Building on his successful first book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, Gary Chapman, Ph.D. has also written a companion book for children, The Five Love Languages of Children.
Clarifying the primary languages in which your child hears love is a powerful and highly transformational piece of information (no less so for adults too).
I encourage parents to read both books. Here's the five languages as a quick synopsis:
One of the more difficult truths about parenting is that we all make mistakes. Hasty words, busy days with misaligned priorities, or just plain bad luck. It's not about perfection. The greatest leverage as a parent is how we choose to do the clean up.
Owning mistakes, taking responsibility, explaining to our children (not justifying our bad behavior but clarifying our humanness), and apologizing all teach children empowering, maturing, lessons about humility, intention, and real caring.
“All the time a person is a child he is both a child and learning to be a parent. After he becomes a parent he becomes predom-inantly a parent reliving childhood.”
Dr. Benjamin Spock
Dr. Spock's words are powerful indeed. I like to say that you can never have only one child, for as soon as you have your first child, you are also reintroduced to your own inner child, your own childhood experience, once again.
What do I mean by your inner child? As you raise your children, you reconnect with yourself at that age. The places in your body, mind, and feelings, where memories reside. As we spend time in the company of our own and other children, our younger selves begin to whisper to us louder and louder.
You may find yourself flashing on an image of your mother's face as she changed your diaper. Perhaps the feel of your hand in your father's as he walked you to school. Or maybe that first secret kiss behind the bleachers. These memories can be rich, intimate, and filled with tenderness. And as you reconnect with them in a more immediate way, you reconnect with yourself more deeply. You experience more of the fullness of who you are.
There may be less pleasant memories too. Perhaps the hot flush of your face when a parent shamed you, undermining your sense of self by shaming who you were rather than what you did. There may be the surge of younger anger, when you felt misunderstood, alone, frightened. There may be sadness stemming from moving house, school, or an unrequited love.
While these experiences may have been blurred or even forgotten over time, they remain in our consciousness as unfinished business. As your children move through each age stage, they are likely to trigger these thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. Sometimes they may take you by surprise.
When you come across unfinished business, there are a number of ways to make the most of that opportunity and avoid re-enacting the behavior with your kids. Some suggestions are: