Speaking Your Child’s (Love) Language

“OMIGAAAWWSH, will you please come home and wrestle with our son!?!,” I huffed to my husband over the phone.

My husband had been out of town for two weeks, and my son kept coming at me with his foam sword.

When my husband travels, I feel like I pretty much have this solo parenting thing down. Except, I always notice my son gets more aggressive when my husband is gone for a while. My son hits me with his sword, wants to battle me with his light saber, and is constantly on the verge of being able to take me down in some 1980s-era-off-the-ropes-Hulk-Hogan-move.

“I don’t want to wrestle,” I whine to my son, as I dodge his blows, and countdown how long it’s going to be until my husband comes home.

Not too long ago, I was out to dinner in San Francisco with the fabulous Otterladies. We were talking about “love languages,” and how gift-giving is not ours.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, The 5 Love Languages is clever. It’s like this: if you only speak English, and someone is telling you in Swahili (or French, or any language you don’t speak) that they love you, you’re never going to understand.

When it comes to love, the “languages” are: gift-giving, acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, and physical touch. So, if your significant other is buying you gifts all the time, and gift-giving is not your love language, you’re going to wonder why this person is wasting all of their money buying you stuff you don’t need. When they’re wondering why they’re screaming, “I LOVE YOU,” at the top of their lungs (and all you’re hearing is a bunch of Swahili-gibberish).

The key is figuring out which love language is yours, and which one your significant other speaks.

I was thinking about the conversation on my drive home, and I remembered that there was a parenting version of this book.

I decided to skim it to see if there was something that could help me in dealing with my son.

He’s had a lot going on in his life: a new baby brother, starting Kindergarten in a Spanish-immersion school (when he doesn’t speak any Spanish), and getting ready for a cross-country move. His behavior has mirrored all of these stresses in his life, and I’ve just chalked it up to that. But, I was wondering if maybe there was something more I could do.

I read the book, and it kind of confirmed what I had thought going into it. I’m already checking off all my boxes.

Quality time? I try to regularly take each kid out on an individual date.

Words of affirmation? I blow this kid’s ego up so badly he’s going to make millennials look humble.

Gift-giving? It’s not my thing, but I try to surprise him with buying him new things every once in a while.

Acts of service? Um, hello, that may as well be every parents’ job description.

Physical touch? I try to kiss him and hug him so often that he squirms when I get near him.

Ugh. Back to the drawing board.

But, then one night as I’m trying to cook dinner with a toddler on my ankle and an infant on my nipple, and my son comes charging at me, yelling, “Do you want to battle?”, it hits me. I’m not speaking his love language at all.

His love language is PHYSICAL TOUCH, but not in the typical fashion. He wants to wrestle. 

I picked up the book again, and found this:

Many boys go through a stage where they are resistant to affectionate touch, and yet they still need physical contact. They tend to be responsive to more vigorous contact such as wrestling, jostling, playful hitting, bear hugs, high fives, and the like.

My instincts told me this wasn’t the proper way to parent. But then I remembered that our liberal, Northern California preschool has no problem with wrestling. They say it’s a normal stage of development. The teachers even put mats down on the floor and let the kids go at it. They say it’s a form of affection.

So, the next time my son asked me if I wanted to battle, I put the toddler, the infant and the cooking spoon down. I got down on all fours and said to my son, “Bring it on.”

He was so caught off guard, he paused, not knowing what to do. Then, a smile spread across his face, and he charged at me.

He tackled me to the floor, threw a few punches and pinned me to the ground. We couldn’t stop giggling.

“Langston in a rare moment of physical affection”

That night, as I was putting him to bed, I asked him what the best part of his day was (as I always do). He said, “Wrestling with you.”

Now, when he comes at me with his sword, I grab his light saber. I’m not afraid of you, kid.

It’s certainly not my love language. But, apparently, it’s his.

And the beauty of all this? Every time my son is acting up, I get to rough him up a bit. JK.

What do you think your child’s love language is? How did you find it?

Julie Forbes

Julie Forbes

Julie Kroenig Forbes graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She spent the next 10 years working as a news anchor and reporter in various cities, most recently in Nashville, Tennessee. After a few years in Northern California, she now lives in New York City with her husband and four kids
Julie Forbes