Speaking Love to Your Child in a Way They Understand
As a mom of three children, I never get used to the reality that each of them is so different from the other. I think that’s one of the things I love about God. He created us in his image to reflect his desires, yet he kept us unique with our own personality quirks and joys. We interpret life and love differently.
To my oldest son, love is best communicated through quality time whereas my middle son loves to be snuggled or have things done for him, and my baby….he is still getting there. Our children experience love in a unique way with their preferences and personalities often acting as filters on how they receive and interpret love.
Added to this is our personal view of what love looks like. To me, love is quality time and being touched. I also love to get messages from my friends and family to let me know how their day went and that they are thinking of me. I don’t perceive correction as loving or angry outbursts for that matter (I’m so guilty of my own angry outbursts).
My pastor often says “love looks like something”. This short saying often rings through my mind. When I want to love my children or the new person in my church community, I find myself thinking what does love look like to them? What can I do that will be love to them?
As a mom, I apply these same questions to my children. There have been several times when my children have been acting bizarre as if they were abducted by aliens and replaced by a stranger to drive me batty. I fall into the trap of rants and raves or frustrated sighs of exasperation. Before long, I hear the Holy Spirit, gently whispering “are you really listening to your child? What does your child need? How are you communicating love?”
What is the message my child keeps saying?
About a year or so ago, my eldest son transformed one week into an absolute stranger as far as his behavior was concerned. Both us and his school teacher were baffled at what to do. His behavior was out-of-character as he instigated with his peers and defied us at home. I didn’t know what to do. With the Lord’s help, I began to think of what He was trying to tell me. What was that common phrase he kept saying?
In this particular scenario, my child was convinced he was bigger than what he actually was regarding his capabilities. He kept wanting to show off how big he was. Ah….this was his message: Mommy, I am a big boy now. I can do a lot more than you are letting me.
My husband and I began to give our son new tasks to do around the house to help us. I began to affirm his big boyness while putting in gentle boundaries. The next week, we had our boy back, much to my relief.
What is my child’s need?
If you were to talk to a psychologist, counselor or life coach, most of them will probably agree that our behavior is driven by needs. These needs will determine either positive or negative behavior. Our children don’t always have the vocabulary to express their needs to us or perhaps they aren’t sure how to tell us what they need. This is especially true for younger children and toddlers who are in the learning phases of understanding themselves and their feelings.
Identifying your child’s need will help you tailor your response in a way that communicates I see you, I hear you, and I am with you. For example, my two-year-old loves to help to the point of being too helpful. His need is to be included in just about everything. To meet this need, I can give him sugar snap peas to pop out the shell, or plastic Tupperware to pack away.
Do I know my child’s love language?
Personally, I am a firm believer in The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman and often apply it to my relationships especially within my little family. Some people hold the view that you can’t define your child’s love language from as little as 18months old. I disagree. Of course, it may change a bit, but in general, their dominant love language stays the same.
If your child is regularly wanting to be touched, picked up, tickled, cuddled, etc., they probably have physical touch as their love language.
A child who regularly wants to do things with you and doesn’t seem to grasp the concept of playing by themselves or personal space most likely speaks quality time for their love language. This may also be why they seek your help often in their chores. It’s a clever way of spending time with you.
A child whose face lights up or tells you how happy they are to get a surprise or gift is probably speaking in the love language of gifts. For this child, it doesn’t matter the gift so much as that you thought of them while you were out or they were away from home.
The child who regularly looks for affirmation or tells you how wonderful you are is probably speaking the love language of affirmation. For this child, harsh words cut their heart into a million pieces. If spoken to with affirming words, this child will open up and blossom before your eyes.
Finally, the child who constantly is helping around the house and who gets upset with not much assistance in completing tasks, more than likely feels loved when you do things for them. For this child, making their breakfast or bed makes their day.
Are we in a stressful season?
The last thing I assess is the season we, as a family, are going through. Our children are quite sensitive to our stress and the spiritual atmospheres. As such, the fastest way they can communicate this to us is through their behavior.
At this point, I begin to convene with God for strategies and ideas to reduce stress in the home. I also ask God to show me how to pray over my children and into the spiritual atmospheres that they are discerning. Usually, I pray for protection and peace over them while doing the spiritual warfare and intercession privately.
Run to God for Wisdom and Strength
Being a mom is not for the faint of heart. In fact, mothering has this beautiful way of sending us running into the arms of the Father. We run to him for wisdom, strength, grace, love and more. When we are filled with God’s love for us, we are able to extend it to our children and husbands. What we often forget is that our outpouring of love into our children sets them up for a beautiful relationship with God. God uses us as moms to illustrate to our children his heart and character to them.
Momma, you are doing a great job. Your work is not in vain. In those tough times, God extends much grace to you. He pulls you into an embrace where you can hear his heartbeat. He quietens your heart with his love and steadies you with his peace.
Hi there, I’m a passionate lover of Jesus, wife, mom of three boys, and author of Pen Paper Paint. I love to share my life and love for Jesus with others in the hopes of inspiring them towards a deeper relationship with him. I want to share the realities that Jesus is intricately involved in our everyday life. I love chocolate, drawing, music, and sushi. My goal in life is to love others wholeheartedly.
For more on relationships from Ailie, see “Love is Messy and Forgiveness Keeps You Going“.