Actually, I am not talking about a foreign language in the sense you might think. I am talking about the language of love. Five languages to be exact.
Early in our marriage, my husband and I had numerous conversations about how we expressed love for each other and whether or not we were truly doing all that we could to effectively meet each other's needs. Of course, we each felt we were doing exactly what was needed and held strong in our beliefs that the other was not listening to what we were saying. As you can imagine, those conversations did not go very far. It was not until we read "The Five Love Languages. How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate" by Gary Chapman that the blinders began to come off.
We also learned a great deal about ourselves. In most cases, people will communicate love to others in the way they would like to receive it. It is very similar to the old adage, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This holds true when you talk about expressing love. While the book is intended for your relationship with your mate, I believe it can be applied to all key relationships, including your children.
What are the five love languages, you ask? Allow me to demonstrate each one by sharing a little about our children.
It became apparent very early on that our oldest daughter truly enjoys the ability to express herself verbally. When she was younger, she would share these very detailed and lengthy stories which seemed to never end until at times, I am embarrassed to admit, I would tell her to instead write them down in a journal (yes, I know-horrible mom!). It was not until I realized she was sharing the stories to elongate our time together, that I gave in to hearing the "novels" she attempted to express. She wanted quality time.
Quality time requires an intentional effort to be fully present and engaged in what the other person is doing and saying. Our pastor has often said that the way you spell love for most children is T-I-M-E. Our oldest wanted us to simply BE with her and listen to what was on her heart.
As a human resources professional, a part of my job requires attending career fairs where I meet candidates to learn about their skills and share details about my company in a face to face setting. While at these fairs, I enjoy visiting other employer's booths to see what types of marketing materials they have displayed on their tables. I usually pick up what I determine to be "really cool" so that I can have ideas for future products. These products usually find their way home with me where I make a big production of handing out each item to my family. Well, little did I know that I was creating a monster. Perhaps not a monster, but a very dangerous precedent. For awhile there, any time I would return home, our third child would meet me at the door and ask, "Did you bring anything for me?"
Initially, it was cute but the cuteness wore off very quickly as the greeting turned into a search and seizure experience as soon as I set foot into the house! Once I realized his love language was gifts, I was able to better manage his expectations and to ultimately meet his need.
Acts of Service
My husband was stretched out on our bed one evening while we were preparing to watch a movie. He made a comment about needing to give more attention to his feet when all of a sudden, our fourth child sprung into action. Before we knew it, she had grabbed the lotion and was rubbing her father's feet as an act of love. There have been countless times where either Mr. Reese or I have been preparing a special dish in the kitchen and she has willingly offered her assistance. "Mommy, may I help you?" is what she says on a regular basis. Her love language is acts of service.
Our oldest son's love language is touch. He regularly requests hugs from everyone in the family and is quick to offer one if you look like you could use one. It seems as if he has no concept of personal space and can be found squeezing in between family members on an already full couch. He is not rude about it all. That's just how he conveys love. For a long time, it was difficult for me to speak his language. Once I made a decision to let go of the past (check out my blog, "Dear Trusted Adult...today is the day"), I was able to be the mom that he needs me to be and the mom God intended for me to be.
The gift of touch is a beautiful thing.
Words of Affirmation
Our youngest daughter, loves to bring us her newest art creation or her version of homework. She will say, "See Mommy!" with all of the pride in the world. There are times when we can hear her struggling as she attempts to dress herself after a bath. That distress is quickly replaced with excitement as she says, "I did it! I did it!" Each time she accomplishes a new feat, we are quick to tell her, "Good job, Nina!" or, "I knew you could do it!"
Words of affirmation are extremely important to each of our children but we can see Nina thrives on hearing positive reinforcement.
Not sure which love language is important to the ones you love? There are two ways you can find out.
First, pay attention. What have they done recently for you or for others which can be perceived as an effort to make you feel special? Did they purchase a gift for you even though it was not a special occasion? Did they wash the dishes or clean out the car without prompting? Are they the one who usually has positive things to say about how someone accomplished a task? Are they known as the "hugger" in your family? In most cases, they are doing for others what they would like to receive.
The second way to learn how someone likes to be loved is to simply ask them. Ask them to think of ten things that make them feel special. If you hear them talking about going to the movies, going out to eat and/or going to the park, there is a strong chance they enjoy quality time most. If they talk about receiving gift cards, going shopping and seeing the UPS truck with deliveries, most likely gifts is what will make them smile. You may certainly hear a combination of these languages but one language will usually be more pronounced than the others.
So, as we approach Valentine's Day and every day beyond, consider assessing your ability to speak a different language.
If you are truly serious about loving others, you will become adept at loving them on their terms. They will be pleased to see you have been listening. Have fun!
About the Author:
Shatanese Reese is a freelance blogger who resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband and their six children. She enjoys walks on the beach and colorful sunrises. Shatanese’s goal is to find the extraordinary in every day moments. Follow Shatanese on YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope.