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The Key to Your Child’s Heart

If you are not familiar with The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman, the basic premise is that most of us go through life expressing love to others in ways that would make us feel energized and excited. Chapman believes that everyone needs all of the love languages, but that someone’s primary love language is what most clearly communicates love to them. Its results are quicker and deeper than the other languages.

I remember when our daughter was little; she loved sitting in my lap, holding hands, giving hugs, tickling me, or wrestling with her dad. All the years she lived at home, she still managed to find an excuse to sit on my lap or be in contact with me. I realized pretty early on that one of her love languages was physical touch, which was interesting to me because my top two love languages are quality time and acts of service. In essence, the two ways of expressing love that came most naturally to me were not at the top of her list.

Most parents believe they do a pretty good job of loving their children, but it’s not unusual for parents to communicate love to their child in ways that would fill their own “emotional love tank.” That explained my drive to spend time with my child and do things in our home that I thought she would appreciate. While I do think she appreciated spending time together, I’m pretty sure acts of service went straight over her head. And I interpreted that as a lack of appreciation.

Chapman also explains this common confusion, asserting that speaking to the child’s primary love language can fill their emotional tank more effectively. Once parents discover their child’s primary love language, they can use it to better motivate, discipline, and teach their child.

Chapman's Five Love Languages

  • Acts of Service
  • Quality Time
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Gifts
  • Physical Touch

Ways to Identify Your Child’s Primary Love Language:

  • Observe how your child expresses love to you.
  • Observe how your child express love to others.
  • Give your child a choice between two options, and see what they most frequently choose.
  • When reading books, ask your child, “How do you know that the mommy or daddy loves that little boy or little girl?”
  • Experiment over the period of a week by intentionally showing love in each of the five ways and gauging their responses.
  • Ask them about some of the ways parents show love.

Ideas to Implement Each of the Love Languages with Your Child

Acts of Service

Paint their nails, fix their favorite food, or help them with a special project.

Quality Time

Go on a walk, play a game, ride bikes or read books together, eat a meal or grab coffee, or plan a special outing with the child one-on-one.

Words of Affirmation

Sincerely compliment your child and notice their accomplishments verbally. For example, “I love the way you helped your sister,” or “I appreciate your hard work.”


Pick a flower for them, draw a picture for them, or surprise them with something they love.

Physical Touch

Cuddle on the couch, hold hands, give bear hugs and piggyback rides, or let them sit in your lap.

Parents have the opportunity to give a wonderful gift – the gift of learning their child’s love language and speaking it often. That will truly say, “I love you.”

Julie Baumgardner

Julie Baumgardner

President and CEO, First Things First

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