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The Five Love Languages of Children, Part 9: Acts of Service

Last week, I discussed the final love language of children, acts of service, based on the book “The Five Love Languages of Children” by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. In case you missed it, please follow the links below to read previous posts about the various love languages of children:

  1. Physical Touch (Part 1 and Part 2)
  2. Words of Affirmation (Part 1 and Part 2)
  3. Quality Time (Part 1 and Part 2)
  4. Gifts
  5. Acts of Service (Part 1)

Today, I will continue to discuss the final love language of children, acts of service, to provide some tips, tricks, and tidbits on how to incorporate acts of service into a parent-child relationship.

Love language

It is easy for parents to have hopes, wishes, and dreams for their children. A part of incorporating acts of service into a parent-child relationship is a parent’s acknowledgement that the child is not an extension of the parent, but rather an individual. This means that it is important for parents to allow their children to develop their own skills, abilities, and goals without the parents pushing their own unfulfilled wishes or desires upon their children. A parent’s goal is to help guide a child and give the child room to explore their own autonomy. This does not include giving a child a detailed map stating what the rest of the child’s life will look like.

For children whose primary love language is acts of service, requesting help from a parent is more about creating a connection then receiving the help. Because it is about connection for the child, a parent’s response may negatively impact the parent-child relationship.

For example, an adolescent approaches his mother while she is reading and asks, “Mom, will you cook me breakfast?” Without looking up, his mother snaps to him, “No you know how to cook it yourself.” In this instance, the son was not just asking for food, but to engage with his mother. This response may leave the son feeling defeated and upset. Parents do not need to jump at every request but should remain sensitive a child’s requests and recognize that it is motivated by a child’s need for connection.

Instead of snapping at her child in the above example, an alternative response may have looked more like this: “I’m sorry, I cannot cook right now. Would it be okay if you made something yourself and then we can do something together later?” In this way, the mother is still denying the request, however, she is also addressing her son’s need to connect.

As a parent, when providing acts of service for a child, it is important to help a child regardless of the child’s behavior. For example, some parents may feel that they can only help a child when the child behaves well and may choose not to help a child if a child is behaving poorly. This will ultimately teach a child that love is conditional and must be earned. This is not a message a parent should teach a child - love is unconditional, and therefore, a parent’s role is to support and help a child as needed, whether the child has had a good day or a bad day.

Below is a list of tips, tricks, and tidbits to help parents connect with a child whose love language is acts of service:

  • Children will notice a parent who does things for others out of love, not obligation, and will model this behavior
  • For younger children, have them help with chores or cooking. This will not only show the child skills for future independence, but will also allow parent and child to connect with one another
  • As children get older, engage in the community together such as through volunteering and/or walking for awareness or a cause
  • Respond to a child’s request - not react. If a parent refuses a child, pushes the child away, or responds to a child in a harsh or critical tone, it may impact the child’s emotional tank

And remember, a parent does not need to say “yes” to a child’s every request. However, a parent should try to remain sensitive to a child’s request, recognize it as a bid for connection, and respond in a gentle manner.

If you enjoyed reading about the five love languages of children and would like to learn how to incorporate these languages into your own relationship with your child, therapy can be a safe space to explore these connections. From individual therapy, to family therapy, to couples therapy, there are lots of ways to create connection and explore specific and unique patterns within a family. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us.