Do Your Kids Feel Loved By You? (How to Make Certain)

Nov 12, 2020

Are you loving your kids in the way that they feel love? You might be completely wasting your efforts in showing love to your kids, unless you are speaking their “language!” In this episode, I introduce you to the 5 Love Languages of Kids, so that you can know for sure that your kids feel loved by you.
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Podcast Transcript

Hi, I’m Dr. Brenna Hicks, The Kid Counselor. I am also a parenting coach, training parents to be kind to their kids. I wonder if you have ever questioned if your kids know how much you love them. Or maybe wondered if they know how much you value and appreciate them. If you know that they believe that you care about them. I wonder those things, too. And if you listened to my last podcast or you watched my last video, I talked about the question that I think about: My son asked at 25, What was your childhood like? What was your mom like? What do you remember when you were a kid? I know how I want him to answer those questions. And one of the things that I want him to say, and I want him to believe and know as truth, is that I loved him. And I think about that a lot, that guides a lot of my parenting decisions. And I didn’t know how to make sure that he knew he was loved. I would often think about that. ‘Does he know that I love him? Does he feel loved? Does he know that I appreciate him, that I value him, that I care about him? Does he know those things?’ I’m trying to show those things, but is he deeply aware and truly believe those things to be true?

A Simple Solution

And I found what I believe to be a really helpful solution to that question. How do I know that he knows? The Love Languages for Kids is such an incredible tool that I have found. I recommend it to a lot of my parents at my practice. I talk about it a lot. I was actually just asked to give a presentation on Love Languages this week. I spoke to a group earlier this week, and it was on the topic of love languages, and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was actually a little shocked: The majority of that group had never even heard of the love languages, which it was kind of a surprise to me. I think that a lot of people certainly should know about them, but I think a lot of people do (know about them). And maybe that’s a misinterpretation of the truth in my perspective. So they were surprised about love languages and maybe this is the first time you’re hearing of it. Maybe you have no idea what they are, and I’ll unpack those a little bit for you today.

What They Are

But Love Languages for Kids: They’ve taken the original love language concept, which was created for couples, and they have tweaked it for children. And you can actually have your child take the quiz and find out what his or her love language is. And we’re going to talk about what that looks like today and why I think it’s so important, because if we don’t understand the people in our life that we love, if we don’t understand what their love language is, we don’t know that they feel loved. And this is such an easy, simple way to make sure that our kids know that their love, because we’re showing them love in the way that they receive it. And if you’re new to love languages, I know this means nothing to you. I promise I’ll tease all of this apart for you. So it has given me the ability to be more aware, I could be more purposeful with the way that I show my son love. I could be intentional with the things that I do. And I am aware of the way that he best receives love from me and how to give it so that I go to bed at night saying, ‘I know that he felt love today because I showed him love in his love language.’ So for those of you familiar, this may be resonating with you. For those of you that this is new, we’ll look at all of these in depth.

Preventing Incorrect Assumptions

Here’s something that I find really interesting. A lot of times I hear the comment – not just for kids, either. I think it’s important to make that distinction – “They already know that I love them.” Whoever it is they’re talking about: their spouse, their partner, their kids, their parents, their friends. Whoever it is, “They already know that I love them,” almost as if because I have said it before or I’ve demonstrated it before, that should carry over. And they should just know, I shouldn’t have to show them or tell them or demonstrate it again. ‘They should just know.’ And that concept, that philosophy is really damaging to a relationship because just because you are aware of something once doesn’t mean that you consistently feel those things. There’s a big difference.

I worked on a youth staff at our church years and years ago, and I will never forget. The youth pastor at that church at the time made a comment in one of our meetings, talking about teens and their parents, and he was talking about the value of the church staff because teens will accept support and encouragement and love and truth from adults in their lives that are not their parents. So we were talking through how pouring into a teen’s life, if you’re not their parents, they’re more likely to listen to you. So that was the context. But the youth pastor said, ‘Kids are very aware of what parents tell them, but it’s not about what they know. It’s about what they feel.’ And he was talking about how often times parents will tell their kids they love them, so the child knows that they’re loved, but they don’t feel loved. I have remembered that 20 years later. I still think through that about we know things sometimes, but we don’t feel those things. Our kids know that we love them. We know other people love us, but it doesn’t mean that we feel loved, doesn’t mean that on a daily or a frequent basis we experience that love and what that does to us. So that’s something I constantly keep in mind. What kids know and what they feel are very different sometimes. And it’s our job to make sure that those match they need to know and feel that they’re loved. And sometimes that’s hard, which is why I love learning about the love languages.

What’s Important

So here’s what’s really important. You need to meet your child in their love language. It’s not enough to say, ‘they should know that I love them. I cook them meals. I take them to baseball practice. I help them with their homework. I do their laundry. I spend time with them. We go on trips together.’ You can continue with the list of all the things that we do for our kids, because it is a very servant minded job being a parent and we show them in lots and lots of ways. But if it’s not in their love language, just because we feel that we’re showing how much we love them, they don’t feel it because they speak a different love language. We’re going to look at each of those individually.

Five Love Languages

So there are five love languages. And it’s important to note, almost as a disclaimer before we even get going, we are a combination of all five. So please don’t misunderstand when I say you have one love language. What I mean by that is it’s your dominant language. It’s the one that you most are inclined toward. It’s the one that you resonate with the most. It’s the one that you would naturally express love most consistently in that way, and therefore you would receive love most consistently in that way. The mistake is when we think, “Oh well, I’m a quality time person. So that’s the only way that I give love. That’s the only way I receive love.” Please know we are a combination of all five. There are just dominant languages over secondary languages.

Quality Time

So Quality Time is one of the five, meaning you just want to be with the person. So if your child is a quality time love language child, they just want to spend time with you. They want to do something with you. They want to be with you. And it’s important to note that it needs to be meaningful quality time. It needs to be meaningful quality attention. It’s not being in the same room as the child, and being on your computer, or working, or taking care of bills, or cooking dinner. That’s not quality time. Quality time is investment, engagement, communication, and interaction doing something. So that’s playing a game. Doing a puzzle, going on a bike ride, going on a nature walk, something where you are spending time with the child that fills up your child’s love bucket. So quality time is meaningful attention, meaningful time together.

Words of Affirmation

Second, Words of Affirmation. A child who has a words of affirmation love language needs to hear that you appreciate them. Hear what you think about them, hear what you value and love about them. So you are thoughtful. You are helpful. You are cherished. You are appreciated. You are a huge piece of this family. I love you. I care about you. You matter to me. Words of affirmation love language means they need to be told frequently and consistently that they matter, why they’re important. Why you love them. Why you think that they’re special. They need to hear those types of phrases. In the presentation that I gave this week, one of the people who attended made a comment about in years past, people didn’t say I love you when they hung up the phone. And she noticed a trend now that every time you hang up the phone with somebody that you are close with, you tend to say I love you before you hang up. And she just mentioned that she thought that was an interesting shift. And I have noticed it too. I agree. And I think that words of affirmation goes beyond just saying I love you because I love you could be something that we say almost rotely, almost out of habit. “I love you, Bye.” And the conversation ends. A words of affirmation person needs to hear deeper, more meaningful things than just I love you. I love you is important. But you are special. You are thoughtful. You are helpful. You are kind. You are considerate. I love spending time with you. I appreciate that you did that. I think that you worked really hard. They need to hear those types of encouraging comments to show that you care and that you love them.

Receiving Gifts

Love language number three: Receiving Gifts. If your child is a love language gifts person, that means they feel the most loved when someone gives them something. Now, in our materialistic, consumer driven, everything is expensive and everything costs money world, I want the disclaimer to be it’s not really about the gift. It’s about the thought behind the gift. So it could be a star shaped paperclip that you found in the crack of your couch. It doesn’t really have to cost money, doesn’t really have to be extravagant. But if you give it to the person that has a gifts love language, with an explanation of why, the intent behind the gift is far more important. “I saw this and I know how much you like looking through your telescope at night, and it was shaped in a star. So it made me think of you, and I wanted you to have this star shaped paperclip.” It’s a token of love, so not so much about the item or the gift itself, but it’s about you were on my mind. I was thinking about you. This was something that I thought through and I wanted you to have. And here’s the reason why: it could be nostalgic. It could be a memento. It could be something that represents something. You know, my son loves, loves, loves baseball. So if I ever give him any sort of gift that’s related to baseball, that’s meaningful to him. So it’s about understanding the child, what they love, what they care about, and being thoughtful about what you give to them.

Acts of Service

Love language number four: Acts of Service. So if your child is an acts of service child, they like things to be done to help them. So they appreciate when you do their laundry, they appreciate when you help them clean their room. They appreciate when you work on a project with them. They appreciate when it’s their job to empty the dishwasher but you say, “You had a long day, bud. I’ll empty the dishwasher for you.” And one of the participants in my workshop this week said, ‘It’s really an act of love,’ and I completely agree. When we offer to help take a burden off of someone, when we think through what will make things easier for them. I can help with that. I could do that for them. I can participate in that to take some of the load off. It is an act of love. So the love language is called acts of service, but it is an act of love. And it’s thinking through what will help the child in this moment and what will make things easier and therefore, that will make the child feel loved. So that is the fourth.

Physical Affection

The final is physical touch or physical affection. So your physical affection love language kids love to be hugged and cuddled, and they like snuggling on the couch. They like holding hands, and they like to feel love extended to them. So you ruffle their hair, you squeeze their shoulders, you put your arm around them, you tickle them, you get into wrestling matches with them. Physical interaction and physical engagement is the way that they feel loved. So any kind of touch oriented expression of love is really important for those types of kiddos.

So those are the five love languages unpacked. I have actually written an earlier article about love languages and kids, so that will be linked for you if you would like to go and really kind of look and see all kinds of more detail of these love languages, examples of each, how you can use them with your kids. That is available to you in an earlier article that I’ve written.

Common Mistakes

So I wanted to quickly talk through some mistakes that are made when you start to implement love language parenting in your home, because I think it’s very important to recognize that as we introduce new things and we add things to our parenting tool kit, sometimes we don’t know the pitfalls to avoid. And we don’t know the mistakes that are commonly made. So I want to share three mistakes that I see frequently so that hopefully you can avoid those.

So number one: Be aware of not focusing only on your child’s dominant language. As I mentioned, we’re a combination of all five. So if your child is a quality time kid and you decide “Well, I’m going to put all of my energy into just spending quality time with my child, and therefore I don’t have to do physical touch. I don’t have to do gifts, I don’t have to do acts of service. You’re missing out on the bigger picture! So please don’t use one to the exclusion of the others. Every human still feels love in all five of these ways. It’s just which one resonates the most, and which one is the most natural way that they get their love bucket filled up. So be careful not to focus only on one. It should just be something that’s in the back of your mind. My child would feel more loved if I did this instead of this. So that’s common mistake number one.

Common mistake number two: Don’t feel that it’s fake because it’s forced. What I mean by that is… I am, I’ll do some self disclosure here. So both my son and my husband are quality time dominant love language. I am words of affirmation. So they both want quality time from me to feel the most loved, and I want to be told that I’m valued and appreciated and loved by both of them. So my natural way of communicating love is to tell them. I am very verbal about my expressions of love. I say I appreciate that you did that. Thank you for helping me. I love you. I’m proud of you. I am grateful. That was very helpful to me. You worked really hard. I’m very engaged verbally with both of them with my expressions of love. But I have to be aware and purposeful about saying, ‘That’s the way I give and receive love the most. But that is less important to them. What would mean more to them is spending quality time with them.’ So here’s why I bring that up. If you are a words of affirmation person like me, you may naturally feel kind of fake and phony, purposefully spending time with your kids, giving them quality time when what you really want to say is, I love you. I really enjoyed going to your game tonight. So it’s important to note: it may feel a little disingenuous at the beginning. Here’s my encouragement to you – Fake it til you make it.’ I love that phrase. I think it’s so helpful. Fake it til you make it. It doesn’t have to be the most natural fit for you at the beginning. It’s not your natural fit, so that’s not an issue, that’s not a problem. It gives you the opportunity to realize you’re meeting them in their language. They feel the most loved when you spend time with them. Therefore, it may feel a little awkward. It may feel a little phony when you would just really rather say something, but it’s a meeting them in their language connection, and that’s very powerful.

Mistake number three is to do so begrudgingly. In other words… This is a true story. My acts of service percentage. So the quiz gives you percentages out of 100. So you see which percentage of the love languages all five you have. I have 0% acts of service. 0%. I could care less about someone doing an act of service for me. Now, do I appreciate it? Sure, but it’s not how I feel loved. So knowing that if I have someone in my life that’s an acts of service love language person, not my cup of tea. I don’t feel love that way. I don’t give love that way, so it’d be very easy for me to say, “You mean I have to go help them move so that they feel loved? I mean, don’t they just know that I love them? Because I got them a gift last week? And I don’t understand why I have to go serve them so they feel loved, I really wish I didn’t have to do this.” It can become a bone of contention. It can become something we do begrudgingly, because it’s not our natural language. So that’s a common mistake, a common pitfall. Be aware that when we are meeting someone else in their language, it needs to be done with grace. It needs to be done with kindness, and it needs to be done with the intention of helping them feel loved. Is that the way that I feel the most love? No. But it’s the way they feel the most loved, and I want them to feel loved. The end goal is ‘I want you to know that I love you.’ So I’m willing to do this even though it’s not really my thing. It’s your thing. I’m willing to do this because I want you to know how much you mean to me.

What to Do Next

So here’s your go to step. Now you’re going to need to visit the website so that you can take your own test. If you do not know your love language, that’s a really good place to start. Figure out how you feel the most loved, which of those five. And on the website, there are Children quizzes. There are teen quizzes. So no matter how old your child is, you can have them participate and learn their love language. The questions are changed based on the age of the child, and you have to choose which statement means more to you. So for kids, it might say, “Would you rather hear Let’s go do something fun together or You’re such an awesome kid.” So that’s quality time and words of affirmation, and they pick which one they would like better. 20 questions, really short. At the end, you get the breakdown of dominant love language and the percentages of all of them.

So start with yourself if you don’t already know it. Even if you’ve taken one before, it’s helpful to take one every few years because they can change depending on your season of life, depending on what’s going on. Depending on what relationships have been brought into your life, they can shift. So it’s helpful to keep an updated awareness of your love language. So take it. There are singles quizzes if you’re single. There are couples quizzes if you’re in a relationship. There’s kids, teens. All kinds of resources there. The website is the number five love languages dot com, so but it is not spelled out. It is the numerical number five love languages dot com slash quizzes. Visit there. Take the tests. Have your kids take the test to figure out what the love languages are. That begins the process of knowing every single day that you showed your kids that you love them and they felt loved as a result.

So think through, once you know. So your child comes back and you know they are a physical touch love language kid. Start thinking through what are ways that I can show them that I love them physically. I need to hug them or I need to give them high fives. I need to cuddle with them on the couch when they’re watching TV. Think through options of how to show your children the way that they best receive love in their language. And in the article that I’ve written previously, there are examples for all five. So if you need some tips, if you need some strategies, you want to have a jumping off point, check that article out. I think you’ll find that helpful.

Take Away

Here’s the take away. Parenting is hard. Parenting with kindness is harder, and this is a practical, easy, effective way to know every day that your kids felt that you were kind to them and your kids knew how much you loved them because you just changed a little bit of how you interact. I want to briefly tell a story to you. I was working with a family at my practice, and Mom and Dad complained of crazy behavior at home. He got violent. He was 10 at the time. He got violent. He would hit them, he would kick them, he would throw things and he was a big 10 too. So we’re not talking about, you know, a little 50 lb ten year old. He was a big kid. He would get so dysregulated and so angry and so upset that they all lived in fear. They were always worried about his volatility. They were always worried about his aggression. And so he was participating in play therapy with me. And over the course of time it became apparent to me that this was attention seeking stuff. So all of this stuff that was coming out, all these behaviors, all these tantrums, these meltdowns, these moments of aggression and anger and violence. It was when he felt that he wasn’t getting attention. He was the youngest of three. So here’s what we all realized. His love bucket wasn’t getting filled up. So I encouraged the parents to read The Five Love Languages for Kids book. They did. They had him take the test. They figured out that his love language was quality time. That step right there: They finally knew his love language was quality time. It changed everything. They started taking car rides with him and talking in the car. They started sitting down at night and watching a show with him on the couch. They started working on his homework with him so that he could talk about his day. Quality time became a focus in their family with him. By the way, their other two children were not quality time kids. So they started doing other things with the other two, but specifically for my client, they started giving him quality time. And they said it revolutionized their family dynamic, and it all came back to ‘He didn’t feel loved.’ And it wasn’t that they didn’t show him love. It was just that they showed him love in different ways, and what he needed was quality time.

This is powerful. You all need to understand how meaningful this can be in your family if you get a hold of what your kids need from you and you work on giving it to them. It’s such a simple change, but it makes a huge, huge difference. So I’m really excited about this. I’m very encouraged by the response that I get when parents do this. I think you will see a monumental change if you’re able to identify what love language is true for your children and then you work toward doing those types of things, so you will be equipped to create the positive outcome. This gives you the tool to say, ‘This kid needs me to give them gifts every once in a while. This kid needs me to do acts of service for them. This kid needs me to tell them how much they mean to me.’ It’s simple things, but it’s awareness and it really does change things. So I think that you will find this very helpful in your quest to be kind to your kids.

If you have not already, please subscribe to my podcast. Please subscribe to my email newsletter on my website. Like this piece of content. Comment below. Send me emails. Let me know what’s going on. Let me know what your experience is. Tell me what you found out about your kids’ love languages. I would love to hear updates from you. I work really hard to train you with effective tools, and that’s what I want for you. I want you to be equipped so that you are able to be kind to your kids.

Device Detox

If you have not already, please check out my book Device Detox. It’s available on Amazon. A play therapy model to get your kids to a healthy amount of screen time. So if your kids are on screens a lot, know that there is a resource for that as well. Device Detox, available on Amazon. Thank you so much for being a part of The Kid Counselor Family and The Play Therapy Parenting Family. I hope that you are able to be kind to your kids this week because you learned their love language and you know exactly what they need from you. We’ll talk again soon. Bye.

Cochran, N., Nordling, W., & Cochran, J. (2010). Child-Centered Play Therapy (1st ed.). Wiley.
VanFleet, R., Sywulak, A. E., & Sniscak, C. C. (2010). Child-centered play therapy. Guilford Press.
Landreth, G. L. (2002). Play therapy: The art of the relationship (2nd ed.). Brunner-Routledge.
Bratton, S. C., Landreth, G. L., Kellam, T., & Blackard, S. R. (2006). Child parent relationship therapy (CPRT) treatment manual: A 10-session filial therapy model for training parents. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
Benedict, Helen. Themes in Play Therapy. Used with permission to Heartland Play Therapy Institute.

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