What is Your Child’s “Love Language”?

What is Your Child’s “Love Language”?

By: Joleen Watson, MS, NCC

One of our most recommended resources for parents and couples is The Five Love Languages series by Gary Chapman. We believe that it is essential for all relationships and families to feel safe, happy, fulfilled, and secure, and in order to do this, we need to be aware of how we give and receive love. 

Every child gives and receives love in their own unique and special way, what Gary Chapman terms “Love Languages”. Think of each of your children as having a “Love Tank”, much like the gas tank in a car. Each time you speak your child’s love language to him or her, you are making a deposit in their love tank, and giving them emotional strength that fuels them through the day. 

There are basically five different ways children, and all people, speak and understand emotional love: Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, and Acts of Service. If you have more than one child, realize that each of them may have a different love language and may need to be loved in different ways.

Physical Touch

Physical touch is one of love’s strongest voices and one of the easiest love languages to use unconditionally. If you ask a child “How do you know you are loved?”, this child will reply with things like: “Because I get extra hugs and kisses” or “Because mom snuggles with me at night before I go to bed”. Physical touch isn’t just confined to hugs and kisses. Playing games or sports together with your child, especially older children and boys, is a great way for you to meet this love language as well as quality time.

Words of Affirmation

Words of affirmation are any form of verbal praise and affirmation that is genuine and affirming of how much love you have for your child. It’s not limited to the words “I love you”, though that is definitely important. If you ask a child how they know they are loved, a child with this love language will say things like: “Because Mom and Dad tell me when I’ve done a good job on a school project”, “Because they cheer loud for me at all my sports”, “Because they are always telling me how proud they are of me and how hard I work”. Other examples include: Put a note in your child’s lunchbox with encouraging words or call your child at home whenever you think of them to say I love you.

Quality Time

What really makes this child feel loved is your undivided attention. You can tell this is your child’s love language when they make repeated attempts and requests to play together and are seeking you out for one on one time and attention. Quality time is focused time and giving undivided attention. It’s giving your child the gift of presence, where you are going to their emotional and physical level of development. If you have more than one child, try to spend time with each of them individually.

A lot of childhood misbehavior is an attempt to get more time with mom or dad. It can get to the point for this child where even negative attention seems better than no attention. Examples include: Quality conversations that show direct and positive eye contact, cooking something together as a snack, asking specific open ended questions about your child’s day, setting a “date” with your child to do something special they have been talking about.


This one can be a bit trickier, because a lot of times, gifts are used because they are easier and less time consuming than the other four love languages. The most meaningful gifts become symbols of love, but in order for this one to work, the child must feel like the parent genuinely cares. It can’t be a payment for something a child did, or it no longer meets the love language of gifts. It’s an expression of meaning that shows the child they are special. In other words, it needs to be an expression of love that has meaning to the child and freely given by the parent. It’s not about the size or cost of the gift, either, that makes gifts special.

Some examples include: Make a special meal you know your child likes, give your child a “song” you created for them that is special to the two of you,  hide a small gift in your chil’’s lunchbox, or give a gift that lasts, like planting a tree together.

Acts of Service

This love language is a harder one to define, since parenting is such a service oriented job anyway! We are constantly providing service to our kids, but the Acts of Service love language is different than the daily things we do as a parent to our children. Loving service is a gift, not a necessity. Gary Chapman defines it as “an internal desire to give ones energy freely, and done without coercion”. 

For example, when a child is asking you for help in fixing their bike, or finding a lost toy, or learning how to do something new, they are crying out for emotional love! It doesn’t mean that you jump at every request – especially those that aren’t age appropriate – but rather being extremely sensitive to the child’s request and knowing that your response will help fill your child’s love tank.

So, now that we have gone through each love language, it is important to know what to look for and how to identify your child’s love language. Every day there are clues to your child’s primary love language. With love languages, you can pay attention to:

  • How your child expresses love to you
  • How your child expresses love to others
  • Listen to what your child requests most often
  • Notice what your child most frequently complains about
  • Give your child a choice between two options, and see what they most frequently choose

If you do these things consistently, more than likely you will see a change in your child’s behavior and it can make parenting more intimate. I think you will also feel more confident in your parenting, knowing that you are meeting each of your children’s needs, from your heart to theirs!

Imagine Hope Counseling Group

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC is with Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Imagine Hope Counseling Group provides marriage, couples, individual, and family counseling for adults, children, and adolescents. Imagine Hope is based out of Indianapolis, Indiana.

From The Confident Mom: If you are interested in learning what your child’s love language is, click here to get a short quiz that will help you determine their primary love language.

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