We’re talking about those very love languages that have reached viral status recently. The five love languages were originally developed by Dr. Gary Chapman for couples and their relationships. After publishing his book and finding major success with adult relationships, Dr. Gary Chapman has explained that these can be used to help understand family dynamics and improve relationships between members. In today’s blog post we’re talking about how you can use these love languages to treat your family with compassion.
Click here for our last post, on treating other mother's with compassion.
Understanding Family Dynamics to Treat Your Family with Compassion
No two families are exactly alike. Family dynamics are highly individualized. What works for another family might not work for yours. Your family dynamics will likely differ from that of your brother, sister, or even the family in which you were raised.
When it comes to treating your family with compassion, you need to understand your unique family dynamics, or better said, your family members and the way in which they understand and express love. You, your partner, and your children might all seek love, and express it in different forms.
What are Love Languages?
Love language is the term coined by Dr. Gary Chapman to describe the different ways which people tend to seek and express love. There are likely more than five but these languages serve to help simplify complex interpersonal relationships and dynamics. We often assume that people understand how we seek to be shown love and how we demonstrate our love. This assumption is at the root of Dr. Chapman’s book. By assuming that other’s understand our love language, we potentially create stress or strain on our relationships. Now amplify this by your partner and kids all thinking that they are showing love to one another, but potentially not understanding that this action or statement might not be the others’ preferred way to receive affection.
The different love languages are:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Spending time with someone is one way people express love. Quality time might be spending some time watching TV together, cooking, going for a walk. For kids, this might look like engaging directly in play. When someone values quality time, they will use this as a means to show love to other people. If your family members have quality time as their love language, put your phone away, and carve out some time just for them, and for your family as a unit.
Words of Affirmation:
Words of affirmation are a verbal expression of love. People whose love language is words of affirmation will speak their love for others in your family. They also will generally like to receive these verbal expressions of affection in return. This goes beyond saying I love you. These phrases demonstrate appreciation for personal qualities and things that people might do for one another.
Your children might look for constant approval, appreciation, or affirmation throughout the day. They value your words of encouragement and affirmation and hang on your words more intently than other people might.
Acts of Service:
The Acts of Service love language is about demonstrating your love by doing things for others. If this is your language, you might express your love by doing all of the chores around the house to provide your family with a clean and healthy environment. You might also appreciate it when other members of the family pitch in and help out with these tasks. If your partner finds joy by doing little things for you, and for your family maybe rather than being outspoken about their love, this might be their form of expression.
If your child’s love language is Acts of Service, they may like it when you do small things for them. These are often things that they can do themselves, but they value and appreciate when you do it for them or with them.
While many people like to receive gifts in general, for some it is the way they like to receive and express their love. Gifts do not have to be large or ornate, or cost a lot of money. The more thoughtful the better. If your partner expresses that they love a certain flower, or color, gifting them something in that shade after they mention it to you is a great way to express love in their language. For kids it can be anything from a fresh picked flower to a piece of their favorite candy. Learn what makes them happy and you will become fluent in this love language.
On the other hand, for people whose language is receiving gifts, they also tend to express their love in the same way. Your partner and child may be hurt if you do not perceive the same value in the gift as they do. This can be especially tricky when it comes to kids and their many precious gifts. Throw away an art project and you could be sending them the wrong message.
Kids might seem like they’re climbing on you just to climb, but some actually see this as an expression of love. Holding handles, cuddling on the couch, and yes, being a literal anchor on your leg are all ways in which they express their love.
Check out this article from Parents for more on love languages and your children including common pitfalls and challenges.