A look at the Book The Five Love Languages of Teenagers by Dr. Chapman
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Talking about the five love languages of teens- Episode 019
This week I am discussing the book The Five Love Languages of Teenagers by Dr. Gary Chapman. Dr. Chapman is a public speaker, author, and therapist. It should also be noted that he trained at a Baptist Seminary.
We talked about this book in the Parent Lab, and I wanted to share the takeaways.
Let’s keep it honest- I ordered this book not knowing what I was getting into, and at first, I didn’t like it. I kept thinking “We come from two different schools of thought. I don’t want to be preached at.” I was not impressed with it in the first few pages. I had to stop myself. I realized I was putting a judgment on this book and this person before I even gave it a chance. I was acting like a teenager (not even giving it a chance, dismissing it right away) and I had to check myself.
I’m trained in my profession not to bring my background into my work, and I can’t do it with this book either. And there’s actually some really good takeaways and food for thought from this book.
The five love languages are:
1. Words of affirmation
2. Physical touch
3. Quality time
4. Acts of service
We give and receive love in those categories.
The Five Love Languages
The Language of Love: Words of Affirmation
As an example, words of affirmation are positive, encouraging, caring. They’re not judgmental and they make you feel accepted. They’re words without ifs or buts. It’s not “Hey, you cleaned your room! Awesome…but you left a mess downstairs.” Or “You would be so beautiful if you would just stop dying your hair those crazy colors.
Cough, cough - Mom are you listening to this?
When did your child stop hearing words of love?
Dr. Chapman suggests we start to lose teens because we use the same techniques that worked when they were five.
The way we treat our kiddos when they’re younger – we expect them to listen, to follow us and they do so without question. When they start to ask why and you say “because I said so.” – that’s where your parenting ideas need to change, because no longer are our kiddos going to blindly follow what it is that we say.
They’re going to start reaching for independence. With that independence, it’s not like their love language is going to change, but the way we deliver it has to change.
I’d like you to take a moment and think about this:
· Has your parenting technique changed as your child has aged?
· Are you still telling your child they have to do something because you said so?
· Or, have you accepted that you have a hormonal teenager in the house and part of growing up IS to question and look for independence?
We can’t have it both ways. We can’t say “you’re going to be an adult, why aren’t you doing X,Y, and Z?” and coddle them, and expect them not to make decisions on their own. We want it both ways, but we can’t have it both ways.
Here’s the scariest thing I read in this book: If your teens are struggling to find their identities, and feel that they don’t measure up, what messages are they getting at home? If they’re getting more criticism, where do they go for their words of love and affirmations?
When I read that, I pictured my daughters cuddling up to a big biker dude with 10 nose rings in an RV and said “Dear God. I’m going to shower my children with words of affirmation right now so that doesn’t happen!”
Examples of words of affirmation:
· “I adore you.”
· “I’m proud of you.”
· “It’s a privilege to be your parent.”
The book says “I love you” might not be enough anymore.
We’re a big “I love you” family. And that got me thinking: If you hear that phrase often, does it hold the same meaning?
My bitty baby girl doesn’t say I love you very often. She’s like a cat. She gives you what she’s ready to give you, when she’s ready to give it. When she says I love you back, it’s like “I love you baby girl! Oh my gosh!!”
If you say “I love you” all the time, maybe you need to change up the words, to give it more meaning and power.
Language of Love: Physical Touch
Examples of this language of love include:
· High 5s
Basically, anything that soothes and comforts.
Especially in this age of “Me Too,” we need to teach our children about consent. Even if physical touch is their love language, if they’re not giving permission, don’t be hugging and kissing on them. Your child has the right to say when it’s okay.
When my older daughter gets angry, I want to show how much I love her, but it’s not the right place. Sometimes, when a kid is angry and upset, that hug might not be welcome in that moment.
The hugs that may be welcome when your child is eight may not be so welcome at 16. Hugs and kisses might not be right.
So how can you change it? Try a goofy handshake, or a touch on the shoulder.
As your kiddo has grown and matured, I want you to think about when you tried to give the gift of touch and it was pushed away – how did you feel? How did you react? Did you take it as a personal rejection? Or did you understand that maybe it just wasn’t the right time?
I think it’s helpful to parents to reflect on how they feel when kids push us away. I’m just starting to get a touch of it, and it hurts, dude.
My oldest daughter is starting to get to middle school age – it hurts. As she’s going through the ups and downs and I feel distance start to form, it scares me. It makes me wonder where these past years have gone. But, reading this book made me see that this is the way it goes.
Examples of the language of love that is physical touch: a handshake, holding hands in prayer, a gift of something soft, games that require touch.
If you have a child who doesn’t like physical touch so much, a weighted blanket can be a gift and it can supply this love language without a person administering that touch.
Language of Love: Quality Time
Quality time is undivided attention. It takes hours, not minutes. It takes intention and asking questions, and listening. There’s no agenda. At the end of quality time, you both should feel connected, and not alone.
One example in the book:
A father and son go to a sporting event. Afterward, the son said that he didn’t feel connection, because he and his father didn’t talk.
I don’t think it’s fair to say that quality time has to be full of talking. If you spend together in silence and walk away feeling okay and fulfilled, I think it did its job. If the kiddo walks away without that connection, there’s a problem.
One tip: When you do spend quality time, make sure the event is of interest to your child.
The other day, I watched those crazy Youtube videos where families play video games together. It’s probably not what the good Doctor had in mind for quality time, but you know what, it let me into their world. I was able to ask questions and I even started to feel rather hypnotized by it.
If your child has an interest in something that they want, let them take you to a gaming bar. Let them show you how to program something. I don’t know. I’m not in your home. Do something that is an interest to your child.
If, in that moment, (this is something the good doctor and I agree on) your child opens up to you and shares part of their life – do NOT jump in and start offering advice. Ask for permission to share with them.
One of the interesting things in the book is this:
Parents say “I try to include my child, but they say they’re busy and they don’t want to do it.” And then both get angry and the quality time is spent in misery and frustration.
Here’s the thing: Give your kiddo some notice. Your teen has a social calendar; they have things to do that don’t involve hanging out with their old parents. So, ask them when it fits their schedules.
Say “I’m trying to schedule some one-on-one time for just us. When do you have time?”
Treat them like an adult. You don’t want to pull them away from hanging out with their friends to hang out with you. Are they going to enjoy that? NO!
But, if you say “hey, this coming weekend, I’d like to schedule some time, just the two of us. Is there a day that works best for you?” Is that polite and respectful? Yeah! Treat them like an adult.
Dr. Chapman suggests making scheduled time a priority- and I think that’s very important. You don’t want to say “Hey! Friday, let’s go to a movie,” and have a work appointment come up on Friday. Put it on the calendar. Treat it like you would anything else.
Suggestions for quality time:
· Play board games
· Create a tradition
· If your child drives, plan a road trip – This one, I think he’s absolutely bonkers on.
I’m dreading the day my kiddos start to drive – I’ll probably die of a heart attack. If you’re cooler, calmer, and less of a control freak than me, let your kiddo drive you on a road trip. Let me know how it goes. I’ll be biting my nails as you do it.
Language of Love: Acts of Service
It’s doing things for your child or other people that are freely given. They are done without expectations. There’s no manipulation. He says if you give something with the expectation of something in return it’s not love language, that’s just bartering.
What can you teach your child, and what might they want to learn?
This is another case where, as your child ages, your acts of service might need to change.
An act of service when they were little might have been making their bed or tucking them in at night, things like that. When they get older, they might kind of push those things away. It doesn’t mean they don’t like acts of service anymore, but as they’re coming into their independence, tucking them in at night might not be there on the list.
One of the examples: teaching your child something that helps bring out their independence. For instance, if your child is going to drive soon, show them how to change the oil, show them how to change a tire. Show them how to balance a checkbook, or go to the bank. These are acts of service that say “Hey, you’re not a little kid anymore. I’m going to teach you the skills that you’ll need to thrive as an adult.”
What does your kiddo want to learn about?
It doesn’t have to be you teaching them. For instance, if my kiddos thrived on acts of service, I wouldn’t be the one to teach them how to change a tire, because I don’t know how to change a tire. But maybe I could set up a mentorship at a local car garage with someone to teach them.
If your child longs to be a ballerina and you have two left feet, your act of service would be lining someone up who can help them.
An act of service is not just what you can give to your child – it’s how you can help them grow their interest.
Take a moment, and think: when was the last time you did something like that for your kiddo?
Language of Love- Giving Gifts
I raised an eyebrow at this one. I was like, “What? I’m supposed to like, shower my child with gifts? My presence in their life is gift enough.” But always, through this book, I learned something.
A gift is, well, obviously a token of affection of some kind, given with ceremony, without manipulation. No battering, nad it can have no monetary value. No bribing, manipulating, or expecting.
“I’m going to buy you an iPhone if you have straight A’s on your report card” does not feed into a love language. That’s a bribe. That’s an FBI on your doorstep kind of bribe, okay?
The other thing I thought was interesting is this whole act of giving gifts tied in with something I like to see for my own kids: appreciation for the things they have. Maybe that means I’m giving it with expectation, which means its not a love language – Okay Dr. Chapman, you got me again!
But, for instance, buying shoes was something that was brought up in the book. If you go into the mall and buy your child a pair of shoes and they’re excited and their happy and they leave, it’s not a gift. It becomes an expectation. But to make it a gift, you explain to your child that they’re not going to wear the shoes out of the store. They’re not going to put them on when they get home. You go home and you wrap them. And then you present them in front of the family, to present them in some way to show that these shoes or this item is very special.
At first, I thought that was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard of, until I started thinking about my own children and how things that I have purchased for them become expectations because its’ what parents do.
Then I looked at Christmas this year. I got my older daughter a day at the salon to get her hair cut and dyed and I wrote a note and I wrapped it up. I was probably going to give this to her anyway. But, I thought, you know what, I’m going to put this under the tree and wrap it. And you know what? She freaked out. She was so excited about it. The other thing she said was “This is about as awesome as that time four years ago, when you guys gave me that signed permission slip so I could bring technology to school.”
I had forgotten all about that. But, because four years ago, we presented it to her as a gift, that meant all the more to her than if we’d said “You know what, I think you’re ready to have technology at school. We’re going to sign this and send it in.”
So, gosh darnit, the doctor was right. Presenting things in a certain way does make the gift come through clearer and have more meaning and value. Even if you’re a terrible wrapper like I am, it makes a difference.
So, when is a time that your kiddo really appreciated something because of the way you presented it? When is a time that they’ve simply come to expect stuff?
Is there a way you can do things differently?
The quote he wrote in his book was this: “When we diminish the ceremony, we diminish the emotional power of the gift.” And I just love that.
In the Parent Lab, we broke up this discussion in two parts and went more in-depth in the analysis of it. I admit it, I do recommend this book. The second half does go more into the “How to parent” type situations. But there’s good food for thought there. How to recognize your child’s love language, what to do if your relationship isn’t the best right now. He discusses how to help your teens with anger – lot of it is looking in the mirror and how you model anger and self-control. What to get on the wait list to join the parent lab? Sign up here!
A discussion of the book The Five Love Languages of Teenagers by Dr. Gary Chapman
How parenting techniques should adjust with age
Understanding the five love languages and how they change with age.
Marni Pasch| Host of School Counselor Gone Rogue| Academic Coach | Team Pasch Academic Coaching
I work with students in grades 6th and higher, who struggle with academic confidence and motivation. I help them survive school with less stress by helping them create concrete goals, tackle procrastination and learn creative study techniques. I empower students to take charge of their education and reach their goals. I do this through individual or group coaching so students achieve success in life, school, career readiness and their social endeavors.