We continue today with the last two in the series of The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers New Edition: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively
Acts of Service can be a powerful expression of love for your teenager. According to Dr. Gary Chapman:
Loving service is an intentionally motivated desire to give one’s energy to others.
When you honestly want to give of yourself to serve another person in love, now that is priceless. Be aware, though, of manipulation. If you are only doing something for someone so that they will do something in return, that is not a true loving act of service. The “If you __________, I will _____________.” An example: “If you clean your room, I’ll take you to the game.” This is asking the teen to do something you want, then you’ll do something nice for them in return. Dr. Gary Chapman says:
Manipulation has nothing to do with love and everything to do with control. It is not a good approach for parent teen relationships.
Keep in mind, though, as you choose an act of service that you choose wisely so the teen does not become dependent, especially when they are seeking to become independent at this point. They may not like it when instead of making a meal, you teach them how to make it themselves. However, this is, in fact, a greater act of service in itself. They may not appreciate it at the moment, but they will when they become adults and have a family of their own or even if they are single and get their own apartment. They will be able to cook thanks to you showing them how in their teen years. The same applies for washing their laundry or cleaning their rooms. We can do these acts of services for them, but if we do it all of the time, they will never learn how to do it for themselves. Explain to them why you’re now going to teach them, instead of doing it for them this time. Then, lovingly instruct and show them how to do it. This isn’t to say that you will never cook for them again or that you’ll never do their laundry or even help clean their room. No, this is just an instruction time to prepare them for the future. You can still do these acts of service for your teen if you desire to do so. Just do not let them become dependent upon you to where they will not know how to do these things when they are out on their own.
An act of service to your teen may be when you help them with their homework. Some see it as an obligation. Others complain about it, which if you think about it only makes the teen feel worse. It takes a lot for a person to ask for help. When they do, please do not fuss and complain. Just help them! Giving of yourself in this way is beautiful. I know some parents that help their children all of the time because that is what parents do. But, I also know some parents that gripe and complain about it, too. Please don’t do the latter.
Here’s a game that Dr. Chapman mentioned in his book. You can get the entire family together and discuss “The ways I served you today are ____________.” After you state what you did as an act of service for that family member, they look at you and say, “I appreciate that!” This “game” is actually in an effort to affirm the acts of service that are evident so that they are brought out and appreciated.
A second game that Dr. Chapman mentions is, “Do you know what I would like?” Then the family member will mention a specific act of service that they would like. This is only a request, and it is up to the others in the family to decide if they would like to honor this request. The response back to the request at this point in time is, “I’ll try to remember that.” Then in the future, if you’d like to give freely of yourself, keep their previous request in mind if you want to bless them that day with your act of service.
Gifts are not considered actual gifts if they had to do something to get them. Just as we mentioned above with acts of service and manipulation, you have to be careful with gifts, too. If they clean their room and you take them to the mall to buy a pair of shoes in exchange for cleaning their room, this is not a real, genuine gift. Some times teenagers do not actually get real gifts unless it is their birthday or Christmas. Gifts can speak to your teen. Gifts can speak emotional love to your teenager. As Dr. Chapman puts it, it can say:
I care about you. I love you. You are important to me.
Be careful how you present the gift, too. Let’s use the shoes in the above example. Let’s say your teen did not actually have to do something this time. You just wanted to give them the gift of new shoes for no other reason than there is a pair that they’d LOVE to have. They don’t necessarily need another pair of shoes as the ones they have are perfectly fine. But, maybe they are the latest style, so your teen really wants them. If you take them to the mall and purchase the shoes “just because” but allow them to walk out in the shoes, it won’t be as special. Make the gift special by maybe going to the store to purchase the shoes in their size, bringing them home, and surprising them when they come home from school to find a perfectly wrapped box waiting on their bed just for them. Now you have perfectly presented your gift to them!
Also, while we are on the topic of gifts, please be sure that you’re giving them a gift that is of interest to them. It will speak their love language, and they will be so happy. You will fill their love tank, especially if this is their primary love language. However, if you give them a gift that they are not going to be thrilled about, you will not score any points with them at all. Say, instead of shoes they really wanted, you bought them a trash can for their room for when they finally do get around to cleaning it. Honestly, it will not have the same meaning to them, I can guarantee it! Just as you choose your acts of service wisely, choose your gifts to your teenagers wisely as well!
Another thing that you can do to ensure that you actually get them a gift they will like is by asking them to write a list. I actually do this with my daughters now at Christmas especially. I want to make sure my gifts have meaning to them and will be something that they will be thrilled to receive. What better way than to ASK them for a list! You can keep this list and gift random gifts on special occasions and then on ordinary days as well.
There are some gifts, though, that should be given in private as they are treasured gifts. It has more meaning if you present it to your teen with it being just the two of you. An example is when we gave my daughter a ring. We were careful how to present the ring, and she has not taken it off since we gave it to her! She obviously likes it, and it is special to her.
One very important thing I’d like to mention is to be careful NOT to give counterfeit gifts to your teenagers. If you’re asking what I’m talking about here, these are gifts that are given in an effort to make up for time that you are not spending with your teenager. They can also be considered counterfeit gifts if you are giving them to replace or make up for all the ways that you’ve fallen short as a parent in filling their emotional love tank. Teenagers can honestly have all of the material possessions that they desire, but they can never take the place of parental love. The teenagers need to feel your love. They can have all of the things in the world and still lack love from the parents.
Gifts are actually the most difficult love language according to Dr. Chapman. Also, keep in mind that everyone appreciates when you do any of the five love languages that we’ve been discussing. One of the five will be their primary love language. When that is met, the secondary will kick in. Be careful, too, not to misread your teen and think that one particular thing is their love language when it’s not.
One sure way to know what your teenagers’s love language is … is to ASK, just like you did for the gift ideas. When you ask the teen questions, they may be freer with their desires and what they’d like to have you doing for them. They will feel freer to discuss their desires and wants even if they will not openly communicate their thoughts and feelings. Just ask them what you could do to make the relationship better.
Another thing you can do is to make sure you are observing what they are doing, and also be sure to especially listen to their complaints. Observe your teenager’s requests as well.
Another fun thing is just to do all five of the things we’ve discussed. How about choosing a week to speak only the love language of words of affirmation? Then the following week, switch to only physical touch. The week after that, switch to only speaking the love language of quality time spent with your teenager. The week after, focus on acts of service, and then the final week, switch to the love language of gifts. Observe your teenager’s response each week, and you will surely know at the end of the experiment which love language spoke the most to your teen’s heart. It will be a fun experiment, but please do not set out by telling them what you are doing. Just do it. You will fill up their love tank in the process!