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The Five Love Languages of Children, Part 7: Gifts

For the past six blog entries, I have explored and discussed the various ways in which children express, and hope to receive, love. According to authors Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell in their book “The Five Love Languages of Children,” there are five ways in which children view love: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. Please refer to the following articles to learn about the first three love languages:

Today, I will be discussing the fourth love language, gifts.

Many children like gifts and often enjoy the sensation that comes with receiving gifts. However, that does not mean that the child’s primary love language is gifts. For children whose primary love language is gifts, they will receive gifts in a different manner. Often times, these children will pay close to the details - was the gift wrapped? What kind of wrapping paper was used? Did it have a card? They will likely want the parent to be closely watching as these children open the gift and may make “ohhh” or “ahhh” sounds during the gift opening process. For these children, receiving gifts is about the experience and the connection between a parent and a child. Therefore, it is not about the gift, but creating a special moment with a parent.

It is especially important for a child that the gift is genuine. It is not uncommon for parents to give gifts as a reward. Many parents set-up reward charts for good behavior. For example, when a child gets a certain amount of stars, the reward is picking out a toy. This can be a great reward option for some families. However, this type of gift is different than giving a gift out of love. This gift is conditional (i.e. the child displays good behavior which is then rewarded with a gift) whereas a genuine gift may be seen more aligned with the idea “I thought of you today and I wanted to express that love.”

Psychology

Some parents may also provide children with gifts out of a parent’s own personal emotional distress. Most commonly, parents provide children with gifts out of guilt. For example, if a child does not see a parent frequently, gift giving may be a way for the parent to try to create a connection. Or maybe a parent is not affectionate and gives gifts to compensate for a lack of saying “I love you” or giving hugs. Maybe the parent and child got into a fight, and the parent’s gift can be seen as an “I’m sorry.” Once again, these gifts stem from a parent’s own discomfort. A parent may truly be attempting to express love to a child through this gift, however, children will pick-up on the non-verbal cues associated with the gift. During these times, it is not uncommon for the gift to lose all or any meaning to the child. 

As such, gifts should be given in combination of the other love languages. Make the gift-giving experience a moment to have quality time. Talk about the gift, ask the child questions about the gift, and take the time to answer the child’s questions about the gift. If genuine, tell the child “I love you” and give the child a hug during the gift giving process - all of these love languages combine to make the gift-giving moment truly special for the child.

Remember, giving gifts as an expression of love is seemingly a random act rather than an expected occurrence. Therefore, this type of gift giving is different than receiving gifts for holidays. In the love language of gifts is not about the size of the gift or how much the gift costs, but about showing an expression of love.

Come back next week as I discuss the last love language of children, acts of service.

If you have enjoyed reading these blog entries on the love languages of children and would like more specific information, therapy may be a great option to address specific concerns. Whether you are interested in individual therapy for yourself or your child, couples therapy, or family therapy, there are many options to create personalized goals for you and your family. For more information on therapy, you can visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services. If you would like to schedule an appointment, you can contact us at Hilber Psychological Services.