Let me state the obvious: kids need snuggles. And yet, it can be more complicated than that. Babies must be held, of course, and yet even among babies you can observe different responses to different forms of touch. One child likes to be swaddled, another panics. One likes rocking, another wants to bounce or stroll. Some do not like to be snuggled at all- unless they’re sick- then they must be on mom’s lap at all times. Figuring out these things-- this is decoding your child’s love language! See, you are already doing it!
Yet, as they grow older, needs change, and preferences change. One of my children refuses physical affection in public, and I respect that, when I remember! I accidentally kissed him on the cheek at a basketball game and I will forever treasure his sweet but embarrassed response! I apologized, and I have learned to treasure the affection he gives in the privacy of our home all that much more.
My baby boys, when they turned into preschoolers, still want to be touched, but they do not want calm touches! Poking, tickling, chasing, tripping, zerbiting, punching- each one of these things can communicate love! My preschool boys taught me this lesson: some young children seem to have a daily need for wrestling. Seriously- if you have one of these children, put “wrestle time” on your personal list of daily jobs. (See also “ 13 great reasons to tackle your child,” http://www.weakandloved.com/2012/01/13-great-reasons-to-tackle-your-child.html )
One of the best things about the littlest children - they will tell you exactly what they like and don’t like. The snugglers in my family tend to be very direct about their needs: “It’s my turn to sit on your lap!” “Mommy, give me a piggy kiss!” “Can you scratch my back? No, with your claws, like this.” “Mommy, will you pet my head while you read me a story?”
How refreshing it is- this direct, uncomplicated asking for affection. It is as if they are telling me, “Mommy, I need a bit of love now, and you can give it to me like this.”
Do you have snuggles?
Kids need snuggles.
And mommas always love to give them, right?
And for these kids. And with them.
God, love us, fill us, assure us, hold us, comfort us.
How comfortable do you feel with this language?
What do you do if you need more snuggles in your life?
In fact, some probably can't stand it, and they carry this as a guilty secret.
As for me, I am entirely unpredictable in my snuggle tolerance. Some days I have a welcoming lap and I truly adore their little kisses. Other days… can I say this out loud? Their kisses make me want to gag.
(One of my snugglers often surprise-kisses me while I am in the act of chewing my dinner. Imagine that- then add a running nose on top of it. Gag!)
As for me, I like the snuggles unless I am trying to get something done. Since I am highly task-oriented, that's pretty much always. I often fall into what I call “productive touching,” simply tying shoes, putting on coats, ripping brushes through hair, all to get out the door as quickly as possible. The kids who receive love physically can't stand this. They wrestle, and tease, and fight, and I become more and more exasperated because none of those things help us getstuffdoneandgetinthecaralready!
Advice for the task-oriented mom like me: I'm not going to tell you to set aside the tasks. We all know they have to get done. But you can add “love pat” to your list of things to do. It is amazing what a little shoulder squeeze or head pet can communicate to those with hearts to hear.
Sometimes I have to be forced to “hear” this type of affection! When I'm flying around the kitchen, stirring this, washing that, organizing all the whatnots to get things ready for dinner, and my husband stops me in my tracks for a long kiss...he knows it has to be a really long kiss if he's going to avoid a scolding. It has to be long enough for me to mentally work through “Ugh, can't he see I'm busy!” to “Oh come on, he's just trying to be nice,” to “Wait, was I cooking dinner?”
When I think of physical affection in this family, there are two things I want to teach my children:
1. Physical affection is a good thing
Physical affection is healthy and appreciated, and I try to give it often, even if I don't “feel like it.” For the snuggler, physical affection means reassurance, and gives them a feeling of being safe, warm, seen, and fully loved.
2. It is ok to set boundaries on affection, and we must respect other's boundaries.
Early and often we tell our children this. You never have to kiss someone. It is always OK to say no. We need to respect each other's “no.” (Even if the baby is so cute you can't stand it, he wants a break from your constant kissing!) We are all different in this area, and that's OK!
I can still remember the awkwardness of my poor husband when he realized that he’d been welcomed into a family of huggers- my family. His family hugs at funerals. Mine hug at the superbowl, and on Sundays, and every morning and night, and around the campfire. It took some time for him to get used to this!
And sometimes, even mommy needs to say no. Sometimes she runs out of snuggles, and she needs a nap or a trip to church or a few moments quiet or a date with daddy. Her snuggle tank will be restocked eventually.
Some of us have snuggle handicaps for various reasons. Personal preference, abuse, depression; all of these things can make this language difficult for some.
When depression attacks me, this language seems to be the first to go. I find myself wishing I had quills like a porcupine. I cringe when they touch me. They sense it and they feel unsettled. Feeling unsettled makes them want to cling to me. Clinging makes my skin crawl. Everything escalates until a final explosion of JUST BACK OFF and tears and hiding. (read more http://www.weakandloved.com/p/depression.html)
When I feel like I have none to give, I literally pray for more snuggles.
God help us love each other better.
Just like we will never feed a child enough in one meal to last him a lifetime, we will never fill their love tanks enough either. And we will feel overwhelmed with the constant need, and discouraged as we realize we simple do not have enough to give.
And this, friends, is as it should be.
Because if we think we are the MegaWalMart for all of our children's needs for their whole lives long, why would we point them anywhere else? It is when we discover and rediscover our lack that we remember: it is God Himself who must truly fill them.
And so we return to Him, for more snuggles, more languages, more love to give. We come to Him for ourselves, and for our children. We come to him with open hands to receive, and He is our prodigal Father, generous beyond measure, and eager to give.
May God's love fill us through Christ, that the love we speak- in whatever language- may by the power of the Holy Spirit point back to Him, the fountain and source of all goodness. Amen.
How does your child respond to physical affection?
What's your favorite way to receive physical affection?
If physical affection is not natural to you but you sense your child needs it, I encourage you to make a list of physical expressions of love and try one out every day- remember it’s not just hugs and kisses! It includes wrestling, book reading, piggyback rides, high fives, tummy pokes, nose pinches, teasing, wrapping them in a soft blanket, and so on.
What would you add to my list?
Visit http://www.5lovelanguages.com/ for a quiz, resources, and book information.
The Five Love Languages books, in their many forms, are also available on Amazon.