Parenting to Your Child’s Love Language


Most of us have likely heard something about your “love language.” (If not, you should totally check out Gary Chapman’s website and books!) A quick refresher: the basic idea is that each person has a way that they prefer to receive love, and how they like to show love. These “languages” are defined as Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. We usually have some combination of love languages, and somehow through sheer luck, it seems like the people we love most tend to have completely different, and maybe even totally contradictory languages! But there’s actually no real problem in that. The problem is when we don’t know each other’s languages, don’t try to learn them, and don’t adapt to what those around us need.

I am an introverted, not very touchy mom who strongly prefers Acts of Service. And because the universe is really funny, both of my boys are pretty extroverted, and my beloved firstborn has a strong, very, very, very strong preference for Physical Touch. He would prefer to cuddle, hold hands, be carried, and sit as close as humanly possible to you then really anything else. His second preference is for quality time, which is more my jam, but this Physical Touch thing is possibly the least natural thing for me. That’s obviously considered to be weird because we assume moms to be natural pros at this. But alas, I am not, and instead, I was gifted with a kiddo that taught me all about touch, and how and why he needs it, all before he could even realize what was happening. And since he’s cute and pretty persuasive, I was a willing learner.

The real question is why does any of this matter, and what does it have to do with parenting? Knowing my kid – really, really knowing him – has made me a more effective parent. It helps me know how to help him, how to teach him, how to correct him when needed. It also helps me to keep my sanity and to be able to refocus when something is on my absolute last nerve.

Here’s an example – he gets in trouble for some very normal, young kid kind of thing, and gets really whiney and defensive. Sometimes he’ll consider lying about whatever he did because he doesn’t want to be in trouble, but even more importantly, he doesn’t want to let us down. My natural instinct as a fellow firstborn is to give him a stern “give me an answer” type of line, but this ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT WORK with this kid. He shuts down. He withdraws completely. There is no conversation after that, and instead, there’s a standoff with a kiddo that I will never win. Knowing my kid’s love language though, I do the thing that is 100% opposite of all of my instincts. I’ll scoop him up into my lap (if he says that’s ok), or hold his hand, or put my arm around him, and just sit for a few minutes. Sometimes we might do some breathing, sometimes I just let him sit for a minute, but I follow his cues for when he has settled enough to talk. The physical touch is what allows him to do that. It reminds him, and me too frankly, that we’re both on the same team, and there’s nothing he can say in our conversation that would change that. Just me giving him my time, and my touch, is that reminder to him. Honestly, it’s usually the last thing I want to do at that time. When I’m mad, I definitely don’t want a snuggle. But it’s not a want for him. It’s a legitimate need. And when I meet his needs, he can do whatever we need to do next.

Why is it helpful to parent to your child’s love language? Because it helps everyone communicate better. It helps all of us keep a better perspective. It reminds me in those moments that there’s literally nothing more important than for my child know on the deepest level just how loved he is. It helps us stay as a team. It helps all of us feel noticed, respected, and valued.

And I can’t think of anything more important than that.

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Kimberly is an East Coast girl who came to Lubbock for grad school and never left. A proud graduate of Virginia Tech (GO HOKIES!) and Texas Tech, Kimberly married a native Texan and is currently raising two little boys (ages 7 and 8) to be good humans. She is a certified introvert who extroverts all day at work, and her current interests include reading all the books, playing with all the puppies, being an expert of Y-7 TV, and living in a house full of boys 24/7. Favorite Restaurant: Saigon Favorite Landmark: Palo Duro Canyon Favorite Lubbock Tradition:The Nutcracker