Last night we completed the second week of Alpha's new "Parenting Children Course." While week-one had a lot of introductory material, in week 2 the course really felt as if it got going. We learnt a lot last night, and were really made to think, but came away encouraged to try and continue to improve what we do for our three.
Session two is based on Gary Chapman's ideas about "Love Languages"; which feature so usefully on The Marriage Course. The essence of his book is that love is communicated in five ways, (words, time, touch, presents, and kind actions) but that each person responds to these in differently. So, while one person may respond deeply to verbal affirmation, the same words may leave another person unmoved. In marriage it is often noted that people usually marry someone quite different to themselves, which means that to communicate love to them effectively requires them to discover, learn, and practice their spouse's 'language'. The obvious example is a person who grew up in a very austere "stiff-upper-lip" family, but finds themselves married to a person who needs verbal affirmation. They will have an awkward embarrassment to overcome in order to communicate love effectively to their spouse - but it is a skill that can be learnt. Incidentally the converse also applies, someone bombarding their spouse with verbal affirmation when they are married to someone whose primary language is time or touch, won't communicate love, merely irritate.
While the concept of "Love Languages" was something we had previously thought about in terms of marriage - we had never previously taken those ideas and related them to parenting. Chapman himself teamed up with noted child development expert Ross Campbell, to write a follow-up to his "Love Languages" book, entitled, "The 5 Love Languages for Children". Last night's DVD gave a really useful summary of what it means to children to experience love in all five of these ways.
The following discussion time was interesting too. The questions asked us to think about what we valued most about the parenting we had received when we were young, (it was amazing how high a % of the parents present said, "time"). Then we were asked to consider our own children and think about what really makes them happy. It was interesting to note that our three children (while they need all five things), are quite different when it comes to what they need most. We realised that we have been far too reactive in this area and not pro-active enough at all, which means that we have got some practical things to implement immediately. One example is that we identified that one of our children has a particular need to have some one-on-one parent-child time every week. I think this will be important for us.
Week one of the Parenting Course was met with a mixed response from our kids. They liked the idea of a family night, but were not so enamoured with the organised limits on TV/PC time that were introduced. It will be interesting to see what they make of week 2, as while (I hope) they will grow in their sense of being loved and valued by us, there was also a section on sharing household chores and getting the children to take on age-appropriate responsibilities!
Next week we go to look at discipline/setting boundaries...