Parenting is a service-oriented vocation where we render our service of love full time. As parents, we want what is best for our kids. Showing them love and affection may seem easy to do; we can achieve this by showering our kids with presents or by giving attention to their demands. However, this transactional framework of parenting may bring more harm than good in the long run. Parenting practices that lack mindfulness and proactivity may lead to children becoming self-centered and selfish as they grow older. Becoming a “loving model of service” through leading by example is one of the best ways that we can help our children grow up to become mature adults.
Believe it or not, the mundane acts of service that we perform for our children have long-term effects. As parents, we do not need to always please our children, despite our natural inclination to do what is best for them. To illustrate, if your child asks you for candy, your natural response would be to give them candy right? Occasionally giving your child candy when they ask for it is rewarding for both child and parent! However, giving your child candy every single time they ask for it would not be healthy for them in the long term. We are not doing our children a favor by fostering a sense of happiness that is instant and automatic. Sometimes, we have to do things that won’t please our children and that is okay because it is for their own good in the long run. Going back to our candy analogy, this is also why we sometimes have to get our children to eat vegetables over junk food!
“If your child’s primary love language is acts of service, this does not mean that you must jump at every request. It does mean that you should be extremely sensitive to those requests and recognize that your response will either help fill the child’s love tank or else puncture the tank. Each request calls for a thoughtful, loving response.”
What’s the best way to know if your child prefers to show and give their love through Acts of Service?
Ask them! Properly communicate to your kids on how you could love them better. You may ask questions like, “Do you really feel that I love you?” We, as parents, should understand that everyone has a unique ability and method to serve. We all have different aptitudes on how we perceive love. We must be careful not to expect and force our children to be replicas of us.
“We want to help them develop their own skills, follow their own interests, and become the best they can be.” (Chapman & Ross, 2012)
What to do when your kid's love language is Acts of Service
When we do Acts of Service, we do it without any expectations of a reward or praise. It is done selflessly. However, children are innately self-centered and cannot be expected to immediately serve others selflessly. Teaching them to be more selfless is a process and we can do it by showing genuine acts of love. This is the best motivator for kids to do the same and to pay the kindness forward.
Here are some ways to help teach our kids to be more selfless:
✔️Make sure children are genuinely loved and cared for.
✔️Keep their emotional tanks full. Just like the previous love languages, these little acts of service are best received when your child’s emotional tank is full.
✔️Be a role model for them.
✔️Teach them to show appreciation. Instead of demanding them, ask them instead. Rather than ”Say thank you to this person.” use “Would you like to thank this person?” instead. This will help them feel at ease when showing appreciation to other people.
We should also be careful not to show conditional love where we only show love when we get something from it. This “What’s in it for me?” attitude is actually the opposite of what we want to teach our children. Again, our ultimate purpose is to help them “emerge as mature adults able to give love” (Chapman, 2012).
Activities you may do if your kids' love language is Acts of Service
Strike a balance between assisting in their needs and teaching them how to be independent! To do that, we should be a model of the things that they cannot do yet while letting them explore and do the things they are capable of. In this way we teach them step by step, although indirectly, to learn how to be independent.
There are a lot of different ways we can show love to our children through Acts of Service. Again, parenting is a vocation. However, providing Acts of Service to show our love is both physically and emotionally demanding. Parents should also pay attention to their physical and emotional health. It is best to be reminded to take care of ourselves too! Just like what they say: we cannot pour from an empty cup.
Chapman, G. D., & Campbell, R. (2012). The 5 love languages of children: The secret to loving children effectively.