A couple years ago, Katy Perry had a popular song “Unconditional”. At the time, I was driving in the car with my kids and they were singing along to the radio. Seeing this as an opportunity to talk to them, when the song was over I asked them “What does unconditional mean?” They looked a little confused and weren’t quite sure. They were only 9 and 5 at the time and I knew it wouldn’t be a word they were overly familiar with. After a minute of guessing, I told them “It means I love you no matter what.” They paused for a moment and then began singing the next song. It wasn’t the reaction I was hoping for, but it a started the conversation. A couple weeks later, my five year old came home with a not so stellar report for the day – he had been talking in class and gotten a warning from the teacher. He was nervous to tell me, worried about my reaction. I reminded him that I loved him no matter what, that though I may be disappointed in his behavior for the day, it doesn’t change the amount of love that I have for him. A tough conversation to have at any age and to be honest I’m not sure he truly got it at the time but, I know that by talking about it with him a dialogue has started to try to explain such a deep and layered emotion.
Remembering this conversation made me start thinking about how we communicate love. Love is first and foremost a feeling. It just is, the why and the how of love are difficult to put into words. You feel it as a physical sensation and as an emotion. The communication of love tends to be instinctual. We think about it a lot from our perspective of how we want to show the person love, but do we spend a lot of time thinking about the person receiving the love? There is a great book by Gary Chapman that many of you have read called The 5 Love Languages. In the book he proposes that we all express love and respond to those expressions of love in different ways. He created five categories, or languages, for understanding how the people in your life give, receive and interpret love. What I find most interesting is that you can also relate these languages to your children. When you go to the website and there is a version of the quiz that is geared specifically towards children. Once you know that “quality time” or “words of affirmation” are your child’s primary love language, you can use that in your daily interactions with them. For someone who’s love language is “physical touch” a hug every morning means more to them than any gift you might give them later on. This becomes especially useful when the child’s love language does not match your own. You may think that helping them out with their chores (act of service) was a great way to show them that you loved them, but if their language is “words of affirmation” they would have rather you praised them for doing a great job with their chores instead. The great thing about the love languages is that they are easy to incorporate into everyday life. Like a pebble in a pond, it’s often the simple things that can make a lasting impact.
Journal on this: What are the love languages of the special people in your life? (This includes mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, best friends, etc.) How do their actions reflect their language? How do your actions reflect your language? What would change if your actions reflected their language?
*My next workshop, Setting Resolutions that Stick, will be Sunday January 24th in Chandler, you can find details here. If you don’t live in AZ, or can’t make it to the workshop, let’s schedule time to get on the phone and talk about what you need to do to make your resolutions/intentions work for you!
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.