I was talking with a friend about The 5 Love Languages and suggested to her that there’s value in knowing the love language of our children, friends, and family, not just a significant other. It was a fun back-and-forth that got deep fast, which is my favorite type of conversation.
Being a parent is a life-long study in love, forgiveness, and adaptation; a journey I approach with the mindset of a student, the patience of a nun, and the strength of a lioness. It takes serious willpower to be a great parent, and I believe there’s a difference between having kids and raising them. My goal is to raise my three wonderful children into authentic, genuine, self-sufficient adults, and I know that doesn’t just happen by getting older. They need my positive and consistent example, to feel accepted as unique individuals, to be understood, and to be guided.
What I discovered after years of frustration, is that I had to approach situations from different angles until I found the thing that worked. This may seem so simple, but I know I’m not alone here. In all areas of life we often do the same things over and over, wishing, hoping, or even expecting a different outcome. It’s also natural to deliver love according to your own Love Language, instead of the way your loved-ones are designed to receive love. Just like a teacher can’t deliver a lesson from a single perspective to 20 students, my natural approach or thought-process can’t communicate to all three of my children in the ways they need to feel love or be disciplined. They have different personalities, different spirits, and what drives them is unique. Once I adopted this mindset (or self study) and discovered HOW they are wired, I was able to customize my parenting style for each of them.
Here are some truths about my children that help me parent them in ways that match who they are and how they function:
- Olivia is very sensitive to words and tone, she is literal, independent, creative, kind-hearted, and stubborn. She requires structure, and is wise beyond her years to the mood and energy of others. Words of Affirmation is definitely her #1 Love Language, followed by Quality Time and Physical Touch. Her sensitive soul needs to hear often that I’m thankful for her, proud of her, or happy when she’s helpful. Without regular praise she gets overwhelmed by negative feedback and allows it to define her. She tends to isolate herself but loves deep conversation, laughter, and being social.
- Miles is creative, independent, quiet, and a little shy. He desires praise but is awkward when receiving compliments and affection. He’s very black & white in his approach to everything, with a self-imposed expectation boarding on perfectionism. Words of Affirmation is definitely his #1 Love Language, like his older sister, followed by Quality Time. Because he loves being alone, getting sent to his room wouldn’t be a punishment, so timeouts have to be in a public place of the house. He’s so sensitive and such a rule-follower that he doesn’t get in trouble very often, although picking on his little brother is his biggest weakness. He acts like he doesn’t like hugs and kisses, but clearly appreciates my efforts to break-through his little shell.
- Pierce is my wild-child. He’s social, a peacekeeper, extraverted, demands time and attention, wears his emotions on his sleeve, and is a lover. He doesn’t want to do anything “lonely” so independent play is very hard for him, and a timeout in his room is a serious punishment. He doesn’t care about rules like his sister and brother, and is quick to admit a wrong-doing without fear of the consequence… almost like he believes he can live outside of the rules. Quality Time is definitely his #1 Love Language, likely tied with Physical Touch, and closely followed by Words of Affirmation. Pierce acts like the end of each day arrives hours too soon and that bedtime is somehow robbing him of “enough” time to play and snuggle.
We have a set of rules in our home that applies to everyone, but the way I spend time, show love, teach, and enforce rules is unique for each child. While this may seem like a lot of work, it’s actually freeing. Before I considered WHO each of my children are as individuals, there were more issues and unnecessary escalations, because I was parenting according to my way of reasoning and communication alone. I think it’s import to note that making this shift after years of parenting one way took deliberate effort, and for my daughter who’s dramatically older than her brothers, there was a season of transition and sometimes a feeling that things weren’t “fair”. We work through these growing-pains of change when they arise, and I know if this is something you adopt, it’ll become your new normal very quickly!
This shift in mindset and approach feels like a celebration of the special differences in each individual that creates our family, and a more thoughtful way of raising my children. I hope to empower them to more closely know who they are, and to also learn from a young age how to communicate and treat others who think, act, and respond differently. Their emotional intelligence and character will shape their futures, and I pray that my roll in their lives has enough positive impact to counterbalance the negativity and hardships they’ll naturally face.