Book review: The Five Love Languages of Teenagers

Posted on April 1, 2013 
Filed Under Anita, Book Review, The Star

By Anita Matthews

Published in Parenthots, The Star on April 1, 2013 as
Learning to speak the love language of teens

By Gary Chapman
Publisher: Northfield Publishing

L-O-V-E is a four-letter word that definitely bears repeating and it is the recurring theme in Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages Of Teenagers. Here, Chapman explains the different types of love and provides practical advice and sound rationale on when and how each love ought to be practised. His is the voice of experience.

Five Love Languages of Teenagers

The guidance Chapman provides is timely especially in this current era of information overload. Both parents and teenagers are inundated by information from numerous sources. Moreover, parents may not necessarily approve of the type of information (including entertainment) that their teenagers are exposed to. Instances of negative exposure on the Internet include violence, underaged sex, drugs and trash talking.

Here’s where this book is very useful.

As teenagers struggle between independence and dependence, parents can rely on the techniques and strategies that Chapman provides to guide them on how to respond the adolescent behaviour. My 16-year-old son told me the other day that the English test included questions related to an essay on adolescence. When I asked him what he understood from the essay, he said: “Parents can’t cope”.

I guess he got it and I was confused by what I didn’t understand. Reaching back to my own teenage years did not provide much as I was a bookworm, lost in the world of idle imagination. What do I get if I juxtapose my idle teen imaginings against the Net? A super worried parent?

As a parent, I struggle to cope with my two teens – worrying about their safety and who their friends are, and which adults they are interacting with offline and online. How do teens process the multiple types of information they are bombarded with all the time? Parents today have to manage the teenager who lives in the real and virtual world – this has made our lives more complex.

Instead of dwelling on theories and possibilities, Chapman shares real examples versus abstract theories. He does not have all the answers but he reiterates that it is imperative that parents pay greater attention now than over before. The techniques proposed are simple – parents just need to pay attention and afford the time.

Tank up the love

To start with, parents need to fill up their love tank. If mum and dad are running on empty when engaging their teens, the result of an interaction is meaningless or worse, resentful. So, it is important for parents to stay clued in to what our teenagers are saying or not saying, doing or not doing.

By using the right language of love when communicating with our teenagers, we, as parents, can cut out the noise and instinctively know how to respond. Given that the teen years is the period when teenagers are swaying between dependence and independence, Chapman makes it very clear that parents have to pay close attention to the signals coming from their teens. There is no other way to do this.

If parents fail to pay attention and let their teens drown in the noise of the surroundings, we risk losing our beloved babies under our very noses. Chapman says it very simply: If parents do not learn to love and use the right love language, the teenagers will be influenced by outside forces including the Internet.

According to Chapman, parents have options on when to reward, affirm, touch, act with kindness or spend quality time. He suggests that parents “walk” their teens through the consequences.

It is not as easy as it sounds. I’ve tried and failed but have not given up. All it needs is unbiased and thoughtful reflection to figure out which strategy will work. This is a time-consuming and continuous process. However, the reward is that, along the way, the bond between parent and child is strengthened.

While not all the strategies Chapman proposes may work all the time, the opportunity to experiment and adjust the technique is continuous. What Chapman emphasises is that parents must be persistent in expressing love towards their teens and not give up easily for as long as the adolescence lasts.

Chapman is right. Parents must persevere. After all, our children are the future.


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