word love

The 5 Love Languages

All you need is love.

But you don't always get what you need. That's because we all give and receive love in different ways. It is a widely held belief that there are five main love languages. Even if you don’t adhere to this belief yourself, there is value in thinking of the love languages in relation to your child. Using them as a reference may give you a way to speak directly to your child’s heart.

At some point in your life you’ll express your love to someone without getting the expected reaction. Let's say you invite a friend over to celebrate their birthday. You put effort into setting the table, cooking their favorite meal, and baking a cake topped with candles. After the meal is eaten, the cake cut, and wish is made you notice that your friend seems disappointed. A mutual acquaintance later confides that your friend expected a birthday gift. Now you’re the one who’s disappointed. Why didn’t your friend understand that the meal was your gift to them? But once you learn that there are five love languages, you realize that acts of service isn't that particular friend’s love language.

What's your love language?

If you don't already know what your love language is, you'll likely recognize it before you get to the end of this post. The real challenge will be in figuring out what your child's love language is so you can effectively communicate your love to them.

It's time to put your detective's cap on, and do some investigating. Below is a list of the five love languages and examples of ways to express them. Practice communicating in each of the languages while paying close attention to how your child reacts. Are they grateful or indifferent? Do they seem disappointed, or do they light up? Do they reciprocate in kind? Learning how to speak their love language is like uncovering buried treasure, but the rewards are far more valuable.

The 5 love languages...

Words of Affirmation

There's a saying that goes, Sticks and stones will hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me. Too bad it isn't true. Words can and do hurt us. They can also define us.

Someone who's love language is words of affirmation thrives on words of praise. These can be general comments like "Good job!" or "Well done." But the more specific you can make your praise, the better.  If your child puts their toys away, you can say something like, "It was thoughtful of you to clean your toys up without being asked."  If you see them share with a sibling you can say, "It was kind of you to let your sister play with your toy." Their identity becomes tied to those labels; they are thoughtful and kind.

Words of Warning:  If words of praise are your child's love language, they won't easily forget hurtful comments. They may very well carry those negative labels with them throughout their lives. Be mindful of general labels. It's always better to label the action not the person. If you can phrase it in a positive way, even better. Instead of saying, "You're being naughty," say something like, "It isn't like you to push a friend."


Acts of Service

The birthday dinner example at the beginning of this post is an example of an act of service. But that act of service didn't align with the recipient's love language. As caregivers, we may think we are constantly performing acts of service for our children. And to a large extent that is true. But not all acts of service are equal in your child's mind.

If you cook chicken and rice for your child, but your child dislikes rice, they'll be dissappointed. Flip that. What if you're the one who dislikes chicken and rice, but you make it anyway because it's your child's favorite meal? They'll recognize this as an act of service. Cooking their favorite foods, taking over their chores when they've had a bad day, helping them with a tricky homework assignment are all examples of how acts of service can be tailored to meet your child's needs.



Gifts are what make this child feel special and loved. Presents don't have to be extravagant to fill this need. If your child's love language is gifts, expressing your love by giving them small but meaningful tokens is enough.

Why not surprise them with their favorite ice cream bar after dinner? Or buy some hair ties in their favorite color, and braid their hair. Add some dinosaur stickers or a new bouncy ball to their collections. Pick up some watercolor paints and construction paper for them, then proudly display their art on the walls or fridge. Giving small tokens frequently is more sustainable than giving them extravagant gifts that will be increasingly difficult to top. Consider making coupons they can redeem at a time of their choosing. The coupons can be aligned with your child's interests. How about a coupon they can redeem for a game night? Or maybe a coupon they can trade in for an extra hour of television? The possibilites are endless.


Quality Time

A child whose love language is quality time may get upset when they don't have your undivided attention. This child values time spent with you. They'll notice if you don't show up for a school event. If you spend more time with their sibling than with them, you'll hear about it.

Reading together, watching their favorite show, letting them help prepare a meal, going on a bike ride, or allowing them to stay up past their bedtime to finish your card game make this child feel special. Children see how busy we are. There never seems to be enough time in the day to do all the things. Finding a way to slow down and give the child who needs your undivided attention a bit of your time is worth the effort. Even a slot of time you've already set aside for them, like bath time or reading time, will do. Just make sure they have your full attention. Listen to what they have to say. Let them choose the game, book, movie, or what to have for dinner. Show them that they matter.


Physical Touch

(Most) people will tolerate a handshake, but only a dear friend or favorite relative can get away with a hug. Physical touch is a confusing love language for young kids. We are taught from an early age to stay in our bubble, refrain from touching others, to beware of strangers and inappropriate touch. Even preschool and kindergarten teachers are wary when students try to hug them. And children sense that trepidation. The pandemic has brought touch to the brink of extinction.

A child who craves physical touch will be confused and sad when they are rebuffed. Teach them that fist bumps, secret handshakes, shoulder taps, thumb wars, are acceptable ways of touch when they're with friends or at school. Air hugs (thumb and index fingers making hugging gesture) can be substituted for real hugs in primary classrooms. But that won't work at home. If your child loves hugs, guess who has to be the hugger? Not a stranger. Not their teacher. Not your neighbor. You. You are the hugger. If it's a viable option, get a *family pet that can serve as a source of comfort for your touchy feely child.

* Note- fish, birds, reptiles are not huggers.


A LitSteps approach to the love languages:

LitSteps is all about literacy so here are reading related examples for each love language.

Words of affirmation- "You are an expert at turning to the correct page."

Acts of Service- I made a special trip to the library and chose books about dinosaurs and soccer. I know how much you love learning about those things.

Gifts- I saw this unicorn bookmark at the store and thought of you.  I bought it for you to use during our reading time.

Quality Time- I can't wait for our reading time to start. Whoever gets to the reading nook first gets to choose the book!

Physical Touch- Reading time is an ideal time to snuggle with your child. Just try to stay awake until the end of the story.