Friday, October 05, 2007

Love Is A Verb

A friend taught me once about how we can connect more directly with our children by observing how they show their love, and in turn, respond to them in the same way. For example, if a child brings us pictures they have drawn, pretty rocks they have found, a feather, a stuffed animal, it is their way of showing love. It is important to them to have a tactile symbol to represent that affection. So we, in turn, might do the same to them: a valentine, a picture of the 2 of you, a letter expressing their importance to you, a seashell or pressed flower as a reminder of a special day. Another example is a child who talks to you, sharing his day, follows you around the house, wants you to stay a bit longer by his bed at night, lingers at the door as you leave, asks you to stay to help with homework, although not much help is needed. The optimum response to this child is your time, conversation, listening, taking walks, singing a song or working on a project together, taking the long way home. Then there is the child who gives big bear hugs, tackles, pats your hand as he walks by, hangs on your arm, gets SO close to your face with a big grin, smells your arm and sighs. His appreciation for a physical show of affection is apparent, so tousle his hair, squeeze him back, race him, hold his face in your hands and look him in the eye and tell him he is awesome, hold him when he is sad. A child that expresses her feelings verbally and often, asking for your opinion and summing up observations, drawing conclusions and sharing ideas, leaves herself open to praise or criticism, but expects and needs feedback. Listening and responding, verbally, is a show of love this child understands best, and needs most often, "You look so pretty!", "You did a wonderful job helping your sister.", "Let's talk about it and work it out.", "I love you, more each day." There are more examples; a child who does acts of service, little shows of effort, time, or energy. One who creates for others, in art, writing, or music. One who takes on the interests of others to learn and enjoy and share back again. Think of the children you know, or even the adults, and I bet you can put them near, if not completely into, these categories. In raising 4 children, 4 individual children, I have found this study to be really helpful, when I remember it, in reaching my children and responding to their needs, in letting them know I love them. Of course their shows of love and affection are not confined to one category, and my responses are not only in that one corresponding way, but there is a definite area, verbal, time spent, physical, tactile representation, where they can be reached more readily, when I remember who they are, and how they express themselves. Of course, I fail many times, but sometimes, my friend's ideas come back to me and I can go and try again, applying this knowledge about these unique spirits under my care, and it works. It does. Keep in mind, I also fall into one of these categories, as does my husband, and so, we have to step outside of ourselves to reach each other. Being a family is not about "me". It is about "what I can do to help you feel loved and safe". If everyone is doing that, then we don't have to worry about "me". Not at home.


Shelli said...

I love this entry.
Everyone should read it. I'm ready to try this with my children and hubby.
Thanks for the beautiful thoughts!

Jessica said...

What a great reminder! Thanks. I really believe this is true. You are such a good writer!

Trev said...

some of the most insightful words I've read in a while. Food for thought, including dessert!