Do you love your children? My guess (my hope) is that the answer by everyone reading this is a resounding yes. Of course! Of course you love your children. How could you not?
Now, have you ever known anyone to believe their parents didn't love them. Did you ever think that? Did you/do you have a friend who thought that? Why is it that some children believe their parents don't love them? Parents who provide for the child and try to be there? Parents who make an honest effort at doing all they can and think is best for their child? Looking at it logically, basically all parents out there really love their children. So why do some feel unloved?
I think the answer comes back to a point made by Kevin Leman in Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours: The only reality that matters to your child is what they view to be real. In The Five Love Languages of Children, Chapman and Campbell point out that only children who feel loved can do their best. You loving them isn't enough; the need to feel it.
Some of you might be thinking, "well, if I love them, then they should feel it." Unfortunately, children don't get the "should" memo. Your job as the parent is to discover how your child feels love and work to show your love in that way.
For some parent/child combinations, this will be easy. For others, it will mean the parent will have to practice a new language. I see this example easily in my family. Kaitlyn definitely has a high need for physical affection. My husband is a very physically affectionate guy who loves to cuddle. Kaitlyn easily feels loved by him through his actions. I, however, am extremely not a physically affectionate person. It doesn't come naturally to me. I have to make a conscience effort to make sure I give Kaitlyn the physical affection she needs from me.
The Five Love Languages of Children talks about the five different love languages and how to figure out what is primary for your child. It also has many great examples of how to express love in that way, which is great for people who need help with certain languages.
The authors caution, however, that you cannot know for a certainty what the primary love language is for children under five (page 27). They say you just can't tell. I think you can get a good idea, but I agree that you don't know for sure. So what does that mean for children under five? I think most of us reading this blog have children under five. What do we do?
We make an effort to show love in all five languages. This book says over and over that you want to teach your child to be multilingual with love--meaning the show and understand love in all five languages. Think of what a great benefit this will be to them throughout life! They will understand love in every way shown, which means they will always feel love from their spouse. They will show love in every way, which means their spouse and children will always feel loved! What a great gift!
Even if you think you know your child's primary love language, that doesn't mean you should ignore the rest. The primary love language means it is primary--not the only. Give tender touch. Speak supporting words. Spend quality time. Give gifts (gifts don't need to cost money). Do acts of service.
During the early months, take great care to show love to your child. I think this is pretty easy. A baby can't move anywhere on her own, so you carry her everywhere. Those cheeks are irresistible, so you kiss them over and over. She is constantly meeting new milestones, which brings much praise and admiration from all around her. You can't help but spend a lot of time with her throughout each day. Plus, you know that she will only be awake a short while, so it is easy to devote chunks of time to playing with her. She receives gift after gift--especially considering that she needs a new wardrobe every three months. Then everyone around her does nothing but serve her because she is unable to do much of anything for herself. Yes, babies should feel great love. Here are some quotes to motivate you to be sure to show it:
"A great deal of research indicates that the emotional foundation of life is laid in the first eighteen months of life, particularly in the mother/child relationship" (page 23). During these months, be sure to offer physical touch, kind words, and tender care. Like I said, I think it is quite natural to fulfill this; if it isn't for you, you can work on it! You can always do better.
"During the next several years, the child's ability to express love increases, and if he continues to receive love, he will increasingly give love" (page 23).
"The foundation of love laid in the early years affects a child's ability to learn and largely determines when she is able to grasp new information" (page 23).
Making sure your child feels loved by you won't make it so life is perfect and your family will float off into some happily ever after. This is real life :) But you will be in a happier ever after than you would have otherwise been.
So let's all make an effort to make sure our children feel our love. Yes, we need to feel it. Yes, we need to show it. Most importantly, we need to make sure our children feel it. If not, humble yourself and think of additional ways to show love.
Like I said in a previous post, this is a great book. I really think every parent should read it. I really do. Of all the parenting books I have ever read, I think this is the only one I believe every parent should read. It doesn't matter what your main philosophy is. Whether you are an attachment parent, Babywise parent, or one of your own design, this book will apply to you.
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