The first of the five languages that we will be tackling is Words of Affirmation. A lot of us, especially in Filipino family culture, forgo affirming our loved ones with words because we grew up believing that “actions speak louder than words”. While this quote is true, as parents of young children, it is important for us to also understand that showing love to our children is multi-faceted, and should not be limited to just actions. Simply assuming that your child knows that you love them because you provide food and shelter for them can be damaging to your child’s self-esteem and confidence in the long run.
Why is it important?
Despite the challenges that verbal affirmations may bring (i.e. it is something new, it makes you feel uncomfortable or pretentious, etc.), doing so is a great way to level with your child and help them see and understand that they are loved. Since “love” is an abstract concept, children need to see, feel, or hear love, just like how they can with toys or books. “Because children tend to think concretely, we need to help them understand what we mean when we express our love (Chapman, 2012).” This also means sitting down and talking your child through the loving words or phrases that you may have introduced to them.
Praise and Encouragement
“Affection and love mean expressing appreciation for the very being of a child, for those characteristics and abilities that are part of the total package of the person. In contrast, we express praise for what the child does, either in achievements or behavior or conscious attitudes. Praise, as we are using it here, is for something over which the child has a degree of control.”
Effective praise and encouragement:
Be in the best health, holistically. We cannot give encouragement and praise when we ourselves are not in the proper overall health to do so.
Have a support system from whom you receive your encouragement.
Be specific with what behavior you are giving praise for (avoid praises like “good job!” or “good boy/girl”. Instead say, “I love how you painted your work!” or “Great job packing away your toys.”
Give praise where it is due. Giving praise too often reduces its meaning and the child will not appreciate it later on. Kids can tell when the praise given is justified.
What to do if your child’s love language is Words of Affirmation?
Make a mindful effort to tell your child that you love them. It is best to do this at least once a day!
Take note of the positive or pleasing behaviors that your child does around your house, and call them out for it (in a good way!).
If you have a hard time finding the right words to say, you can have a “Words of Affirmation” journal (either a notebook or on your phone’s notes), and write down interesting affirmations that you will hear when you’re around family, friends or just out in public.
Learning new habits is a challenge and it takes time. If you fall back into your old habits of saying negative words or even failing to affirm your child, there is no harm in saying “sorry” for your shortcomings, and then reassure your child that you will do better next time.
References: Chapman, G. D., & Campbell, R. (2012). The 5 love languages of children: The secret to loving children effectively.