The 5 Love Languages: Secrets of an Effective School Community

The 5 Love Languages: Secrets of an Effective School Community


Human nature is as complicated and complex as life itself, and every human is unique in his or her combination of bodily features, intellectual gifts—and emotional capabilities. Often, parents and teachers over-emphasize the rational side of dealing with situations and neglect the emotional level. The reality is, emotions, rather than reason, drive most people’s reactions to any situation; and this is especially true of children.

One of the most basic emotional and human needs is love. While “love” is a commonly used and often vaguely defined word, at the human needs level it simply means treatment that is delivered in an individual’s best interest, in a way that the individual perceives as understanding and caring. Vital to effective development, love should be a regular part of everyone’s experience at the earliest possible age. Even before children are old enough to reciprocate—and long before their first experiences with love as a mutual and physical feeling between two persons of opposite gender—they need to feel the unconditional love of parent figures. When children are at their youngest and most fragile, love is everything to them, the very source of life; as they grow, it is vital that they learn to perceive and fully comprehend what is involved in giving as well as receiving love.

Teaching children how to love starts at home with their parents’ example; but once children reach school age and are introduced to the setting where they will spend half their growing-up years, responsibility for modeling and cultivating love falls on the school as well. Teachers, like parents, must learn to read the clues in gestures and words to learn what particular “language of love” each child speaks; showing love in a way that the giver understands but the recipient has no feeling for can cause problems even among adults. There are five essential “love languages” generally recognized:

  1. Physical Touch: The child regularly wants to hold your hand, is wide open to hugs, and enjoys being physically close.
  2. Words of Affirmation: The child beams in response to every compliment and is eager to know what you think of his work.
  3. Quality Time: The child brightens up and opens up quickly at the opportunity to sit and talk with you.
  4. Gifts: The child is highly motivated by the prospect of material reward or of a gold star on her work.
  5. Acts of Service: The child describes a friend as someone who fixes broken toys, combs his hair, or pushes him on the swing.

The smallest gesture is meaningful when delivered in a child’s personal love language. Figuring out what each student responds to allows teachers to pinpoint what motivates each student to achieve, behave, and cooperate. It not only helps the teacher connect personally with the children; it provides a basis for guiding them in how to treat each other. Hence, speaking all the love languages is crucial to building an effective interpersonal school community.