Read an Excerpt
The 5 Love Languages of Children
By GARY CHAPMAN ROSS CAMPBELL
Northfield PublishingCopyright © 2012 Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell
All right reserved.
Chapter Onelove is the foundation
Brad and Emily couldn't figure out what was wrong with Caleb, their eight-year-old son. He had been an above-average learner and still did his homework, but this year he was struggling in school. He would go to the teacher after she had given an exercise and ask her to explain it again. He'd visit her desk up to eight times a day, asking for further instructions. Was it poor hearing or a comprehension problem? Brad and Emily had Caleb's hearing tested, and a school counselor gave him a comprehension test. His hearing was normal and his understanding typical for a third-grader.
Other things about their son puzzled them. At times, Caleb's behavior seemed almost antisocial. The teacher would take turns eating with her third-grade students during lunch, but Caleb would sometimes push other children aside so he could be near her. During recess, he would leave other children whenever the teacher appeared on the playground, running to her to ask an insignificant question and escape the others. If the teacher participated in a game during recess, Caleb would try to hold the teacher's hand during the game.
His parents had met with the teacher three times already, and neither they nor the teacher could find the problem. Independent and happy in grades one and two, Caleb now seemed to show "clinging behavior" that made no sense. He also was fighting much more with his older sister Hannah, although Emily and Brad assumed that was just a stage he was passing through.
When this couple came to my "The Marriage You've Always Wanted" seminar and told me about Caleb, they were worried, wondering if they had a budding rebel on their hands. "Dr. Chapman, we know this is a marriage seminar and maybe our question is out of place," Emily said, "but Brad and I thought that perhaps you could give us some guidance." Then she described her son's worrisome behavior.
I asked these parents whether their own lifestyle had changed this year. Brad said he was a salesman, out on calls two nights a week, but home between 6:00 and 7:30 p.m. on the other weeknights. Those nights were spent catching up on emails and texts and watching a little TV. On weekends, he used to go to football games, often taking Caleb. But he hadn't done that in a year. "It's just too much of a hassle. I'd rather watch the games on TV."
"How about you, Emily?" I asked. "Have there been any changes in your lifestyle over the last few months ?"
"Definitely," she said. "I've been working part-time at the college for the last three years since Caleb entered kindergarten. But this year I took a full-time job there, so I get home later than usual. Actually my mom picks him up at school, and Caleb stays with her for about an hour and a half until I pick him up. On the evenings that Brad is out of town, Caleb and I usually have dinner with my folks and then come home."
It was almost time for the seminar session to begin, yet I sensed I was beginning to understand what was going on inside of Caleb. So I made a suggestion. "I'm going to be talking about marriage, but I want each of you to be thinking about how the principles I am sharing might apply to your relationship with Caleb. At the end of the seminar, I'd like to know what conclusions you have drawn." They seemed a little surprised that I was ending our conversation without making any suggestions, but they both were willing to go along with my request.
At the end of the day, as other participants at our seminar were filing out, Brad and Emily hurried up to me with that look of fresh discovery. "Dr. Chapman, I think we have just gained some insight into what's going on with Caleb," Emily said. "When you were discussing the five love languages, we both agreed that Caleb's primary love language is quality time. Looking back over the last four or five months, we realized that we have given him less quality time than we had before.
"When I was working part-time, I'd pick him up from school every day, and we would usually do something together on the way home, maybe run an errand or stop by the park or get ice cream together. When we got home, Caleb would play games for a while. Then after dinner, I would often help him with his homework or we'd watch something on TV, especially on the nights Brad was away. All that has changed since I started my new job, and I realize I'm spending less time with Caleb."
I glanced at Brad, and he said, "For my part, I realize I used to take Caleb with me to football games, but since I stopped going, I haven't replaced that father-son time with anything. He and I haven't really spent a great deal of time together the last few months."
"I think you may have discovered some real insight into Caleb's emotional need," I told them. "If you can meet his need for love, I think there is a good chance you will see a change in his behavior." I suggested some key ways to express love through quality time and challenged Brad to build time with Caleb into his schedule. I encouraged Emily to look for ways she and Caleb could once more do some of the things they did before she started her full-time job. They both seemed eager to translate their insight into action.
"There may be other factors involved," I said, "but if you will give your son large doses of quality time and then sprinkle in the other four love languages, I think you will see a radical change in his behavior."
We said good-bye. I never heard from Emily and Brad, and to be honest, I forgot about them. But about two years later I returned to Wisconsin for another seminar, and they walked in and reminded me of our conversation. They were all smiles; we hugged each other, and they introduced me to friends they had invited to the seminar.
"Tell me about Caleb," I said.
They both smiled and said, "He's doing great. We meant to write you many times but never got around to it. We went home and did what you suggested. We consciously gave Caleb lots of quality time over the next few months. Within two or three weeks, really, we saw a dramatic change in his behavior at school. In fact, the teacher asked us to come in again, and we were worried. But this time, she wanted to ask what we had done that had brought about such a change in Caleb."
The teacher told them that Caleb's inappropriate behavior had stopped: no more pushing other children away from her in the lunchroom; no more coming to her desk to ask question after question. Then Emily explained that her husband and she had begun to speak Caleb's "love language" after attending a seminar. "We told her how we had started giving him overdoses of quality time," said Emily.
This couple had learned to speak their son's love language, to say "I love you" in a way that Caleb could understand. His story encouraged me to write this book.
Speaking your child's primary love language does not mean he or she will not rebel later. It does mean your child will know you love him, and that can bring him security and hope; it can help you to rear your child to responsible adulthood. Love is the foundation.
In raising children, everything depends on the love relationship between the parent and child. Nothing works well if a child's love needs are not met. Only the child who feels genuinely loved and cared for can do her best. You may truly love your child, but unless she feels it—unless you speak the love language that communicates to her your love—she will not feel loved.
Filling the Emotional Tank
By speaking your child's own love language, you can fill his "emotional tank" with love. When your child feels loved, he is much easier to discipline and train than when his "emotional tank" is running near empty.
Every child has an emotional tank, a place of emotional strength that can fuel him through the challenging days of childhood and adolescence. Just as cars are powered by reserves in the gas tank, our children are fueled from their emotional tanks. We must fill our children's emotional tanks for them to operate as they should and reach their potential.
But with what do we fill these tanks? Love, of course, but love of a particular kind that will enable our children to grow and function properly.
We need to fill our children's emotional tanks with unconditional love, because real love is always unconditional. Unconditional love is a full love that accepts and affirms a child for who he is, not for what he does. No matter what he does (or does not do), the parent still loves him. Sadly, some parents display a love that is conditional; it depends on something other than their children just being. Conditional love is based on performance and is often associated with training techniques that offer gifts, rewards, and privileges to children who behave or perform in desired ways.
Of course, it is necessary to train and discipline our children—but only after their emotional tanks have been filled (and refilled—they can deplete regularly). Only unconditional love can prevent problems such as resentment, feelings of being unloved, guilt, fear, and insecurity. Only as we give our children unconditional love will we be able to deeply understand them and deal with their behaviors, whether good or bad.
Molly remembers growing up in a home of modest financial resources. Her father was employed nearby and her mother was a homemaker, except for a small part-time job. Both parents were hardworking people who took pride in their house and family. Molly's dad cooked the evening meal, and he and Molly cleaned up the kitchen together. Saturday was a day for weekly chores, and Saturday nights they enjoyed hot dogs or burgers together. On Sunday mornings, the family went to church and that evening they would spend time with relatives.
When Molly and her brother were younger, their parents read to them almost every day. Now that they were in school, Mom and Dad encouraged them in their studies. They wanted both children to attend college, even though they did not have this opportunity themselves.
In junior high, one of Molly's friends at school was Stephanie. The two had most classes together and often shared lunch. But the girls didn't visit each other at home. If they had, they would have seen vast differences. Stephanie's father was a successful executive who was able to provide generously for the family. He was also away from home most of the time. Stephanie's mother was a nurse. Her brother was away at a private school. Stephanie had also been sent to a boarding school for three years until she begged to attend the local public school. With her father out of town and her mother working so much, the family often went out for meals.
Molly and Stephanie were good friends until the ninth grade, when Stephanie went off to a college-prep school near her grandparents. The first year, the girls exchanged letters; after that, Stephanie began dating and the letters became less frequent and then stopped. Molly formed other friendships and then started dating a guy who transferred to her school. After Stephanie's family moved away, Molly never heard from her again.
If she had, she would have been sad to know that after marrying and having one child, Stephanie was arrested as a drug dealer and spent several years in prison, during which time her husband left her. In contrast, Molly was happily married with two children.
What made the difference in the outcome of two childhood friends? Although there is no one answer, we can see part of the reason in what Stephanie once told her therapist: "I never felt loved by my parents. I first got involved in drugs because I wanted my friends to like me." In saying this, she wasn't trying to lay blame on her parents as much as she was trying to understand herself.
Did you notice what Stephanie said? It wasn't that her parents didn't love her, but that she did not feel loved. Most parents love their children and also want their children to feel loved, but few know how to adequately convey that feeling. It is only as they learn how to love unconditionally that they will let their children know how much they are truly loved.
A Word of Hope
Raising emotionally healthy children is an increasingly difficult task these days. The influence of media, the cultural push for kids to grow up quickly, the violence and drugs that plague some communities—not to mention the fact that many parents are struggling economically—challenge families daily.
It is into such stark reality that we speak a word of hope to parents. We want you to enjoy a loving relationship with your children. Our focus in this book is on one exceedingly important aspect of parenting—meeting your children's need for love. We have written this book to help you give your children a greater experience of the love you have for them. This will happen as you speak the love languages they understand and can respond to.
Every child has a special way of perceiving love. There are five ways children (indeed, all people) speak and understand emotional love. They are physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. If you have several children in your family, chances are they speak different languages, for just as children often have different personalities, they may hear in different love languages. Typically, two children need to be loved in different ways.
Whatever love language your child understands best, he needs it expressed in one way—unconditionally. Unconditional love is a guiding light, illuminating the darkness and enabling us as parents to know where we are and what we need to do as we raise our child. Without this kind of love, parenting is bewildering and confusing. Before we explore the five love languages, let's consider the nature and importance of unconditional love.
We can best define unconditional love by showing what it does. Unconditional love shows love to a child no matter what. We love regardless of what the child looks like; regardless of her assets, liabilities, or handicaps; regardless of what we expect her to be; and, most difficult of all, regardless of how she acts. This does not mean that we like all of her behavior. It does mean that we give and show love to our child all the time, even when her behavior is poor.
Does this sound like permissiveness? It is not. Rather, it is doing first things first. A child with a full love tank can respond to parental guidance without resentment.
Some people fear that this may lead to "spoiling" a child, but that is a misconception. No child can receive too much appropriate unconditional love. A child may be "spoiled" by a lack of training or by inappropriate love that gives or trains incorrectly. True unconditional love will never spoil a child because it is impossible for parents to give too much of it.
These principles may be difficult for you because they go against what you have previously thought to be true. If that is the case, you may not find it easy to offer unconditional love to your children. However, as you practice it and then see the benefits, you will find it easier to do. Please hang in there and do what is best for your children, knowing that your love will make the difference between children who are well-adjusted and happy and those who are insecure, angry, inaccessible, and immature.
If you have not loved your children in this way, you may find it difficult at first. But as you practice unconditional love, you will find it has a wonderful effect, as you become a more giving and loving person in all your relationships. No one is perfect, of course, and you cannot expect yourself to love unconditionally all of the time. But as you move toward that goal, you will find that you are more consistent in your ability to love, no matter what.
You may find it helpful to frequently remind yourself of some rather obvious things about your children:
1 They are children. 2 They will tend to act like children.
3 Much childish behavior is unpleasant.
4 If I do my part as a parent and love them, despite their childish behavior, they will mature and give up their childish ways.
Excerpted from The 5 Love Languages of Children by GARY CHAPMAN ROSS CAMPBELL Copyright © 2012 by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. Excerpted by permission of Northfield Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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