The Five Love Languages of Children, by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, is not in and of itself a book about consensual living. It does skirt the issue of consensual living, though, and has merit for some parents. The book as a whole would be stronger if the authors had chosen to make the book either secular or religious, instead of their attempt at straddling both worlds. The outside of the book and publisher reviews make no reference to religious content. Single biblical references in each of the first two chapters lead to long Christian sections further in the book. Parents looking for a book without religious references will be sorely disappointed by the inclusion of religious references and opinion. Parents looking for a religious reference would be better served with a book that is straight forward regarding its references and position and which continues that theme throughout the entire book.
The book begins by addressing unconditional love, a term made more popular by Alfie Kohn. This is a concept often misunderstood by mainstream parents, and the authors clarify that while parents may always love their children, it’s the perception of the child that matters. This is an important distinction to make for parents. The concept of a love well, similar to Lawrence Cohen’s love cup, is also addressed at the beginning and utilized throughout the book. It is important that our children feel loved, and the book adequately addresses this fact. However, the beginning of the book, as well as various other parts, seem to meander around without clear focus, perhaps as a result of having two authors writing together; although other authors in a similar partnership, such as Faber and Mazlish, seem to do just fine with this approach.
The center portion of the book addresses what the authors refer to as the five love languages, defined by them as: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. The love languages seem to be loosely based on neuro-linguistic programming, with an emphasis on communication. I can’t argue with the concept of good communication and conveying to your children that you love them unconditionally. However, the overall concept is better explored with non-violent communication and other books on connection parenting. The authors begin addressing the concept of authority and the training of children towards the end of this section.
The last third of the book focuses greatly on training your children properly with love. The concept of training children stems from the belief held by many conservative religions that children are inherently bad and that without our help, they are incapable of making good decisions. This is not a concept held by families practicing consensual living nor by the world of psychology in general. The authors go on to end the book by addressing how their particular religious beliefs affect their parenting and how it should affect yours.
I would recommend this book to Christian parents who aren’t quite on board with consensual living or non-coercive parenting, but who are looking for more gentle ways to interact with and communicate with their children. Consensually living families will find the concepts of unconditional love and the expression of such more adequately addressed in other books.