During the Shelter-at-Home, you may have experienced your child “acting out.” There could be several reasons for this. Phycologists have confirmed that anxious thoughts in children trigger the brain to send out warning signals to parents. Before the pandemic, I played a “game” with my boys. The results of the game have proven to be extremely beneficial now that we are spending so much time confined in the same house. During our game, I identified their “Love Language.”

You may be familiar with the book and the concepts: The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, which was published in 1992 by Gary Chapman. Since its initial release, it has remained on The New York Times Best Seller list and has generated many sequels in the series. In the book, Chapman explains that there are five ways to express love emotionally. Each person has a primary love language that we must learn to speak if we want that person to feel loved AKA fill their “love tank.”

For the “game,” I defined each love language in age-appropriate language and asked my sons to draw a picture representing what it meant to them.

Words of Affirmation, I explained, is when mommy says kind words to you. “It is when I tell you I am proud of you and express my love for you.”

Acts of Service was also easy for me to explain,“This is when mommy helps fold your clothes and volunteers at your school. “

However, Receiving Gifts was a little more difficult. I told them “This is not when you get Christmas or birthday gifts. This is when you get a treat from me without you asking.“

Quality Time, I continued, is when Mommy puts down her phone and gives you my full attention.

Lastly, Physical Touch is when I give you hugs and kisses.

After each son drew a picture of how they interpreted my definitions, I got poster paper and drew an 8.5 x 11 squares on the poster. I labeled each square number 1 through 5 in numerical order. I gave each son a glue stick and said, “Please rank each picture and glue it to the poster. I want you to rank the picture that represents the way you feel most loved by Mommy.” I continued, “What makes you know I love you?”

Full disclosure, my love language is words of affirmation. So, I was shocked when each son ranked that as last. I then realized that I give them words of affirmation daily. It’s the way I express my love. It wasn’t least important to them, exactly, but I realized that their “love tank” was already full of affirmations.

Cameron, my 8-year-old ranked quality time as number one. I probed, “What does quality time mean to you?” He responded, “Mom, I like it when you pick us up early on Fridays from the Boys & Girls Club and we go to the library together.” My jaw dropped. Was it that simple?

Caleb, my 7-year-old, ranked receiving gifts as number one. When I asked for clarification, I assumed he was going to ask for a new skateboard. Instead, he said, “Mom, I like it when I have a good day at school, so you take me to eat frozen yogurt.” Again, I was amazed at what simple gestures had such an effect on them.

I explained our Love Language game and revelations to the boy’s school principal and Caleb’s teacher. We realized that Caleb was motivated by rewards, so we amplified his rewards at school. After a month of rewarding Caleb for his good decisions with stickers, we saw a huge improvement in his behavior and motivation.

My husband and I also made sure we filled our boy’s love tank daily. For example, when we go for walks, I’ll say to Cameron, “I love our quality time together.” And he grins from ear to ear.

During our Shelter-at-Home, I have continued to fill each of my boy’s love tanks. Balancing homeschooling and working full-time has been difficult for my husband and me, but it’s the simple gestures that matter most to our children. I am committed to making the best memories for them during this time.

The bonus: my sons know my love language, so they tell me how pretty I am. This is proven to be very uplifting to me when I struggle to get in the shower, let alone put on make-up during the lockdown.

Further Reading
The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively ISBN: 0802412858

The 5 Love Languages of Your Family ISBN: 0802413331

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Claudette Shatto has lived in the Napa Valley for 20 years. She is married with two elementary-aged children. Although she is extremely active in her community and her sons’ school, she is not your average PTA Mom.  She avoids the Pinterest-inspired classroom potlucks and instead lends her expertise to the school’s digital communication efforts.
When not teaching at Napa Valley College you can find her in an elementary classroom teaching the Entrepreneur Mindset to 5th graders.  Her recent passion project is teaching leadership to kindergarten and first graders. She is a classic type A, life-long over-achiever and is dedicated to serving her community.