Watch the video above to learn from child therapist, Dr. Fawn McNeil-Haber, about the way Love Languages can help you connect with your children and teens. Then, read more below in part two of our “Love Languages for Children” blog series, and learn how to get started with a New Jersey child therapist.
The Other Side of Thinking About Love Languages for Children
When you think about love languages you have to think about the flip side and think about how you give them consequences. As I mentioned in my previous blog, you never want to use a child’s love language against them. This can be devastating to them.
Here’s an example: say your child yearns for quality time. It’s their primary love language. Then taking this time away from them by putting them in time-out or sending them to their room would cause conflict. It’s like the ultimate punishment you can give them. Depending on the situation, you could be accidentally giving them a punishment that is much bigger in their heart than you intended.
With Multiple Children, “Same” is Not Always Equal
This is especially common if you have multiple children. You may think that when a consequence works for one sibling that it will work for all your children. This is usually not true. Kids are unique and siblings often have different love languages. So, just as you have to be intentional about the way you show them love using the five love languages. And, you also have to be intentional about giving them a consequence for unwanted or undesirable behavior.
Let’s review the love languages and common pitfalls or challenges associated with them.
Words of appreciation and affirmation: Verbal praise or affirmation
- Caution: Giving criticism, even constructively can be very hurtful. Also, avoid the pitfalls of adding qualifiers to words of affirmation or appreciation. For example, avoid saying “I love you but…” Or “thank you but…” Or ” You did a great job, however…”
Physical Touch: Non-verbal affection such as hugs or high-fives.
- Caution: Always avoid any physical punishment. This can be extremely upsetting and harmful to a child emotionally and developmentally. But for those whose love language is physical touch even refusing a hug in a tense moment can leave them feeling disconnected and uncared for.
Gifts: Receiving or giving gifts (both large and small).
- Caution: if this is your child’s love language it may be tempting to offer gifts all the time, especially when you’re building a connection. But over gifting can prevent you from using other love languages to express affection. Dr. Chapman says “we need to give kids gifts that are appropriate for their age and that will be helpful to them, rather than just what they want.”
Quality Time: Undivided attention and time spent together
- Caution: Do not feel like you need to drop everything and spend hours of quality time with your child to connect. Likewise, don’t assume that they will always want to drop what they are doing or playing with for this quality time. Set aside a few minutes a day to spend with them and focus your attention on them during this time.
Acts of Service: When others do things to help them.
- Caution: Be appropriate with your acts of service. Don’t do everything for your child just because you know it will make them happy. They also need to learn independence and self-help skills.
A note on promises…
Be careful what you promise your child. Avoid false promises or not acting on the things you said you would do. Here’s an example, if your child’s love language is acts of service, they will likely respond very poorly if you say you’ll do something and then don’t follow through. The same goes for all the other love languages. You must be intentional about how you use them. Not following through or keeping your word can actually make them feel unloved.
I know human error happens and sometimes you just forget. When this happens, be honest with your child. Apologize and explain what happened. Then, come up with a plan to rectify the situation.
Validate The Ways Your Child Shows You Love in Their Love Language
Pay attention when they’re expressing love in their love language. A younger child will show you love and affection through their preferred love language. For example, if a child’s love language is gift-giving, don’t dismiss a gift that they’ve given you, like a piece of art from school, or perhaps a rock or flower. It is their way of showing you they love you. They experience love through your reaction to their gift. So be enthusiastic, no matter how many rocks or painting they give you. The same goes for all the other languages. Value the way they express love and acknowledge it.
Respecting Your Child’s Love Language is Very Important
We need to think about how love languages interact with our behaviors, both in showing love and withholding love. We never want to withhold love. Even when we’re giving a consequence or a child has to make amends for a wrong they have committed. Withholding love or using a child’s love language against them has pretty substantial consequences. In fact, it can actually harm a relationship and un-do positive work that has already been done to connect and strengthen your bond with your child. In my opinion, consequences that involve withholding love can actually carry more weight in a relationship than positive interactions.
It is important to respect and value your child’s individual love language.
Using their love language respectfully and skillfully offers you an opportunity to build and nurture your connection with your child. This connection will set them up for future success and emotional resilience in life.
Parent Coaching With a Child Therapist Can Help
If you’re ready to learn more about connecting with your child and using their love language in a way that fosters a positive bond between the two of you, I invite you to consider parent counseling. Parent counseling gives you an opportunity to discuss challenges you’re experiencing in a non-judgemental space with a therapist who can offer you tips and tools to cope with these challenges and strengthen your relationship with your child.
Consider Child Therapy for Anxiety and More
If your child is struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, PTSD, behavioral problems, grief, and loss, or any other mental health struggle, consider reaching out to an online child therapist in New Jersey for assistance, They will be able to help your child learn tools to cope with their distress and move forward in a healthy way. In counseling, we will help your child cope with negative thoughts and emotions and give them the tools to appropriately handle distress when it occurs throughout the course of their life.
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Brave Minds Psychological Services in Scotch Plains, NJ helps adults, children, and families with parenting, health anxiety, and more. Let our skilled and caring family therapists provide a safe and comfortable therapy experience right here in New Jersey. To begin counseling for your child, there are a few simple steps:
- Connect with Brave Minds Psychological Services today.
- Get your questions answered in a free phone consultation call with one of our compassionate therapists.
- Feel more confident about your child’s mental health and success.
Other Therapy Services At Brave Minds Psychological Services
At Brave Minds Psychological Services, we offer a variety of services from our licensed therapists in order to get you on the right path to healing and wholeness. Our therapeutic services include therapy for children, anxiety treatment for children, child sexual abuse therapy, therapy for teens, anxiety treatment for teens, teen social phobia therapy, adult anxiety counseling, couples counseling, counseling for parents, postpartum counseling, birth trauma therapy, and sexual assault counseling for adults. We also have a blog where we write about a variety of different mental health subjects. If you’re interested in learning more about our services here at Brave Minds Psychological Services or online, please contact our Scotch Plains counseling office! Proud to serve Fanwood, Westfield, Cranford, New Providence, and surrounding areas.