This article is part three in a five-part series on how to show love to your child.
We covered the gift of physical touch in March, and this month we’ll focus on the love language of words, pulling from Gary Chapman’s best-selling book, The Five Love Languages of Children. “Words of encouragement are like a gentle warm rain falling on their soul; they nurture the child’s inner sense of worth and security,” says Chapman.
Four Words of Affirmation for Kids
1. Words of affection
My oldest daughter’s love language is words of affirmation. When she was a toddler, I would say, “God loves you. He didn’t make any mistakes. He has big plans for you.” Her eyes lit up. But as she grew into a teenager, I forgot to remind her of her worth. My words bordered on censure and demands instead of kindness. As our relationship tensed, I had to intentionally hold my tongue and use phrases such as, “I love you. I’m glad God gave you to us.” Our relationship traversed an arduous journey, but she now believes these words. Younger children may not understand the word love, but the child will pick up on the tone of your voice along with physical closeness.
2. Words of praise
We can appreciate a child for who she is or for what she does. My daughter studied piano through her first year of college. Recitals are nerve-wracking, so we prayed affirmations over her before each event. Sometimes, though, I would point out a flaw or mistake which negated the positive. We don’t want to praise too much where it becomes meaningless or flattery, but for kids whose love language is words of affirmation, make a conscious effort to use words of praise.
3. Words of encouragement
Words of encouragement bolster courage and motivate a child to move ahead when fearful or discouraged. The most significant detriment to encouraging words is anger. We’ll all say words in anger or use a negative tone of voice at some point, and forgiveness will heal. But patterns of cutting remarks and the volume of one’s voice cause long-term adverse effects on a child. Chapman recommends ending our sentences with an upward inflection or asking questions rather than issuing commands. Such as, “Would you please make your bed before your friends come over?” versus “Make your bed or no friends!”
4. Words of guidance
There will be times when a warning is necessary, but couch the warning with loving words of wisdom. For example, offer verbal reinforcement of your child’s interests in friends. If the friends are not good choices, guide them to think through the possible influences of a destructive path.
Have you discovered your child’s love language yet?
Sally Cressman and her husband enjoy an easy rhythm of life as empty nesters. Follow her at www.sallycressman.com, and you’ll receive eight FREE Holy Week activities for families with young children.