Show your child you love them, speak their love language

How do we show our love to our children in ways that they can feel it? Knowing their love language and using it to express our love can help us [...]

Have you ever praised your child for scoring well in a test only to be met with their lukewarm response? Or surprise them with gifts only to see their disappointed face? We tend to express love in ways that we wish to be reciprocated. But to a child whose love language differs from ours, they may not feel our love if it is expressed in ways that do not resonate with them.   

Two S P D social workers together with eight participants from one of the workshop sessions
A group photo of one of the workshop sessions. SPD Inclusion Champion Mdm Farah (6th from left) dropped by to support the event

In a caregiver workshop conducted earlier this month, our social workers Michelle Tham and Nur Khairina offer parents tips on identifying their child’s love languages and using them in their expression of love for their child. Here are some key insights from the session. 

Keeping your child’s emotional tank full 

Children show and receive love differently. Does your child like to be hugged or enjoys spending quality time with loved ones? Or do they thrive on praises? Each of these expressions represents a “love language”.  

Developed by Dr Gary Chapman, the five love languages are ways to fill up a person’s “emotional tank” or their need for love. This concept applies not only to children, but to couples, colleagues and families as well. 

A child whose emotional tank is full will feel happy and well-adjusted. On the contrary, the child may feel insecure and unloved when their emotional tank is running low or empty.  

Learning to express our love using our child’s love language can help to fill up their tank and forge a stronger parent-child bond.  

Identifying your child’s love language 

You can identify your child’s love language by observing how they show affection to those around them. Noticing what they most often request for can also give some clues about their needs. For instance, a child who frequently asks to spend more time with you may have quality time as their primary love language. Here is an overview of the five love languages. 

1. Acts of service

A mother helping her daughter in homework
Photo credit: Shutterstock 

Children with this love language appreciate it when others do nice things for them out of love, and not obligation. Performing acts of service requires thoughtful planning, time and effort. The idea is to do the things that are most meaningful and helpful to your child. ​For example, you could help your child to feed his pet if he is busy with homework.  

For a child with acts of service as their love language, it will mean a lot to them if parents keep to their promises. For example, if you have agreed to help your child to fix their toy this weekend, be sure to honour it. 

The following are more examples of acts of service: 

  • Cooking them their favourite dishes 
  • Guiding them in their homework  
  • Helping them to learn or practise a new skill, such as going over their lines for a school performance  

2. Gifts

A mother opening a gift with her daughter
Photo credit: Shutterstock 

A gift is a visible symbol of love. As the saying goes, it is the thought that counts, so the price of the gift is not the focus here. Even a handmade gift or something as intangible as your physical presence during important moments may be invaluable to a child with this love language.  

Some ideas for tangible gifts include: 

  • giving gifts that match the interests of your child 
  • selecting thoughtful or handmade gifts 
  • keeping a chart with stickers to document your child’s accomplishments 
  • putting together a photo album filled with memorable moments you have shared with your child 

3. Physical touch 

A young boy sitting on his father's lap as they read a book on the sofa
Photo credit: Shutterstock 

Physical touch includes any forms of contact such as holding your child’s hands or giving them a high-five. Such actions mean a lot to a child who values physical touch. 

However, some children may become embarrassed by outward displays of affection such as hugs and kisses from their parents as they grow older. In this case, you can give them a high-five or a pat on the back instead. 

For a child whose love language is physical touch, a slap or any kind of abuse or neglect can cause extreme emotional pain to them. 

Here are some ways that you can express your love through physical touch: 

  • sitting near or beside your child  
  • for younger children, give them hugs and kisses, or sit them on your lap while you read to them 
  • for older kids, give them a pat on the back, a high-five, or put an arm around their shoulders 
  • playing tag or giving your child piggyback rides  
  • cuddling close on the sofa while reading or watching TV together 

4. Quality Time 

A father putting his arm around his son's shoulder as he watches his son feed a toy bear in a game of pretend play
Image by pressfoto on Freepik

Give your child the gift of time by focusing your undivided attention while doing things with them. For instance, talking to them or engaging in activities together such as going to the beach or playing at the park. 

These experiences provide opportunities to create shared memories together while demonstrating to your child that you prioritise the time spent with them. 

Ways to spend quality time with your child: 

  • designating a special time to do things together with your child  
  • running errands with your child 
  • pausing what you are doing and making eye contact with your child when they talk to you 
  • doing fun activities together 

5. Words of Affirmation

Pink stickers with text of compliments pasted on a wooden wall. The text in image reads “Take a compliment".
Photo credit: Shutterstock 

Words, be it verbal or written, are powerful at conveying affection, praise and encouragement. Besides words, the tone of voice matter too in conveying a sense of warmth and love. 

When complimenting your child, specific praises work better than general ones. For instance, say “you did a good job by putting your toys away” instead of “you are a good boy”. 

A child whose love language is through words of affirmation can be adversely impacted by harsh words or when you scream or yell at them. Instead, give them positive and loving guidance. 

Tell your child that you love them by: 

  • saying “I love you”  
  • praising them when you see them doing something nice 
  • acknowledging both their efforts and accomplishments 
  • having an affectionate nickname for your child that only the two of you know 
  • writing brief love notes and putting them around the house 

Using your child’s love language can help you connect with them at a deeper level. While children may feel the love most from their primary love language, they still benefit from all expressions of love so do not focus on just one language and neglect the rest.  

Remember, even when both people speak their own love language loudly and regularly, if they are not speaking in the other person’s language, neither one will feel loved. 

Here is a short online quiz which you can try out to find out more about the love languages of you and your child. Have fun! 


The 5 love languages of children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell

How to Connect with Your Child Using Love Languages

Cover photo credit: Shutterstock