Understanding Your Child’s Love Language, Part 2 – Words of Affirmation

toddblogphoto1Can you complete this statement?

• Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words …

Do you agree with the statement? Why or why not?

Words have a lot of power behind them. How does it make you feel when you hear someone referred to as “stupid,” “overweight,” or a “failure”? Even words spoken in a joking manner can impact a person.

In The Five Love Languages of Children, Chapman and Campbell state, “Long before they can understand the meaning of words, children receive emotional messages. The tone of voice, the gentleness of mood, the ambiance of care, all communicate emotional warmth and love.” For children to understand the meaning of “I love you,” they must first understand the meaning of the word love. As you demonstrate love to children, they begin to connect the word with actions.

What types of words of affirmation can be used?

  1. Words of praise are used when a child achieves something or his behavior or attitudes are worthy of being pointed out. Praise is for something over which the child has a degree of control.  Because a child can learn when praise is given for justified reasons and when it is given just to make her feel better, praise should be appropriate and sincere. Praise should be specific: “Great job on your homework!” or “You did an outstanding  job at your piano recital!”
  2. Words of encouragement are used to encourage a child to continue in her efforts or to try more. “Come on, you can do it,” “You are almost there,” or “This is going to be the best” are some statements you can use to encourage your child. The goal is to catch your child doing something the correct way and encourage him to continue.
  3. Words of guidance are intended to help your child develop the qualities he will need throughout his life. Words of guidance must be spoken in a kind, gentle, loving manner, not a “do this or else” tone of voice.

One of my best friends has a 10-year-old son who is the poster child for words of affirmation. Spending time with the family reminds me of the principles Chapman and Campbell outline in their book. I notice this when our children play soccer. While Ethan is playing well as part of the team, his parents yell and support him, but as soon as Ethan makes a bad play, his dad begins to shout the correct plays. I have watched as Ethan immediately shuts down. His facial expressions change as well as his attitude toward the game. If the team wins, Ethan’s parents are full of praise and excitement. If the team loses, all of the bad plays are pointed out.

Ethan, as well as other children whose primary love language is words of affirmation, need correction, but they need it in ways that will not destroy their self-confidence or their desire to continue in sports or whatever activity they are participating in.

Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when dealing with the words of affirmation child:

  1. Watch your tone of voice.
  2. Select your words carefully.
  3. Use praise often, but sincerely.
  4. Guide your child to understand why and how he can improve without destroying his motivation.
  5. Write down your words of affirmation. Tuck a note in his lunch box or backpack.
  6. Use words to tell your child you love him.
  7. Avoid harsh and negative words.
  8. Remember – your child needs verbal affirmation of your actions.

Is your primary love language words of affirmation? What are some things (positive and negative) that have impacted you through your love language?