Understand Your Child’s Love Language

Photo credit: Dreamstime
Photo credit: Dreamstime

Children have a great need to feel unconditionally loved.  God created us to need love, and He sent His Son to die for our sins to show us His unconditional love. Jesus said we’re to follow His example of loving others in John 13: 34-35:

 

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

 

As parents, we need to show our children unconditional love, in part because the way we love our children and spouse will show others that we’re Christ followers.    But, also because our children need to know they are loved! Their emotional maturity depends on it.

 

5 Love Languages:

Many years ago, author Gary Chapman wrote the book “The 5 Love Languages” and it quickly became a best seller.  The concept of people having preferred ways they want to be shown love has continued to be popular ever since.  In fact, many marriages have been saved because couples applied the principles of this book and began to love one another the way they yearned to be loved.

 

He has since written books on the 5 love languages of children and of teens.  These concepts can be applied to almost any close relationship that you have!

 

I believe that if you understand your children’s preferred love languages, and you show them love in the way they prefer to be loved, you’re more likely to have better attitudes during your school days!

 

But just in case you haven’t heard of the five love languages, let me summarize the concepts here for you before we go into how they can help your school days:

 

In his book, Gary states that there are basically five emotional love languages, or ways that people express love to one another and receive love from others.  People tend to prefer to show and receive love primarily in one or two of these ways.  They will feel more loved if you show them love in their preferred love language.

 

The five love languages and how they relate to children are as follows:

 

  1. Words of Affirmation- a child who prefers this love language feels loved when you speak words of affection and endearment, praise and encouragement.  Words are powerful for these children.  This isn’t just praising what they do, but even more so, genuinely speaking about the good things you see in them a as a person.  Leaving little notes of encouragement for these children will go a long way. On the flip side, words of criticism can be very painful for children who have this as their primary love language.

 

  1. Quality Time – a child who prefers this love language feels loved when you give them your undivided attention.   Most children want their parent’s undivided attention on a regular basis, but this child will want it more than the average child. They just love being together.  Loving eye contact while you’re together means a lot as well as quality conversations about what’s important to them.

 

  1. Receiving Gifts- a child who prefers this love language finds the giving and receiving of gifts to be a powerful expression of love.  The gifts are a symbol of your love for them.  But the gifts don’t have to be big and expensive.  Even a small token of love shows that you were thinking of them when you made it or found it. Most children like to receive gifts, but these children will tend to make a big deal out of giving and receiving gifts.

 

  1. Acts of Service- a child who prefers this love language feels loved when others think of their needs or wants and strive to meet them. As parents, we’re often serving our children, it’s what we do, especially when they’re young.  However, as they get older, in our quest to help them become independent, we need to be careful that we don’t miss opportunities to serve them to show them love, especially if this is their primary love language.

 

  1. Physical touch – a child who prefers this love language feels loved when you hug and kiss them, or give any appropriate physical contact. Snuggling on the couch reading a good book, a simple touch on the shoulder when they’re working on their school work, holding hands, etc. Even a dad wrestling with his son can fall under this love language and will make him feel more loved if this is his love language.

 

I would encourage you to read the book to learn more:

 

“The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively” by Gary Chapman

There you’ll find a lot of specific suggestions on how to love your children in each of these love languages.

 

When we love people in the way they prefer to be loved, Chapman says that we fill their love tank and they feel completely loved.  This in turn affects their behavior towards us.

 

“People behave differently when their emotional love tank is full”

Gary Chapman from “What Are the 5 Love Languages: The Official Book Summary”

 

Children need to learn how to love the important people in their life in all the different love languages, and we should show them love in all the different love languages.  But they also feel more secure if you make a point to show them love in the love language that they prefer.

 

How can you determine your child’s love language?

 

  1. Realize it takes time!

Show them love with all the five love languages, especially when they’re little, but even when they’re teenagers, they need to experience love in all these ways. Teach them to show love in all the five love languages. Then:

 

  1. Watch their behavior and see how they try to show you love.

 

Do they frequently tell you how much they love you?

 

Do they often do something kind to help you and to show you love?

 

Do they want to be close to you, hugging and touching you a lot?

 

Do they often want to have you spend time listening to them, doing things with them?

 

Or do they tend to give you gifts throughout the week, a dandelion, or a picture they colored, etc.?

 

  1. Focus on showing them love in the way they show you love, and see how they respond. Do they seem more content and happy, more secure in your love?  You’ve probably hit on their preferred love language.

 

How can loving your child in their love language help your school day go better?

 

Chapman states the following in his book “The 5 Love Languages of Children: the Secret of Loving Children Effectively” :

 

“The most important fact to know about a child’s learning ability is this: For a child to be able to learn well at any age, he must be at the emotional maturational level of that particular age. As the child grows, his ability to learn increases because of several factors, the most important of which is his emotional maturity.  And parents have the greatest effect on the child’s emotional growth.”

 

A child’s emotional development has a great impact on their ability to learn!

 

A child who is doing well emotionally can concentrate better, has more motivation and will typically do better with their school work.

 

If a child feels unloved, they will have little motivation to tackle the challenges of learning.

 

How can you avoid having your child feel unloved?

 

Love them with all five of the different love languages, and watch to see which ones they seem to respond to most.  When you discover what your child’s preferred love language is, lavish the love on using that language!

 

You’ll find that your child will respond with a desire to please you and will be more cooperative with their school work! 

 

When their love tank is full, they will be more content! And a content child will do their school work more diligently and more willingly. Their focus and concentration will improve. It’s a win-win situation.  And it’s not that hard to do.

 

Of course, loving your child using their preferred love language isn’t like a magic ticket to good behavior.

 

Discipline is also very important in raising emotionally mature individuals.  Discipline comes from the Greek work “to train” and involves training our children to become mature adults who function well in society.

 

One of the most important aspects of teaching our children at home is discipline.  If our children won’t obey us, or accept our training, it’s very challenging to teach them academically! They need to respect us enough to do what we tell them to; to respect us as their teacher as well as their parent.

 

I want to be clear, discipline doesn’t just mean punishment when they do wrong, it also means keeping their emotional love tank filled and using positive encouragement as you train them to be respectful and well behaved.

 

Children are typically self-focused and are instinctively trying to be sure that they are loved.  If they feel unloved, or their love tank is low, they’ll start testing us to see if we love them.

 

How we respond is key.

 

If they still feel unloved by our response, they’ll continue to test our love by their behavior.   That’s where unconditional love comes in, we need to love them unconditionally, no matter how they behave. I’m not saying we allow bad behavior, but in our response and even in our discipline, we need to be sure that they know that we love them.  If we can use the love language that they prefer, then it will be even more meaningful for them and their love tank will be refilled.

 

When a child misbehaves, ask yourself: “Is my child’s love tank filled?” If not, “What can I do to fill their love tank as I deal with this misbehavior?”

 

 

I encourage you to the time to learn what your child’s love language is and strive to show them love the way they crave to be loved!

 

If you’ve learned some ways to show love to your children in one or more of these love languages, please share in the comment section so others can glean from what you’ve learned! I love to hear from you!!

 

Photo credit: Dreamstime
Photo credit: Dreamstime

10 Ways to Avoid the “Supermom” Syndrome

frazzled_mom1227369071Do you feel ever feel overwhelmed with all the responsibilities you have in a given day?Are there just not enough hours in the day to get everything done? Do you fall into bed exhausted and wake up feeling like you just need another hour of sleep?

I think most moms feel this way at various points in their lives.  But as moms we can also get in a vicious cycle of busyness, trying to do more than we really should be doing, trying to be “Supermom”.

Being a mom is a big job! You’re care-giver, housekeeper, nurse, cook, counselor, disciplinarian (or referee, depending on the day!), chauffeur, and more!  And that doesn’t even include your responsibilities as a wife!

Being a homeschool mom adds a whole new level of busyness and pressure.  Depending on how many children you have, homeschooling really is like a part-time to a full-time job. And some homeschooling moms are working outside the home as well!  Many homeschool moms end up volunteering at church or in their homeschool co-op too, and their lives are very, very full, making stress levels sky high!

About 10 years ago, we were in the midst of homeschooling all four of our children who were in the middle school and high school years. I was also volunteering in several ministry areas in our new church plant, I was co-teaching a class at our homeschool co-op and teaching water aerobics at the YMCA part-time. (I get tired just reading what I was doing!)   I sensed God was leading me to slow down and drop some of my responsibilities so I wasn’t so busy, but I didn’t think that I could quit any of what I was doing.  My husband was telling me I was too busy too.  Finally my body said “Enough!” and I became quite sick with what they thought at the time was a chronic autoimmune condition. Suddenly I could do almost nothing without becoming weak and exhausted. I couldn’t even cook my family a meal without needing to lie down part way through the process.

I share this story with you because God used it in big ways to get me to see that I was doing too much. I not only paid for it with my health, but my family was paying for it in other ways too. I didn’t even realize how much it had affected our marriage, plus our children were getting the short end of the deal with my time too.  As God worked in my heart, He also restored my health… but it was a long, difficult process and I want to share the lessons learned with you so you don’t have to go through something similar to learn the same lessons!

As moms, we need to learn to have boundaries with our time.  Here are some suggestions for you to consider as you think about how you use your time each day:

  1. Think through your priorities – write them out. For me, God is first in my life, then my husband and my children.  Next was homeschooling our children, my health, my extended family, my friends and finally ministry.  (This was not the way it was before I got sick!)  Spending time with God each day, gaining strength and peace from Him, makes a huge difference on how each day goes for me!   Also, if you don’t make your husband a high priority, the other urgent things in life will push him down on your list quite quickly.  Certainly there has to be flexibility in your priorities at times, but if you think through them ahead of time, it’s much easier to say “no” to some things that will come up that you need to hold off on doing.

 

  1. Pray and seek the Lord’s guidance before you commit to anything more in your schedule. When someone asks you to do something for them, tell them you need to pray and think about it before committing. Learn to say “no” if God leads you to do so.  Some people struggle more with being able to say “no” than others.  Friends often think that moms who are staying at home with their children have extra time on their hands, but that frequently isn’t the case.  Especially when you’re a homeschooling mom, it’s important to set boundaries on when you need to be doing school, and seek God’s direction when you’re asked to be involved in an activity that requires a lot of your time (or any activity for that matter, even if it’s only a little bit of your time!)  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your steps.” Proverbs 3:5-6

 

  1. Pray and seek God’s guidance on your children’s commitments too. In our society, we get a lot of pressure to have our kids involved in so many activities such as sports, music lessons, and so on.  Our children can get burned out too if they have too much going on and they don’t get enough time to play and rest.  Besides, everything your child is involved in means you have to get them there!  I’d suggest that you let each child have only one activity that they’re involved in (it’s even better if you can have more than one child in the same activity!) and if you feel you can handle more, then consider allowing more for each child.

 

  1. Don’t forget to take care of yourself! As moms we’re so busy taking care of everyone else, we often neglect our own needs.  Take time for exercise, for eating healthy, for rest and doing things you enjoy, for going to the doctor or chiropractor or whatever you need.  Know your limits as far as what you can handle without getting run down.

 

  1. Listen to your husband regarding your commitments outside of the home. If he cautions you that you’re too busy, then you probably are!  They can see more clearly than we can what we can handle sometimes.  Plus, if your husband says you’re too busy, that’s an indication that he’s feeling neglected, and that will not be good for your marriage.

 

  1. Delegate household chores: it’s good for your children to be helping with chores around the house. They’re learning life skills that they’ll need when they grow up, plus it helps build responsibility and other great character qualities. Even little ones can help with sorting silverware and socks, putting away their toys, etc.  Build independence in your children by teaching them to help and also do things for themselves.

 

  1. Limit your time on social media, the internet, etc. I hesitated to put this one in here but actually social media puts a lot of pressure on us whether we know it or not. It’s nice to know what’s happening in our friend’s lives, but sometimes it fills our mind to overflow knowing everyone’s business!  We feel like we need to be posting or responding to posts, and this can add pressure to an already full day. Social media is also another place where we can often begin to compare ourselves with others, and usually there’s someone that we don’t measure up to, so we begin the game of trying to be “more like Susie” or whichever supermom we decide we want to be like! And lastly, there’s always the fact that the internet and social media can suck us in and waste a lot of precious time that we could be spending with our husband and family.

 

  1. Don’t compare yourselves and your family to others! There’s such a temptation in our society to compare ourselves with others, and to try to keep up with what others are doing. But God created us to be ourselves! We don’t need to be like anyone else, and we shouldn’t try to be anything more than what God has called us to be!

 

  1. Change curriculum or your homeschool schedule if needed: sometimes we can feel overwhelmed because we get curriculum that is way too teacher intensive and we find we just can’t balance doing school and getting everything else done that we need to do. If you’re teaching multiple children and it seems like you can’t get everything done for school in a given day, or you feel pulled in too many directions, you may need to change your curriculum or schedule. Evaluate your curriculum and schedule.  Talk with your husband about this if you think this is an issue in your home.

 

  1. If you’re already overcommitted, be willing to ask for help: First, pray for guidance on what needs to change in your schedule. Ask your family for help too.  Ask your husband to help you figure out what needs to go in your schedule to make life less stressful.  It’s okay to admit you need help and it’s okay to step down from doing things that are putting you into “supermom” mode and causing you too much stress.

 

May the Lord bless you and guide you as you homeschool your children! May He help you to find balance in your life and help you to guard against the “supermom” syndrome of overcommitment.

 

 

 

 

 

7 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Alive and Well in the Homeschool Years

bruce & I on bench

Yesterday I learned that an old friend and her husband are getting a divorce and my heart is breaking for them.  Sadly, over the last few months, I’ve heard of numerous Christian couples who are having marriage problems.  I know this is a homeschool blog, and you’re probably wondering why I’m writing about marriage, but the deal is, if our marriage isn’t healthy, it’s going to affect our children and our homeschooling efforts! Frankly, I think that as homeschoolers we often are so busy with educating our children and doing ministry or working, that we forget that our spouse and our marriage need to be a high priority. The result: our marriages suffer greatly. I know it’s true because I’ve seen it happen in other families and it happened in ours.

God opened my eyes to this problem about ten years ago.  We were in the midst of homeschooling our four children who were then 17, 15, 14, and 12. We were also heavily involved in serving in our church and I was teaching several water aerobics classes each week plus a class at our homeschool co-op. To be honest, we were much too busy.  I was much too busy, and my husband was sadly my last priority.  I didn’t even realize I had made him that, but he felt it, even though he didn’t talk about it then. I thank God for revealing it to me before it was too late. In 2006, I became very sick with a chronic condition that slowed me way down.  No more serving, no more teaching outside my home, the only thing that kept on happening was homeschooling, and that was only by the grace of God. I was exhausted most of the time and very discouraged.  God taught me many things during that time of sickness and pain.  One of the biggest lessons learned was that my husband and my role as a wife needed to take a higher place in my schedule and in my heart.

I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned that will help you keep your marriage alive and well. I pray it will help you to avoid the same pitfalls that I fell into and give you the help you need to have a strong family and marriage, which in turn will make your homeschooling much more successful and fruitful!

  1. PRAY for your spouse every day, many times a day if God lays it on your heart to do so! It helps to keep them in the forefront of your mind, and also reminds you of their needs and the many ways they are a blessing to you.  It can help if you’re feeling frustrated with them too! By giving those frustrations over to the Lord,  He’ll help you see the whole picture, not just your perspective. If you’re not sure what to pray, here are a couple of links to great prayers for your spouse:

FOR WOMEN to pray for their husbands: 40 ways to pray for your husband: 40 prayers to pray over your husband

FOR MEN to pray for their wives: 10 things to pray for your wife

2. MAKE TIME with your spouse everyday if possible.  I’m not saying it needs to be hours and hours, I know we often don’t have that much extra time. (yes,  I know your “to do list” is long!)  But making each other a priority and carving out some time for one another every day is so important. According to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of best-selling book, “Love and Respect”, both men and women have a need to spend time together to build their relationship, although it plays out in different ways.  Women need face-to-face time where they can connect with their husband, talking about their day and their feelings. Men need shoulder-to-shoulder time with their wives, just doing something together, maybe not even talking while they’re doing it.  This shoulder-to-shoulder “hanging out together” time helps him to see that his wife likes to be with him, and in turn that she respects him for who he is. Husbands, spending even five to ten minutes of face-to-face time with your wife will help them feel more loved. Wives, handing your husband tools while he fixes the car, or just hanging out near him while he’s working on a home project will make him feel valued in your eyes. Or watch a football game with him! He’ll maybe even take you out to dinner afterwards because he enjoyed having you spend time with him so much!

 3. Understand the LOVE AND RESPECT connection: I wish I had understood this important concept much earlier in our marriage! I highly recommend the book “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs which is based on the verse in Ephesians 5:33: However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.  In this book, Dr. Eggerichs talks about how men and women are created differently, and that they have different needs.  God, as the Creator, made us with different needs and so He gives this command that the husband is to love his wife and the wife is to respect her husband.  The women’s greatest need is usually to feel loved and cherished. The man’s greatest need is usually to feel respected.  You might be thinking, “women need respect too!” or “men want to feel loved too!”  Yes, that’s true, but studies have found that typically a women’s greatest need is love, and a man’s greatest need is respect.  Our society has elevated the need for love way above the need for respect, and unfortunately, many men are suffering for it.   As wives, we think that we need to help our husbands improve… we see their faults, and we know just how to help him become a better person!  Sadly, our manipulations and negative comments only serve to make him feel disrespected for who he is.    When a husband feels disrespected, he often reacts by being un-loving, making harsh comments or just disconnecting emotionally from his wife.  This in turn causes the wife to be more disrespectful, criticizing her husband in various ways.  Then the husband responds by shutting down and going away by himself, which the wife perceives as un-loving.  And as Dr. Eggerichs says, the Crazy Cycle begins!  And we go round and round hurting one another without even realizing it.  This book will help you to understand how we get on that Crazy Cycle and more importantly, how to get off of it!

 4. GIVE  GRACE: You know you’re not perfect, right? I wonder then why we think our spouse should be?  We all fail at times, we make mistakes. We make bad choices, and we hurt those we love. We need to follow the example of our Heavenly Father, and extend grace and forgiveness to our spouses. When they say or do something that frustrates us, we can choose to mull it over and over in our minds and get angrier and angrier, or we can intentionally decide to extend grace to them; recognizing that they’re not perfect, just as we’re not perfect.  Another great read that talks about extending grace in your marriage is called The Grace Filled Marriage” by Dr. Tim Kimmel with Darcy Kimmel.  If your marriage is struggling because of harbored resentments, you may want to read this book to help you forgive and put the past behind you.

 

I know there have been times I’ve let little things become blown out of proportion, such as when my husband’s pants pile up on the chair instead of being hung up in the closet.  It was several years into our marriage when I realized that it just wasn’t as important to him that his pants were hung up as it was to me!  And it wasn’t because he didn’t care about me, he was just tired at the end of the day, and they were dropped on the chair unintentionally. So instead of being irritated, I decided I would just hang them up for him! It was my opportunity to serve him (well, probably it served me as much as it served him!) and it only took a minute of my time.  The frustration level dropped completely and instead of thinking negative thoughts about him, I just tried to thank God for how hard he works to provide for our family.

5. WHATEVER IS ADMIRABLE… THINK ON THESE THINGS! Apply Philippians 4:8 to your spouse.   “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8     When we feel frustrated with our spouse, it’s easy to focus on all their negative character qualities! We all have them, and when you live with someone, you typically see their negative qualities.  We choose what we’re going to focus on, their good qualities or their bad.  It makes a world of difference when I choose to look at my husband’s admirable qualities (and he has many!); I feel happier, and more grateful,  and I treat him better when I make this choice.

6. MAKE YOUR MARRIAGE A PRIORITY! Life gets busy and we have so many demands pulling at us. If we don’t intentionally put our marriage as a high priority, we’ll soon leave it trampled in the dust. I suspect that many of you are possibly where we were ten years ago, with everything else coming before each other.  Our kids certainly need to be a high priority, but our spouse needs to come even before our children on our priority list. In our child-centered society, this may sound like heresy! I don’t mean we don’t take care of our children’s needs, but there are times when their wants could be put off for a bit so that our spouses’ needs could be met first.

 7. PRAY TOGETHER – I admit, this is hard to make happen, we’ve struggled to make this happen in our marriage on a regular basis, but I do believe that the benefits are worth making it a priority. Ask God to help you to make time to pray together regularly!

 

I love this quote by Dr. Tim Kimmel in his book mentioned above: “Love, like anything alive, is in a constant state of motion, either growing or diminishing. The conditions we create for our love – and our responses to the hits from life- will determine whether our love thrives.”

I encourage you to strive to make your love and your marriage thrive!  If you’re feeling discouraged and overwhelmed in regard to your marriage, God can help you to make the changes that are needed.  Turn to Him, seek His help and commit your marriage anew to Jesus.  Read one of the books I recommended above or go to a marriage conference.   If your marriage has hit rock bottom, seek out professional help or the help of a strong Christian friend.  God created marriage and He wants to help you make it work!  Make your marriage and your spouse a high priority, and you’ll reap the benefits in your home and your homeschool.