A couple months ago, my older girls went into cohorts and decided to become demons. Little demons who terrorized our home each day and made me want to institutionalize myself. And it wasn’t just for a day. It was for weeks on end. My husband and I thought we would both go crazy before they got thru the stage. One night, as we were talking about what was going on, I flipped open a book on our dresser just to get my mind off it all.
The book was Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages–How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. I’ve read this book before so I was just perusing it. But as I flipped to the back of the book, there was a section on the Love Languages for Children. I’ve been meaning to read that version of his book for a few years now, but hadn’t gotten around to it. I read thru what he had included in this original version and my mind started whirling.
If you haven’t read the book, the basic premise is that each of us give and receive love in a certain way. The author calls them love languages. He has identified five of these love languages: physical touch, words of affirmation, gift giving, acts of service, and quality time. Just as different people speak different languages, we need to learn how to COMMUNICATE love with our spouse/mate in their love language. Otherwise, we might as well be speaking Chinese to someone who only speaks English. You might be feeling love for them, but you’re not showing it in a way they fully understand.
As I read about his perspective on children and their love languages, I started trying to identify my children’s languages. Then I started thinking about how their demonic behavior could be directly tied to the fact that they were begging for love from us but we weren’t trying to give it in the way they needed. If my girls’ love tanks are empty, they are going to be begging for that love fill-up over and over, and more and more until their tank is full. But because their way of begging is driving me insane, I’m less likely to be responding in the way they really need. I was beginning to feel so overwhelmed because I felt like they had so many needs that I couldn’t figure out where to start. But then, it all fell into place. If I focused on meeting that core need, speaking their love language, maybe the other behaviors would fall into place.
We talked about it and found that Laney’s love language is quality time. A hundred times a day I hear her say, “Mommy, will you come play with me?” “Mommy, will you color with me?” “Mommy, will you come see what I did?” “Mommy…?” It was getting to be EXHAUSTING. I just couldn’t come one more time. It wasn’t convenient for ME. But when I realized that all she was doing was identifying her love language and need to me, I suddenly found it easier to stop what I was doing and take the 5 minutes to show her that I loved her.
Noelle’s love language is very obviously physical touch, as well as words of affirmation. So I decided to hug her, touch her, kiss her, or whatever every time I saw her. It was sometimes as simple as holding her hand while I talked to her. And then, I’d try to tell her a few times a day how wonderful she is and all the things I love about her.
The amazing thing was how quickly their behavior changed. It was almost instant. By filling them with the love THEY were seeking, rather than the love I was showing, they no longer needed to act out in the way they were. I’m not very good at being consistent, so I find that their behavior slips again and again, but at least I always know a way to get back on track.
My friend and I talked recently about this experience and she said she didn’t think she could take the time to speak the love language of all five of her kids. But as we talked, I explained that if she could spend 5-10 minutes a couple times a day speaking her kids’ love language, most of the other arguments, tantrum, fits, and fights that she had to mediate would diminish. I think we all have time for a little extra peace in our lives.
Gary Chapman has written quite a few versions of the Love Languages book to help everyone.
The 5 Love Languages Men’s Edition: The Secret to Love That Lasts (Wouldn’t we ALL love our husbands to read that!)
The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships (Ooh…I’m so intrigued by this one)