Contributed by local Mom, and Milford Kids Thrive Collaborative member, Kayla Calabro

Have you ever gone to kiss your kiddo and they push you away, saying “no mama, not that!” or maybe your child wants to cuddle, but you’d rather just read a book? These things happen when there’s a mismatch in your love languages. Today we’re going to chat about what the heck love languages are and how you can use them to make your little one feel loved.

If you want a big deep dive on this topic, read the book by Gary Chapman and D. Ross Campbell, The Five Love Languages of Children.

What are the five love languages?

The love languages are the ways that we best like to give and receive love. You probably tend to show love in the way that you most like to receive it. 

The five love languages are:

  • Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch

How can I tell what love language my child speaks?

It’s kinda hard to say! So… your best bet is to speak a little of each language and do some detective work. What actions make your child light up? What brings on a big smile? You might also pay attention to how your child loves you. Do they bring you gifts? Hug you endlessly? Light up when you can spend quality time together? Once you do some detective work, you’ll have a sense of one or two love languages your child responds best to.

How do I show my child love using words of affirmation?

If your child loves to be praised and told they’re loved, then you should definitely look into the work of Mr. Rogers. He has one song, “It’s You I Like” that could make a grown man cry. You could tell your child any of the lines from that song to really boost them up. You might also choose to put your words of affirmation in writing, to make your words last just a little longer. 

  • Write a love letter for your child and put it in their snack (their teacher can read it to them)
  • Tell your child, “this song makes me think of you” and play them “It’s You I like.”
  • Create a family journal, where you write down what you love about each other at dinner time each night

Ways to fill up your child’s cup if they appreciate Acts of Service 

Most parents are constantly acting on behalf of their children (directly or indirectly). But our kids don’t necessarily feel that effort. We can make it more personalized by noticing our child’s preferences and helping them with the things they dislike, while joining them in the things they like. Remember, if your child likes to receive this kind of love, they also like to give this kind of love. Work together around the house and your child will feel your love.

  • Make their favorite meal
  • Make their bed for them
  • Clean their room or fold and put away their laundry
  • Let your child help with household chores

How to love on your gift-loving child (without spending all of your money)

If money were no object, you could fill your home with gifts for your child. But obviously, money is a factor (along with storage space). So how do you give gifts to your child without buying a bunch of junk? I think the answer is in the presentation. You can buy your child their favorite snack (like you probably already do), but give the gift of that fruit snack with a little extra flare. “Hey! I got you something. Close your eyes and stick out your hands!” Adding just a bit of excitement will help your child to feel loved without totally messing with your budget.

  • Present the regular everyday “gifts” with extra pomp and circumstance
  • Wrapping paper and bows can make old books feel new again
  • Sometimes a pine cone or rock sculpture, left by the entrance to your home, makes a very special gift

How to set aside time for quality time with your toddler

Toddlers are rough. They’re busy and bossy. They want what they want and they want it right now. So even when we have time to spend with them, there’s usually all this pressure to teach them things. But here’s the deal. Set aside some time for “want nothing time” (a term coined by Magda Gerber of the RIE philosophy). You spend time with your child and your only goal is to fill them up with loving attention. You follow their lead, comment on what they’re doing, and (honestly) just marvel at the little creature in front of you.

  • Give your child focused, uninterrupted attention during caregiving tasks (eating, changing, bathing, etc.)
  • Add in additional want-nothing time, where you aren’t asking your child to complete a task in a specific way. You’re simply enjoying their company.

How to love on your child who loves physical touch

There are so many ways to express physical affection: holding hands, snuggling on the couch, reading to them while they sit in your lap, etc. One way that is often reserved for dads is wrestling or rough physical play. I’m going to make the case that Moms should dive into some roughhousing with their children. It’s a great way for your child to release tension from the day and it builds their confidence.

Related book: Playful Parenting: An Exciting New Approach to Raising Children That Will Help You Nurture Close Connections, Solve Behavior Problems, and Encourage Confidence by Lawrence J. Cohen

How can I use the five love languages to make my child feel extra loved?

As I mentioned – use all of these love languages. Make yourself a little cheat sheet of different ways to show your child love. Then when your child seems off or you want to show some extra affection, pull out your list. 

We know we love our kids, but do they feel it? Try out these love languages and see what happens. You may find that your child thrives with a different type of affection.