SALT LAKE CITY — When I was a young girl watching television, amidst my Saturday morning cartoons would be commercials for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or “Mormon ads.”
Living outside of Utah, these commercials always piqued my interest because I did not live among very many LDS families. One of my favorite commercials was the one about a little girl who was spending time with her dad, and at the end it said, “Family … isn’t it about time?”
This really resonated with me because time was what made me feel loved. Being one of 10 children, it was a rare occasion when I was allowed any one-on-one time with my parents. I lived for the days when I was able to go to work with my dad. We would Rollerblade in the gym and then eat Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
I remember a time when I was 4, and just my mom and I went to pick carrots out of the garden. It was a hot summer day, and we put utility rubber bands in our hair because we didn’t have any hair elastics.
As small as these things may seem to some, they were huge for me. More than gifts or hugs and kisses, the fact that my parents would take time to spend with me meant they really did love me.
Love equals time — or so I thought
When I became a mom, I vowed that I was going to let my kids know I loved them by giving them all the time in the world. This way of doing things worked great for my oldest child. I would take him to the park and play soccer, go out and jump on the trampoline and go for bike rides — we did all sorts of fun things. He loved it, and so did I.
However, when I would take my daughter out, she was fine with it for a few minutes, and then that was it. I wondered what I was doing wrong. She wasn’t responding to my time as well as I had hoped she would. I wanted so badly to show her I loved her too.
A few weeks later, she came home from school with a Mother’s Day book she had filled out. In it, it said, “I feel loved when my mom _____.” In the blank space, she had written, “makes my bed.” When I read that, the wheels in my head started to turn.
Having just finished reading “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, I started to wonder if these also applied to children. Come to find out, Chapman and Ross Campbell had also written a book about the love languages of children.
The five "love languages" outlined in the book are:
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts
- Quality time
- Physical touch
According to the book, we have ways of both showing love and of feeling loved. If what was written in the book was true, then I was going about this loving thing all wrong.
Loving my children they way they need to be loved
My daughter didn’t so much need my time as much as she needed service from me.
I wasn’t going to continue to make her bed all the time, but I was going to find different ways that I could serve her. At night, when she went to bed, I would make sure and read her a story while “tickling” her back, which is something she loves. And occasionally, yes, I would go through and neatly fold all her clothes in her drawer or straighten up her dolls before she came home from school. As I started to do this, I noticed a difference in our relationship.
When I saw the positive change I began to have with my daughter, I began to cue into the way my other children felt loved.
My second son, who is just younger than my daughter, very much falls under the category of physical touch. He is one who will give me a hug or a kiss multiple times a day. Not only that, but when he sits next to me on the couch, he is as close to me as he can get without actually sitting on my lap.
I am not one who is big on physical touch, and is the one that has been difficult for me to do. However, wanting all of my children to feel loved, I have done my best to reciprocate and even initiate this type of love toward him. When I do, I can see a huge difference in the way he feels about himself. He knows he is loved.
As my youngest son began to develop his own little personality, I began to see hints of his love language. He will come up to me and say things like, "You're the best mom ever!" Then he will bring pictures he drew, and ask, "Do you like it, mom?" When I take the time to tell him how good he is at things, how much I love him, what a good big brother he is, I can just see a light in him that is indescribable. Kind words make him feel loved.
My youngest daughter is still a little young, and I am yet to determine her love language. I am crossing my fingers, hoping that it is quality time. On the other hand, I am so grateful for each of their different personalities and have learned so much from every one of them.
So, as Valentine’s Day approaches — and we are all striving to show more love — show your children you love them by speaking their love language.
Main image: Physical touch is one of the five love languages outlined in Gary Chapman's book, "The 5 Love Languages of Children." Sometimes, all they need is a hug. (Photo: Mikki Grimley, mikkigrimleyphotography.blogspot.com)
Arianne Brown is a graduate from Southern Utah University, mother to five young kids and an avid runner. Contact her at email@example.com, follow her on twitter @arimom5, or check out her blog at runariran.wordpress.com.***