Marilyn Read, Life Coach and mother, brings us insights into how children in the same family need to be loved differently according to their personality needs. Treating them as individuals and not as ‘one shoe fits all’ is key to raising contented children, who are happy in their own skins.

When our children were young, my husband and I asked them each a simple question, “What do we do that makes you feel loved by us?” Both of them answered with surprising clarity. “When you make me toast and tea,” was the reply from our son. Our daughter explained that she felt loved when we say nice things and hug her.

What each of our children were referring to was differences in their love languages. Raised in the same family, they needed us to love them differently in order for them to feel loved.

Contrary to popular belief, love is not a mystery. Scientific research continues to confirm that human beings have a need to be loved. Children require safe, and ongoing closeness to build the bonds of love. Being responsive to our children establishes a secure connection with them and gives them the confidence to establish healthy connections with other people.

There are five basic love language categories: time, acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, and gifts.

The bids for attention might look different from children in the same family.

  • One child might feel loved by having quality time with you and receiving your undivided attention.
  • Another might benefit from acts of service (our toast and tea child). Doing something special fills these children’s love tanks.
  • Some children need words of affirmation and thrive on hearing positive words.
  • Others enjoy physical touch and their love language includes hugs, kisses, or snuggles. These children often feel rejected when they are ignored or dismissed.
  • Children whose love language is gifts, thrive on thoughtfulness, love and sacrifice. It’s not so much about the type of gift, but that the gift

shows they are loved, thought of and that sacrifices have been willingly made in order to give the gift.

Adopting a one size fits all parenting strategy might be efficient in the day to day management of getting things done quickly. However, children are remarkably unique. Getting to know them and their love language well, can be a great starting place of effective parenting.

I have heard many parents say that parenting is the most difficult role they have and yet, we often forget to ask our children for their help. We need to acknowledge that they are the experts of their love needs and allow them to guide us with how to love them well.

So the next time you have a moment with one of your children on their own, think of asking them the simple question, “What do I do that makes you feel loved by me?” And try not to be defensive when listening to their answers. Listening with a goal to understand, can help us greatly in building our connection and meeting one of the most basic human needs – to be loved well.

Marilyn Read – General Counsellor and Family Coach

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