In The Five Love Languages of Children, Chapman and Campbell discuss the love language of gifts. The first point they make is that the love language of gifts must be in conjunction with other love languages (page 75).You can't just give gifts and expect your child to know you love him. "The child's emotional love tank needs to be kept filled in order for the gift to express heartfelt love" (page 75).
One hint toward if your child feels loved or not is how he treats the gift. "The disposing or ignoring of gifts is a classic example of this type of child needing a fill-up" of emotional tanks (page 77). So if your child shows a lack of care for a gift, he might be feeling unloved.
It can also mean, however, that the child just doesn't recognize gifts as a love language.
How Do You Know?
How do you know if your child is one whose love language is gifts or if she is just one of those normal people who like getting gifts? Here is a list found on pages 82-83:
- The child will make a big deal out of receiving the gift--always
- They will want the present to be wrapped or given in a unique and creative way
- They will notice the wrapping
- They will hug you
- They will thank you profusely
- They will make a special place in their room for the gift and display it proudly
- They will show it to others over and over
Take note that gifts and bribes (often referred to as "carrots" in the parenting world) are different. Giving a gift to elicit behavior is not a gift that will make your child feel loved. So gift-giving no-no number one is to turn them into bribes. If you do feel the need to do some sort of carrot or bribery, don't call it a gift. Call it what it is.
Number two is distorting the gift giving. You can't replace your time and snuggles with gifts. Gifts cannot replace you (and would you really want them to?). Parents do this for a variety of reasons. They might be busy with work or life in general. They might be in a divorced relationship. They might have to travel a lot. They might be emotionally disconnected and feel like gifts are an okay substitute. "This [type of gift-giving] can make children materialistic and manipulative, as they learn to manage people's feelings and behavior by the improper use of gifts. This kind of substitution can have tragic results on the children's character and integrity" (page 79).
Number three is do not let advertisers tell you what to buy for your child (page 78).
You can make everyday gifts into something special for the child who has a gift love language. Take the time to wrap up that pack of socks or underwear and give it to your child as a gift. This can show your child that every gift is an expression of love. The authors also point out this can teach children to not expect these necessity items--the will view them as the gifts they are instead. I think that is a great idea.
Chapman and Campbell suggest this list of questions be asked when selecting a toy for your child:
- What message does this toy communicate to my child?
- Is it a message I am happy with?
- What will my child learn from playing with this toy?
- Will the effect be positive or negative?
- How durable is the toy?
- What is its normal life span?
- Does it have limited appeal or will my child like it for an extended time?
- Can we afford it? [if no, don't buy it]
"...not all gifts come from a store" (page 81). I loved that point. Wildflowers, rocks, sticks, bugs, pine-cones, leaves, and other items you find outside. Simple things you make your child are good gifts. Maybe a favorite meal or treat. As the authors point out, children have no concept of money and do not know or care what if anything was spent. For children, it truly is the thought that counts.
If your child's love language is gifts, have some gifts on hand for when you sense he needs to feel that extra love.
Be thoughtful in gift choices. Choose things your child will like.
Do something like a scavenger hunt to give a gift to your child. The method of giving the gift can mean as much as the gift itself.
Hide gifts in lunchboxes or backpacks.
No matter how high gift giving is on your child's list, you can make receiving gifts be understood as an act of love by the way you present it. You can also teach your child to receive with grace and to cherish gifts through your actions rather than view them through a distorted light.
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