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services in Orlando today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced licensed mental health counselors.


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