If you want to know how to be a better parent and foster closer relationships with your children, learning the five love languages can help. First proposed by Gary Chapman in 1992, the five love languages have expanded to include not just adults and couples but also children. 

Read on to find out more about the love languages of children, including how to recognize them and how to speak your child’s love language in different ways.

The 5 love languages of children

For children, feeling loved is an important part of healthy development. The love they receive from their parents can affect who they are as adults and how they act in relationships throughout their life. This means it’s important to identify and respect your child’s love language from an early age.

When it comes to the love languages of children, it’s common for different children in the same family to have different love languages. You might find that you need to adapt how you show love and support to each of your children, depending on their love language

Here are the 5 love languages of children you need to know.

1. Words of affirmation

For some children, words of affirmation are the way they most like to receive love. Words of affirmation include affectionate phrases, praise and positive comments. 

You can recognize this particular type of love language in children who like to give compliments and seek out compliments from you. They might regularly tell you that you look nice or express how much they love you every day.

You can show your love to children with this love language by:

  • Saying “I love you” regularly
  • Being specific and descriptive in your praise e.g. “I like the way you use different colors in this painting”
  • Recognizing their effort e.g. “I can see that you worked really hard on building this”
  • Leaving love notes around the house or in their lunchbox
  • Come up with an affectionate nickname for your child that only the two of you use

For children whose love language is words of affirmation, criticism and harsh words can be especially damaging. Even the smallest insults will hurt these children. Try to avoid these common pitfalls as much as possible.

2. Physical touch

Among the five love languages of children, physical touch is arguably the easiest to recognize. Children who have physical touch as their primary love language will want to be close to you as much as possible. They’ll constantly be in your space looking for hugs, kisses and hand-holding.

You can show your love to children with this love language by:

  • Giving them goodnight and good morning hugs
  • Holding hands or putting your hand on their shoulder
  • Snuggling on the couch
  • Having group hugs with the whole family
  • Playing physical games like piggyback rides or wrestling

If your child’s love language is physical touch, it’s more important than ever not to use physical discipline or distance as a form of punishment. Isolating your child from you, for instance by refusing to hug them, is especially extreme to these children so keep this in mind when you’re parenting.

3. Acts of service

Parents of children with acts of service as their primary love language can have a difficult balancing act to deal with. Acts of service is all about helping your child and going above and beyond for them, for instance fixing their toy or helping them tidy their room. 

With this love language, it’s important to remember that you also need to teach self-reliance. When taken too far, this love language can quickly feel like you’re becoming a slave! Try to engage in acts of service now and again to show them support but make sure you keep boundaries too.

You can show your love to children with this love language by:

  • Sitting with them to help with homework
  • Taking them step-by-step through the process of learning a new skill
  • Helping them with bath time or brushing their hair
  • Making them their favorite meal as a surprise
  • Doing small gestures like fluffing their pillow or tucking in their duvet at bedtime

Disciplining children whose primary love language is acts of service takes some consideration. It’s important not to let the requests pile up but at the same time, flatly refusing to do something when they ask for help can be difficult for these children. This means parenting children with this love language needs to be a careful balance.

4. Quality time

For some children, the best way to show love is simply by focusing your attention on them. Though being a parent can make you feel like you never have enough time in the day, for children whose love language is quality time, it’s crucial to stop and spend time with them.

Among the five love languages of children, quality time is the most open-ended. What you do is not as important as how you do it. To show affection in this way, you need to prioritize one-on-one time doing any activity that you both enjoy.

You can recognize this love language in children who beg to spend time with you, saying phrases like “play with me” or “come and see this!”

You can show your love to children with this love language by:

  • Making space every day for one-to-one time
  • Organizing solo days out with just you and your child
  • Doing simple activities together like drawing or walking
  • Making eye contact when your child is telling you something
  • Bringing your child with you to run errands

If your child’s love language is quality time, telling your child to go to their room or not letting them take part in family activities is a severe punishment. Find other ways to discipline your quality time-loving child to build a strong and trusting bond.

5. Gift giving

When it comes to the five love languages of children, gift giving is perhaps the easiest to misinterpret. To show love to a child whose primary love language is gift giving, it doesn’t mean you have to spoil them. Even the smallest tokens can be enough to show your love.

A child who brings you things like small flowers, shells or their favorite toys probably have gift giving as their primary love language. They might ask another adult for help getting you a special gift for your birthday that they’ve thought carefully about. This is a clear sign.

You can show your love to children with this love language by:

  • Making homemade presents on random days like a small card or cookies
  • Taking time to choose a thoughtful and meaningful birthday present
  • Giving gifts that relate to your child’s interests
  • Showing your appreciation for their gifts e.g. hanging their artwork on the fridge
  • Keeping a star or sticker chart to record their achievements

For children who love to show and receive love through gifts, things will be more important to them than other children. Taking away a gift or confiscating an important possession as a form of punishment will be especially harsh for these children. Keep this in mind when parenting children with this love language.

Want to know more about how you express love? Truity's new Love Styles Test measures seven modern ways of showing and receiving love.

Elizabeth Harris
Elizabeth is a freelance writer and ghostwriter. She’s an anthropologist at heart and loves using social theory to get deeper into the topics she writes about. Born in the UK, Elizabeth has lived in Copenhagen, Frankfurt and Dubai before moving most recently to Budapest, Hungary. She’s an ENTJ with ENFJ leanings. Find out more about her work at bethharris.com