How to Identify Your Child’s Love Language


Different children crave different kinds of attention and affection. Every child wants a specific blend of attention and affection from their loved ones. Gary Chapman, PhD, best known for his bestselling book, The 5 Love Languages, has a theory that all people express and feel love in the same five ways: Acts of service, gifts, physical touch, quality time, and words of affirmation. Each of these expressions of love constitutes a different “language.”

A child’s love language can be identified by observing how they express affection to you and others. Oftentimes, how they express their love to you is how they want to be loved too! For example, a child that says “I love you” all day and seemingly out of nowhere may be showing you that words of affirmation are their love language of choice. By utilizing the love language your child best responds to, you can ensure they’re emotionally satisfied.

Consider these five ways your child might speak or ask to be loved in their own unique love language.

  1. Physical touch: Cuddles and kisses
    Though a hug might say “I love you” to all kids, for ones who adore physical touch, it shouts, “I LOVE YOU!”

    Is this your kid?
    If children are constantly in your space, touching you, or playing with your hair, that’s a signal that they need to be touched more.

    How to express your love
    Snuggle on the couch, ask your kid if they want to sit on your lap, and offer foot massages and high fives. Dr. Chapman also suggests wrestling and playing sports that require jostling.

    What to avoid
    A slap or spanking is hurtful to any child, Dr. Chapman warns, “but it is devastating to one whose primary love language is touch.
  2. Gifts: Special surprises
    What child doesn’t love receiving gifts? While most kids can’t wait to rip open a present on their birthday, some children feel especially loved when they receive a thoughtful gift from a parent.

    Is this your kid?
    Someone whose primary love language is receiving gifts tends to care about how a present is wrapped, and often remembers who gave them what for months or years after the fact.

    How to express your love
    Stickers and star charts are also concrete ways of making these children feel valued, says Harvey Karp, M.D., creator of the DVD and book The Happiest Baby on the Block. On the receiving end, be sure to make a big deal of any gifts your child gives you by hanging artwork or creating a “precious things” table for those sculptures made from pipe cleaners and old corks.

    What to avoid
    “We have to be careful about overdoing gifts,” Dr. Chapman says, “and we need to give kids gifts that are appropriate for their age and that will be helpful to them, rather than just what they want.”
  3. Words of affirmation: Loving words and praise
    For kids who listen intently and speak sweetly, your loving words matter most. Saying loving things or offering praise will be most appreciated by a child whose love language is “words of affirmation.”

    Is this your kid?
    If your child beams whenever you praise them or offers you lots of sweet feedback—like when she/he pulls you close to whisper, “Mommy, you are my favorite mommy”—they probably relish words of affirmation.

    How to express your love
    A special note in their lunchbox or verbal enthusiasm about a job well done can really make your little one feels special. It’s also important to remember to get down to their eye level when communicating these affirmations for example, “You are the best thing in my life. You are so important to me.” to have the greatest impact.

    What to avoid
    Insults cut deep, and Dr. Chapman says it’s particularly important for these kids to hear the words “I love you” standing alone, rather than, “I love you, but…” Tying those three words to anything else can imply that your love is conditional, Dr. Markham notes.
  4. Acts of service: Chores without complaint
    Some older children will show their affection through participation in chores or family activities. This can be expressed in doing chores without being asked to do so, like putting away the dishes or walking the dog. They may be unaware that what they’re doing is actually a gesture of love and thoughtfulness to other members of the family.

    Is this your kid?
    Your child may beg you to tie their shoes, fix a broken toy, or fluff their pillow. As a result, parents of these kids often end up feeling like servants, but it may help to reframe seeing those requests as simple requests to feel loved.

    How to express your love
    Kids whose love language is “acts of service” appreciate it when their parents do even the smallest of tasks for them: Making them a meal they’ve been craving is considered an act of love. It may be as simple as fixing a broken Lego tower or helping them get dressed. If this is your child’s love language, you might worry that you’re not fostering skills of independence. But walking them through a process can help them build the confidence they need to do something without your assistance next time.

    What to avoid
    “You certainly don’t have to jump at every request,” Dr. Chapman says. A thoughtful response will do, even if it’s to deny an ask. And watch out for how those exceptions to rules pile up.
  5. Quality Time: Distraction-free time together
    These children feel most valued when you choose to spend quality time with them.

    Is this your kid? A child who often says, “Watch this!” or “Play with me!” is begging for quality time.

    How to express your love
    It can be as simple as having a morning dance party while cooking breakfast or singing a favorite song together. Setting aside time every week for children whose love language is “quality time” helps build trust and enables you to create a deeper and more meaningful bond. In addition to just being together, offer your undivided attention. Dr. Markham calls this “special time,” and says it can be short, but let your child choose the activity.

    What to avoid
    “If your child’s love language is quality time and your method of discipline is putting them in their room and isolating them, that’s a severe punishment to that child,” says Dr. Chapman. Also, don’t assume that spending extra time together means that you need to abandon your to-do list. Even reading beside your child when they are absorbed in their own play will let them feel your warm presence.

By: Silvia Irene

Underwood, Kirsten. 2021. How to Identify Your Child’s Love Language.

The 5 Love Languages of Children.

Cornwall, Gail. 2022. The 5 Love Languages of Children.

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