• How Children Show Love w/Nina Kosubevsky

    Your child doesn’t seem to engage with you in conversation with you. Try as you might, they don’t talk at the dinner table, they don’t want to watch television with you, and generally speaking, they may seem apathetic about your ‘grown-up’ lives.  Maybe you’ve even tried a variety of activities in order to connect with them, but nothing seems to work. It might be that you’re showing them love in a way they naturally receive it.

    Over the past posts in our series on relationships, we’ve focused on understanding how to have more fulfilling relationships as well as how our personality interacts with how you experience love, particularly in relationships. As the third part in our series, we wanted to focus on another vital relationship in many people’s lives: the relationship between parent and child. Nina, as a child therapy specialist, has a unique understanding of parent-child interaction, and below, we’ll discuss how those interactions can often rely heavily on understanding how children and adolescents communicate as well as how we can reach them.

    A Child’s Expression of Love


    Being able to speak your show and receive love from your child can be pivotal in their success in life, not just in building a stronger relationship between you and them. As Dr Chapman, the originator of  the Love Languages theory points out,  “Your children will reach their highest motivation and success in learning at school when they are secure in your love.” By understanding how your children receive love, you can enhance their daily lives.

    If your child reacts harshly to being yelled at or being told they are doing something wrong and vice versa react strongly when they are praised. This may be a sign your child needs words of affirmation. If your child always wants to be holding your hand or physically close to you, this is they require physical touch.

    It can often be hard to identify this in children. They often don’t have the words to express what they need. In order to understand ways your children show and receive love, you can employ a series of steps.

    If you’ve struggled with understanding this, you aren’t alone. That’s why there are certain steps you can take in understanding your child:

    1. How does your child show love for you?
      • If your child is always telling you how much they appreciate you, such as by saying “Mommy, thank you for helping me with that project”, “Daddy, you’re the best”, or “I love you, Mommy”, you can assume that they receive love in words of affirmation. As Chapman (2012) points out, “if your child constantly solicits comments on his work,” then they are asking you for words of affirmation. Through what your child does, you can understand what they need.
    2. How does your child show love to others?
      • If your child wants to bring in an apple for his teacher, he may be a gift giver. If your daughter is always raving about their teacher and makes them a card for Christmas to tell them how they’ve changed their life, then it may be your child is a natural gift giver. Similar to above, but applied outwardly to the world, we can notice differences in how children interact with others.
    3. Listen to what your child asks for.
      • If your child often asks you to read a story with them or to watch a show with them, this signifies their language might be quality time. Perhaps they want to play with you, jump on a trampoline together, or spend time doing some activity. These are also other ways of seeing that they are looking for quality time. If they are always asking ‘How did I do?’, they likely want words of affirmation.
    4. Listen to what your child complains about.
      • If your child often gets upset that you never play with them or that you have not read a book together in a while. This is their way of stating they are missing quality time with you. If they complain that your gifts for them are always ‘plain’ or normal, then they likely receive love through gifts.
    5. Give your child options.
      • A great way to determine your child’s language is by giving them choices. For example asking your child, if they prefer you bring them a gift back from work travels or if they prefer you take the day off when you get back and see a movie with them. Their answer will show you if their language is gift giving or quality time.


    If your child, for example, is someone for whom physical touch is important, then you may need to give them a literal pat on the back as opposed to a verbal one (words of affirmation). In this way, because their love tank is filled, they will be more motivated at school and more engaged both in home activities and academic pursuits, and thus you’ll develop in a secure and loving home.

    What I’ve outlined here just the first step in working towards building a more profound relationship with your children. In therapy, we work towards meeting children where they’re at and helping them work through their emotions so that they can have fulfilling childhoods and develop into successful adults. With an understanding of how your children show you love, you an connect with your children more and develop the relationships you desire.

    If you feel as though you or your child would benefit from seeing a therapist, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with our intake coordinator. She’ll help get you set up with the therapist that can best meet you or your child’s needs.

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