This post by Jean Matthew Hall is part of a ten-part series for parents on the Five Love Languages of Children. It is based primarily on the book The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell, M.D. (Northfield Publishing, 1997)
Words are powerful!
Words of affirmation, affection, praise, guidance and encouragement tell children that we care about them and that they are important to us. However, cutting words, words of frustration and anger, insults, beratements erode children’s self esteem and confidence. Something many parents forget is that the TONE and VOLUME of words communicate as much as the words themselves.
This recognition begins in infancy. Newborns recognize the voices of those who care for them. Infants soon learn to discern communication by facial expressions. The tone and volume of voices around them get emotional reactions from infants, too.
Positive verbal communication is vital to children of all ages and stages. This doesn’t mean that parents and caregivers should ONLY say positive things. But negative or disciplinary words need to be said in calm tones and volume.
Affirmation, Praise, and Affection:
• Affirmation is another word for encouragement. It can take many forms.
• Praise is an expression for things a child does or says.
• Affection is an expression of love and appreciation for who the child IS—your son or daughter, a gift from God to your family.
Cautions about Praise:
• Praise the character behind the action—not the skill or talent involved in the action. Talent is an unearned gift from God. The hard work and persistence involved in perfecting talent is good character.
• Children know when your praise is phony, or when you give it just to make them feel better.
• Praising too much or too often dilutes the loving power of praise. Children respond either by starting to expect it all the time, or by ignoring it as insincere.
Words of Guidance:
As children grow, they continue to need words of affirmation. This often takes the form of guidance in learning new skills or in correcting bad behavior. It’s vital for parents to mentally separate the bad behavior from the child’s person. Yes, children need discipline and sometimes punishment as part of guidance. But guide with LOVE.
Always think How is what I’m saying and doing going to affect my child as an adult? Is what I’m saying and doing going to build my child up, or tear them down?
For children whose primary Love Language is Words of Affirmation:
• The words “I love you” should always stand alone. Saying “I love you. Will you do ________ for me?” sends the wrong message. Saying “I love you because you are___________ or do ________” is destructive.
• Words of condemnation CRUSH this child
• Words of affirmation give this child a super boost of confidence and courage.
• Tone and volume are as powerful as the words themselves.
• They love to tell YOU how much they love you. They love to write notes and poems, to color pictures (when they are little) to show you the same. Make a big deal of such expressions and cherish them.