young boy excited about his gift from his mother | Nashville Christian Family Magazine

This article is part four in a five-part series on how to show love to your child.

We’ve been working through the five love languages defined in Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell’s book, The Five Love Languages of ChildrenWe covered the gifts of physical touch, words of affirmation, and quality time in the last three issues. This month we’ll focus on the giving of gifts and how a parent (or caregiver) can fill a child’s emotional tank through gift-giving.

The word gift comes from the Greek word charis, which means grace or undeserved gift. It’s essential to consider this when giving a gift to your child. Presents should never replace love, be used as a bribe intended to manipulate your child, or as payment for a chore. Instead, Chapman and Campbell recommend giving a gift with no strings attached. Consider offering the present along with another love language. For example, say you returned home from a trip with a unique gift for your child. If your child’s other love language is words of affirmation you could say, “I thought of you when I saw this item at the market.” Most importantly, the child must feel the gift is a genuine expression of your love.

Think about what message the gift communicates to the child. Is the toy a learning toy? How durable is it? Is the gift affordable? Does the present have limited appeal? As a child learns to receive a gift with grace, he should also learn to respond to the giver with thankfulness, whether the present is a want or need, big or small. Consider needed items as gifts as well. 

Distorted giving substitutes the gift for love. Busy parents may resort to giving gifts versus being present. In blended families, one parent may show favoritism to a child through gifts. Separated or divorced parents may use presents to manipulate the child’s love toward one parent. Over-giving can result in losing the specialness of presents. If giving becomes excessive, ask the other parent or grandparent to limit the number of gifts and choose quality over quantity. You can avoid distorted giving by buying gifts that are well-thought-out acts of love rather than purchasing gifts to impress.

Those whose primary love language is gifts will treasure, display, and show them off to their friends. They will ooh and aah over the item. You don’t always need to buy something. A handmade item or a treasure picked from nature could hold more meaning to a child than a gift purchased from a department store. Tailor gifts to each child’s needs.

Celebrate gift-giving by wrapping a present with colorful paper, adding a big bow, then gathering the family to present the gifts. Consider this presentation as important as the gift itself. Make a big deal out of it. Remember you are filling your child’s emotional tank. 

Carefully listen to your child’s words, heart, and interests before choosing a gift. When you do, they will grow into the best version of who God created them to be.Sally’s love language is physical touch. Her husband fills her emotional tank through hugs, and she generously hugs back. She and her husband enjoy an easy rhythm of life as empty nesters. You can follow her on Instagram at @sacressman or read more from her at

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