An Outside of the Box Look at Gift Giving

I want my kids to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, not on the gifts.”

“I want to get my mom something that will really mean something.”

“My parents have everything they need and are trying to downsize. I don’t want to give them stuff.”

“My friend is going through a hard time. I want to give her something that will really speak to where she is at.”


So many of us are thinking these thoughts. Christmas and the holidays aren’t really about just finding some gift and throwing it in a box for someone we love. We want our gifts to show our love, communicate our desire to honor the true meaning of the holidays, and be memorable. Yet, sometimes that happens with something we buy from the store but sometimes that perfect gift seems to allude us.

So I am thinking of another way to give something to people I love this Christmas. We are each unique and we actually have a language that speaks deeply to each of us personally when it comes to love. This first came to my attention when my husband and I were first married. I will admit it, we were kind of missing the mark when it came to loving each other. We were loving each other in the way that came most naturally to us — not in the way that was most meaningful to the other person.

Someone gave us the book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. We took the test to see what our individual love languages are. That is one of the best things we could have done. Naturally, we express our love in the way that speaks love to us. My husband and I both have different love languages and his love language was not the way that I naturally expressed my love for him and vice versa.

Anyway, since then years have gone by and as we had kids, I tried to keep in mind what their love languages might be. I knew that if I could zero in on their love language that I could communicate my love for them well. Each of them was pretty young when I saw the differences they had in how they received and conveyed love. Kids just eat up the love and attention from their parents but when I really reach in and love my kids in the language that they identify with, it is almost like I see something click.

Gary Chapman is a marriage counselor and developed the Five Love Languages framework and assessment after years of counseling and his own marriage experience. You may be able to guess what the love language is of the people you love. But you not know at all. No problem. The assessment is free to take and there are assessments for kids as young as five through adulthood. The questions don’t take long to go through.

The Five Love Languages

So what does it look like to use the five love languages to show your love. The five love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, physical touch, and quality time.

Words of Affirmation:

This is positive words of encouragement and complement directed at someone. Expressing love through praise.

Some examples of how this plays out are: Letting your daughter know when you see her do something for someone that is particularly touching. or Telling your friend specific gifts that you see her use in her life and caring she is. or Leaving a card with encouraging words on the front seat of your spouse’s car.


Acts of Service:

This is doing a household chore or another activity for someone. The intention of doing something nice no matter what it is helps this person feel loved.

Some examples of this are: Picking up the house, so that when your spouse gets home they see a clean house. or Calling your mom to see if she needs any groceries picked up. or Taking your son and his friends to play laser tag.


Receiving Gifts:

This language is about, as you might guess, giving someone small gifts. They are energized and loved by receiving things from others.

Some examples of this are: Seeing your spouse’s favorite magazine in the store and picking it up. or Noticing that a coworker has a bracelet you think a friend would like and getting one.

Physical touch:

This language is about touching a person physically. It can be a small touch or big. The point is the feeling and pressure of feeling someone else against them.

Some examples of this are: Sitting close to your spouse on the couch. Or Rubbing your daughter’s back in bed at night. Giving a hug to your parent every time you see them. I want to share something we noticed about our middle daughter, sorry if I have shared it already, she does better on her homework when we are touching her. Her love language is physical touch. Homework time is hard for her. Doing homework makes her feel defensive. My husband noticed that when we touch (sit shoulder to shoulder or have her on our laps) her during homework time goes much more smoothly. 

Quality Time:

This is spending undivided time with a loved. It could be doing an activity they enjoy or just being together while doing something that in and of itself isn’t fun.

Some examples of this are: Devoting an afternoon to whatever your mom chooses to do, even if it is something you wouldn’t choose to do.  Or Making cookies with your children. Or Running errands with your spouse.


There is something really profound about being able to communicate with a parent, friend, spouse, or child in the language that speaks most personally to them. This is what the five love languages framework does. You’ll notice that the examples I listed don’t take a lot of fore thought. It is often a matter of keeping your eyes open to incorporating these little things in everyday life.

I have been thinking about this in approaching the month of December. My husband and I are always trying to figure out how to do gift giving better. We want to give something that is meaningful, but that doesn’t take away from the message of Christmas and giving to others. With life being full and busy it is not always easy to focus on each child’s needs. But I want to focus on speaking to and loving each of my children and my husband too in their love languages. After all, if their primary speaking language was a foreign language I would want to learn it so that I could love them better. To me it is the same with love languages. Using what is most comfortable and familiar to them is the way they will feel most loved.

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