For the past few weeks we’ve been looking at the idea of our children’s hearts having two jars: One that collects the trials of the day and the other that collects treasure.
As long as the treasure jar is full, they find it much easier to sustain the little knocks and bruises and emotional difficulties that life dishes out.
Last week we looked at ‘shame language’ and how easy it is to shame without realising. Today we’re going to look at what sort of treasure to put in our children’s treasure jars.
Just as we all have different tastes, it’s also true that we enjoy different ways of being loved and nurtured. Gary Chapman, in his book ‘love languages’ has found there are five essential ways to express love.
Up to about the age of five, children absorb all five types of love and revel in them. After that, you may begin to notice, that one or two of the ways seem to offer more comfort and encouragement than the others.
Let’s briefly look at all five.
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. For some of us, words can really raise our spirits. The person who loves words will love genuine encouragement such as being affirmed. It feeds their soul.
Empty flattery won’t work on this child, such as "You’re fab!" They like authentic positive, specific feedback. “You really persevered today.” “I loved the way you spoke to your sister.” Words spoken with kindness can change their day. Notes in lunch boxes, letters under the pillow, a little paragraph of appreciation inside their birthday card will feel significant to people who love words.
But, here’s the flip side: constructive criticism needs a bit of padding or it can cut deeply. Sandwich it with some positive notes because they find harsh words hard to forget.
One of mine loves words and used to say “Are you impressed of me Mummy?’ A little reminder for me to put something in his treasure jar!
When children are small they all enjoy our undivided attention and they still need it as they get bigger (they just don’t always know it). But those children for whom time is a top love language, presence goes a long way. If that child is not being the best version of themselves, the chance are that their treasure jar needs a good dose of your undivided attention. They will be nourished by your presence and focus. Time to turn your mobile off!
All our chidren all love a good dose of our attention and they particularly love it when we take them out for a date on their own. But for two of them, they would be just as happy to sit in the car, so long as they get our full attention. The others seem to need the lure of a bacon butty or some chips thrown in for good measure.
It’s not personal!
These are the things that will stand out for the person for whom touch has power: a hug, a nudge, a pat, a little touch when you’re chatting; touch communicates love to this person. It’s their way of expressing and receiving concern, affirmation, encouragement. When it’s present they feel connected and a lack of it can feel like rejection.
But touch can be a funny old love language. Those who love it can be perceived as being needy. Most love languages can be offered with fairly little effort, but if touch is not your thing, putting your arms around a person when you don’t feel like it can feel uncomfortable and having someone come towards you for a hug can feel invasive. However, it’s easier when it’s our own children.
A touch, a hug or a pat for a child who loves touch can feel nurturing and makes them feel noticed and safe. Their bridge (refer to earlier blog on bridges) feels cold and isolated when touch is not present. Touch fills their jar and makes them easier to be around; a bit like a teenager after a hearty meal!
One of our kids is like a cat, he’ll take any opportunity to have his back rubbed or his hair stroked. On family night, he’s usually curled up next to someone, hoping for some connection.
Acts of Service
Can cleaning or clearing really be an expression of love? Absolutely! If Acts of service have the greatest impact on a person their jar can be filled by:
being brought a cup of tea.
someone doing a chore for them
a packed lunch made.
a room tidied.
The words “Let me do that for you,” have power for the person who appreciates acts of service.
Conversely, this person will be hurt if people break a commitment they made to help them, or if others don’t seem to be playing their part in the chores. When the needs of the home are overlooked they can feel anxious and interpret the lack of effort from others as lack of care and love. Their reactions can sound bossy and demanding as they are trying to find order when their treasure jar is empty.
Doing little things (or big things) for the person who appreciates acts of service sends the message “You matter to me”. Their day can be made if someone has spent time planning or thinking about a kindness they can do for this person. That’s what fills their tank and makes them easier company.
If gifts have the greatest impact on a person, it does not mean they are materialistic or greedy. Though a new Porche really makes their day. Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Scrap that!
The thought behind a gift makes them feel loved. A gift says “I was thinking about you when I wasn’t with you.” A gift is a physical token that represents affirmation, love, connection. Noticing what this child loves really nourishes them. A child who loves gifts will often express themselves in gifts, but it’s not about the value.
The absence of gifts leaves them wondering about their value when their treasure jar is low. For this person, a missed birthday can be painful, but a real insult is an ill-thought-through gift. No pressure! Clock that person’s favourite things, favourite shops, movies and food. Bringing a gift has power, it fills their jar and, of course, makes them easier to be around.
I have a child for whom gifts are powerful. If I pick a few fresh flowers and leave them in a jar by his bed, or better still a small bar of chocolate, he feels loved.
All the love languages are the desires of the heart, they’re not an entitlement. They are clues to what feeds a person’s soul, fills their treasure jar and creates connection. However, giving can never be mechanical. As with all love, the giving and receiving of it needs to be an authentic, free will offering.
When you think about your children and what sort of treasure to put in their jar, you may find that you start to see the powerful affect it has on their mood, their confidence and their general well being.
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What’s your language?
Whilst reading the above did you find that one love language stood out? Did any of them make you say “Yes….that’s true of me or of such and such person?” or “No, I could really live without that!”
How did you know your parents loved you? What did they do that made you know you were loved? That could be your love language.
When you think about experiences, (particularly with your partner), that have really hurt or cut you to the core, what were they? The opposite could be your love language.
What do you do when you want to show someone you love them? That could be your love language.
Want to take a questionnaire to find out your love language? https://www.psychologies.co.uk/tests/whats-your-love-language.html