I must admit that while I find it easy to love my children, it can be hard for me to show it. The reality is that each day is packed with tasks to be ticked off on an ever-lengthening to-do list. In one particularly frazzled season of motherhood when the kids seemed to be acting up non-stop, I had an epiphany. I was completely focused on correcting them, rather than affirming them and showing them the love and affection which they so deeply desired from me – that would be enough to make anyone cranky! I decided to take the next two weeks to intentionally encourage them. As I had been reading Gary Chapman’s book on the 5 Love Languages, I decided to discover how the 8-year old and 6-year old like to be affirmed.
In an experiment with my boys, I asked them what phrase they heard me say most often to them. The responses were mixed – “Have you done your work yet?” (8-year old) and “I love you” (6-year old). This was a valuable lesson for me; while I considered myself an affectionate mum, my anxiety about school work was affecting my relationship with my elder son. When I switched to using more affirming language by praising the effort he put into his work, the shift in his mood was obvious!
If you hear a kid excitedly yelling, “Look at me! Look at me! Mummy LOOK AT ME!!!” it’s probably my 6-year old (And the exasperated woman with him, would be me). My younger child can have protracted conversations about everything from his latest art project to how cars work. Unfortunately, I often have other matters to attend to when he wants to share his latest observation, and this leads to conflict. I’ve learnt that giving him my attention for a specific period of time, makes him feel heard and loved – and we face fewer meltdowns as a result. Lesson learned. Now we have playtime divided into 30 minute and 1 hour time blocks where he can expect my undivided attention.
Interestingly, while both my children enjoy receiving gifts, they were more appreciative of the thought behind the gift rather than its monetary value. This was a much-needed reminder that we didn’t need to spend a lot of money to make them happy. They were pleased to receive dry sticks and flowers picked for them on nature walks, and $2 bouncy balls from the friendly neighbourhood shop.
Acts of Service
I discovered my younger son’s dominant love language, entirely by accident. He often follows me around the home as I do chores, offering non-stop to help me with laundry, washing the dishes and sweeping the floor. Truthfully, it drives me up the wall as involving him in any household task takes me twice as long to complete it! Then I realised that he appreciated receiving acts of service, and was trying to share that with me as well.
Physical touch was a winner with both my kids, even the 8-year old who refuses to hold my hand these days. Deep hugs, tickles and kisses have become part of our morning wake-up routine, and it provides us with an instant way to connect, before the usual hectic day kicks in.
Making the effort to discover my kids’ love languages has been one of the best investments of time in my parenting journey so far. I got to really see the boys, not just as children that I must steward and care for, but people in their own right, with their own preferences. And even as I’ve taken the effort to get to know them, they have reciprocated and become more affectionate with me. It’s a win-win for this mum!
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