November 01, 2006

Love Is a Language... It Must Be Taught

But, How Do We Teach the Language of Love?

We know very little about how it is that we humans learn language. We do, however, recognize some common landmarks in the development of speech. We all arrive in the world capable of making sounds. At the very earliest stages, it is mostly crying or random noises. Then all humans arrive at a stage, called echolalia, when we begin to repeat sounds. “Bah! Bah… Bah Bah.” Or “Da! Da, Da, Da.”

Then, one magical day, all humans begin to speak. One day we form our first word! Then vocabulary development takes off at an exponential rate. Sometimes vocabulary will double twice during a day.

For some of us this magical landmark will be delayed and the magic will begin months later than the norm while some may begin to form words as early as six months. A few of us may have severe problems in this complex process. Some sounds may be difficult for us to form or a loss of hearing or a deformity in our physical development will prevent us from even beginning to speak in a normal way but with the advances in teaching techniques and huge gains in awareness and sensitivity to children with disabilities, few humans remain mute. But enough of this… almost all humans become proficient at language!

All Humans Speak The Language They Are Exposed To

The key thing I would like you to notice is that all humans learn a language… and the particular language we learn is not genetically determined. We all speak the language we are exposed to! Kids in France speak French! Kids in Japan speak Japanese. But, raise the French child in the Japanese family and within a year the child will speak Japanese. Raise the Japanese child in a French home and within a year the child will speak French. Raise both children in my home and they will speak English. As a matter of fact, the children raised in my home will speak a particular dialect of English.

The children raised in my home will speak the language I speak in their presence! They will learn not just random vocabulary but very complex principles of language like subject/verb agreement, verb tense, voice inflection, facial expression, gestures and much more. By age four, most humans are speaking in complete sentences with subjects, verbs, and lots of modifiers.

Love Is A Language
Children Must Be Exposed To the Language to Learn It

“So what is the point?” you ask. Just this: I am here today to propose to you that love is a language! Kids will speak this language only if it is spoken in their presence. If we want our children to grow up being capable of sending and receiving love, we must speak this language regularly in their presence and regularly to them! (Click here and learn more about how to do this in our Parenting with Dignity Curriculum.)

I will also propose to you that speaking the language of love is critical in the normal development of all humans. As my experience takes me across America and into contact with a wider and wider cross section of people, I become ever more convinced that most of the problems facing children today can be traced to a failure to speak the language of love in the home!
This is not rocket science.


Look at what kids are saying to us with drugs… “If I could just take a pill or drink something, maybe this empty feeling inside me will go away.”


Or take a close look at gangs… what are kids shouting at us with this behavior? “I want somebody on my side no matter what. I want to belong somewhere.”

Promiscuous Sex

Or take a look at promiscuous sex… what are young people saying with this behavior? “If I can just please this person, maybe I can fill this void in my life and feel loved.”

Love Is the Solution!

The solution to these and many more problems facing the children of our society is really quite simple. We adults must teach our children the language of love! They can only learn this language by exposure to it. We cannot have them read a book and learn it. We cannot sit them in a class of thirty with one teacher and expect them to learn it. They must learn it by being around us while we are speaking the language of love.


There Is No Shortcut

There is no shortcut to teaching kids about love. We, the adult generation of this world, must give our time to our children. We must play with them. We must talk with them, not to them. We must hold them. We must take the time to teach them to be kind and understanding of other by being that way ourselves. We must write to them and see to it that they observe us writing to others about important things. When they come to us with problems, we must stop what we are doing, and listen to them intently and if we do not understand them, we must ask them to explain.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying to you when I say we must turn off the television and the computer and spend real interactive time with our children. I am not one of the fanatics who believe that television is evil. Much good can come from a medium that allows masses of people to experience what they never could on their own, but anything can be overdone. Sure, we live in the technological “information age” but that has not given us the permission to ignore our children; we must interact with them because it is our duty to let them know we love them!

We Have an Obligation to Our Children

Again, do not get me wrong; I am not the next Dr. Spock who is out there saying we must coddle our children’s fragile psyches! All I am saying is that as an adult generation we must live up to our obligation of communicating our love to our children. Be as firm as you choose to be but love them… and that cannot be taught with a five minute lecture and a swat on the behind. Love involves time. I cannot be bought and it cannot be abbreviated. Love requires that we adults spend time with our children.

Christmas Is Coming
Some Suggested Activities

This Christmas Season would be a great time to start on your project of giving the gift of time and love to your children.
-Decorate less but do it together and talk.
-Wrap gifts together and delight in messy corners and bows and talk about the joy and the laughter and memories of the recipients that will come with giving.
-Make cookies together and have a simplified dinner with lots of talk and then get on the floor and play the Christmas games with the kids.
-Set up 3 or 4 card tables so all the puzzles and games are out for different generations to interact with one another.
-Use the biggest box to collect wrapping paper and “shoot baskets” into it after gift unwrapping.
-Set a one-hour-a-day limit for when the computer can be used. Turn the cell phone(s) off when you walk in the door from work.
-Let the answering machine do its’ thing and turn off the phone. You will delight in the vacation from the stress of constant calls.
-Agree to only watch TV if there is a holiday program that lifts your spirits and causes your kids to want to snuggle up on the couch with you or if they are older, with a blanket and hot chocolate and you in the nearby chair.
This holiday season can be a season of change and interaction with your children if the focus is on sending a message of love. Kids don't care about all the trappings of the holidays that exhaust our energy and our patience.
They care about the time we spent talking with them.
Wrap up some TIME and give it to your children for Christmas!

No comments: