This article talks about one of the 5 love languages, receiving gifts, and what it entails.
This love language is the easiest to understand, and for some parents, it is also the most convenient way to show love as they can simply buy things for their child. However, it is not easy to convey to your child that a certain gift is your expression of love and not just a superficial reward for doing something good. Hence, this love language is the easiest to do, but the hardest to execute correctly.
How Do Parents Use this Love Language?
As a love language, the gift must not be a reward for good behaviours. It should be given unconditionally. The following are 2 examples of associating gifts with conditions:
In one scenario, you can promise your child a brand-new game console if they achieve the targeted examination results. To them, that is an exchange based on a certain condition, and they “earned” the reward. Similarly, you may a reward chart in place where you set goals for them to work towards. Again, the name has already told them that this is a “reward”. In these 2 examples, your child only sees the gifts as a result of them doing certain actions. They do not see the gifts as an expression of your love towards them.
As an unconditional expression of love, the gift should be given spontaneously without any requiring any sort of performance or behaviours. You should also make it easy for your child to receive the gift, and make the process of giving the gift meaningful.
You can also create an atmosphere of fun, suspense or even joy during the process. For example, you can create a riddle where the answer “unlocks” the present, or set up a treasure hunt for your child to find the hidden gift. Take note how these mini-games are not tied in to any other conditions or expectations.
What Kind of Gifts Should I Give My Child?
The gifts neither need to be expensive nor bought, and can even be zero-cost items as long as you insert meaning into what you are giving. For example, simple personalized water-bottle for your child using a recycled soda bottle can have two teachable points.
You can teach them about up-cycling and how natural resources are limited, and at the same time create something that is uniquely theirs.
You are also teaching them about the value of things, instead of only looking at their price tags.
An Important Note for Parents
One reminder to all parents: NEVER use gifts as a form of compensation for a lack of time spent with your child. More importantly, do not use gifts to substitute the other love languages. This creates many undesirable outcomes, such as causing your child to believe that they can use a physical item to compensate for not expressing the love languages. They may develop the mindset that giving gifts or physical objects is enough to sustain and build relationships with others. Such skewed understanding may lead them to become materialistic or manipulative in future, which will affect their interpersonal relationships.
If you think you are guilty of having committed this mistake, it does not mean that the damage is permanent. Just be mindful, and be explicit about the intent of your presents. Remember that all the 5 love languages are not only to convey love, but also to guide in the growth of your child’s emotional maturity.