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5 Keys to Anybody’s Heart

January 28, 2020
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Many years ago, Gary Smalley wrote a book titled The Key To Your Child’s Heart. It’s not a long book, and like all the books Gary wrote or contributed to, it’s in language that any of us can understand. He was a personal hero to me, so I’m not objective, but I think he was one of the geniuses of human relations in my lifetime. When he died, the world lost a wise, winsome and compelling voice for healthy marriages and families. I was honored to have known him a little.

The point of The Key To Your Child’s Heart is that parents have to learn how to say they love their kids in ways the kids understand. I sum it up by saying that they key to your child’s heart is to tell your kids you love them in language they understand. If you’re in the mood for a very useful and easy-to-understand tool that will make your family life stronger and more fulfilling, get The Key To Your Child’s Heart.

I wrote in my last post about the power of appropriate physical touch, and commented briefly on another book, one that’s a great follow-up on Gary Smalley’s book, The Five Love Languages. If you want to tell your kids that you love them in language they understand, this is a fantastic tool.

In The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman wrote about the five basic ways we communicate and understand love – both giving and receiving. Physical Touch (which I wrote about last time), Quality Time, Giving and Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Words of Affirmation.

The concept is that each of us has a primary Love Language. Each of us has one of these five ways of receiving love that is most natural to us. (If you’re interested in seeing what your Love Language is, you can do a simple, free online inventory here:

Each of us also have a Secondary Love Language. This is the one that scores second to the Primary Love Language. Some people find that they have virtual ties for their Primary and Secondary Love Languages. Lucky you, if that’s you! You’re bi-lingual! Blessed is the person who is fluent in all 5 Love Languages. I think there was only one of these people. He lived a long time ago. And, of course, you know I’m talking about Jesus.

When you do the Love Language inventory I referenced above (you’re going to do this, right?), you’ll see that there are several inventories to choose from. I suggest, if possible, you start with yourself and your spouse. Ask your spouse to fill one out. It won’t take long, and there are no right or wrong answers. If your spouse doesn’t want to fill one out, fill one out for them, using your experience and observations about them to answer the questions. If you’ve paid attention to them, you’ll probably come pretty close to hitting the mark on their behalf. The best result will come if they fill one out for themselves, obviously. But your second-best input on the inventory will probably give you a good glimpse into their heart.

There is a children’s quiz and a teen’s quiz available on the website, too. It might be too much to ask a young child to fill out the inventory for themselves, but if they’re old enough to navigate it, ask them to. Your teen probably is more comfortable navigating something like this than you are, so ask them to do it for themselves. However, if your relationship with them isn’t great, you may find it hard to get them to do pretty much anything you ask them to do. In this case, as with a reluctant or absent spouse, fill one out for them, using what you think they would click for the answers.

What you’ll get in the results will give you a very good idea of what you, your spouse (if you have one), and your kids’ Love Languages are. You’ll be getting the key to your child’s (and your spouse’s) heart. It’s like winning the lottery! OK. It’s not quite like winning the lottery. (I hope it doesn’t lower your opinion of me, but I’d like to know that that feels like…) But it’s a fantastic look into the heart of the people you love the most, and who frustrate you the most when you don’t feel understood by them. It goes both ways. They sometimes (maybe often) are frustrated because they don’t feel understood by you. The point of the Love Language inventories is to help you understand them, and for them to fell understood by you.

What you do with the information you get from these results is the key, though.

I have a feeling most of the frustration you feel in this understanding/being understood thing comes not from the fact that you aren’t trying hard enough to tell your kids (and your spouse, if you have one) that you love them, but from the fact that you’re probably telling them you love them using YOUR love language. It’s the one you know best. It makes sense you’d use it.

Here’s the thing, though. If you want to be understood by someone, using their language is way more reliable and effective than using yours. I’ll give you an example from my life.

Years ago, I got the blessing of being part of a few Christ In Youth teams, leading youth conferences in locations around the world. One of these locations was in central Mexico. Before we left, knowing I’d need a few key phrases in Spanish, I asked Kim, one of the kids in my youth group who was in Spanish 3, to feed me two or three phrases. One of the key phrases was, “Where is the bathroom.” Which, if you know any Spanish at all, you know is , “dónde está el baño.”

When we got off the plane on Mexico City, Nature started calling my name. I thought, “This is a great time to practice my Spanish.” There was an attractive young woman in a uniform behind an American Airline desk, so I asked her, “dónde está el baño.” Bear in mind here that I’m an Oklahoma native, with all the Oklahoma accent issues. So my pronunciation of this question would probably have made it nearly incomprehensible to this woman. When she finished laughing, she rattled the answer off in Spanish. And I froze.

I thought, “Oh no! I’m gonna have an accident right here in the Mexico City airport…

The young woman saw the look on my face and said in perfect English, “If you turn left at the first corner, it will be on your left.”

She could have told me this in slower Spanish, louder Spanish, using more gestures with her Spanish, but as long as she spoke her language, not mine, I was going to wet my pants in the Mexico City airport.

Something similar may have be going on in your marriage and family. You’ve been trying to tell your family that you love them, using your primary Love Language, and trying hard, getting frustrated that they’re not getting it. You can say it more often, you can be more dramatic and demonstrative, you can say it louder, slower, softer, faster, but it won’t matter. Until you tell them in their language, you’ll never get the message through to them.

So here’s the challenge. Get conversant in your kids’ and spouse’s Love Languages, and then speak it every time you can. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get the message through every time, but I can guarantee that you’ll never get it through until you get conversant in their Love Language.

Who knows, maybe your work to figure their Love Language out will open a dialogue for you to share your Love Language with them, and (miracle of miracles), maybe they’ll even begin speaking yours back to you.

From → Marriage, Parenting

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