My Daughter Tells Me Exactly How She Wants to Be Loved

My Daughter Tells Me Exactly How She Wants to Be Loved

This post originally ran in October 2011. My daughter, now 5, no longer tells me exactly how she wants to be loved. My 3-year-old little boy has started doing the very same thing. This time, I’m not suffering from mixed feelings.  


It’s 7:00 am and I’m in the kitchen making my second cup of coffee.

“Psssst!  Mom!” I hear a stage whisper coming through the closed door. I don’t want the grinder to wake up the kids.

It’s my 4-year-old, and she’s going to tell me how she wants her day to start.  But she won’t open the door, not yet.

Mom!” (still whispering)  “I’m going to run in and I’m going to say “Good morning, Mom!” and you’re going to say “GOOD MORNING, LUCY!’ and give me a giant hug.  And then you’re going to ask me if I had a good sleep.  Ready?

Of course I’m ready. We do this every morning.

She flings the door open and yells “Good morning, Mom!” as she scampers into the kitchen. And I boom in my best surprise!-I-had-no-idea-you-were-awake voice “GOOD MORNING, LUCY!” and I give her a giant hug. Because I always do.

(I didn’t used to.)

I used to see these ongoing rehearsals-for-real-life as an inconvenience. Must we really live each scene of our lives two times, Lucy and me?  Do I need instructions everyday about how to say “Good morning”?

But these rehearsals weren’t just inconvenient; they made me feel downright inadequate as a mother. Doesn’t she trust me to know what to do? Doesn’t she know I love her? Doesn’t she love me as I am?

I used to wonder if a better mother would know these things without being told. While that question was on the table, I resisted complying with her wishes. I felt that each request was a judgment, and I couldn’t bear to not measure up.

It took me a long time to see my daughter’s stage directions as a gift. She’s only 4–young and sweet and full of giddy, giggly, hugs-and-kisses love. And she wants mine. And with these small requests, she’s teaching me how to show her love so that she feels loved. And I decided to play along.  I love her and I want her to know it, to feel it.

So everyday I listen to my stage directions, and say my lines and dispense the hugs and kisses on request. Don’t get me wrong–we have plenty of unscripted moments–and many of those are far from sweet and lovey.

But in all these rehearsals-for-real-life, my daughter is telling me exactly how she wants to be loved.  And I’m okay with that.

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  1. Christine says:

    How very sweet. So many times our children tell us what they want/need from us, but in less direct ways. The question is . . . are we listening? Are we receptive? I love that you learned to hear her requests and empower her to ask for what she needs. How many times as a woman will she need to be able to tell her husband or friends what she needs. You are preparing her for life. Great job!

  2. Maddie says:

    My youngest is now 10 ( how did that happen?!).. and he made it very clear to me the other day that me being cheerful in the morning was really putting a dent in his day… so now for him I tone it down and for this older brother a ramp it up… one other kid gets nothing since talking to him in the morning is like pouring gas on a fire and the other ones (2 more)… well they are moved out and old enough to inflict their morning issues on someone else 🙂

    Kids- they keep you moving!


  3. sarah beals says:

    So sweet! We use to have quite a bit of “directing” around here when the kids were little. They are so sweet and just want to be loved, and aren’t afraid to say so. 🙂

  4. Hannah says:

    I have one child like that…very open and just says what she needs and I have another who is the opposite. I have to say…it’s so much easier to fulfill expectations when you know what they are! I guess with either personality, it just boils down mostly to time and listening.

  5. Jamie says:

    Can you imagine how many more friendships and marriages would survive – even blossom – if we could all overcome our pride and fear enough to tell people we love what we need and hear them with acceptance when they tell us?

    Thanks for giving me something to think about.

  6. Liz says:

    So, I really love this post. It’s so sweet and I can see my almost 4 year old little girl doing the exact same thing. I want to go get her out of bed and squeeze her… but don’t worry, I’m not actually going to do that. 🙂 Great post!!

  7. Brenda says:

    I love the ritual that you & Lucy have….it’s something you will no doubt tuck into your “Memory Box”. There’s just a sweetness when parent & child have these little games, so to speak, that only the two of you can play. My oldest girl loves to get herself ready for bed, then come downstairs & “ask” for a glass of water before heading back upstairs for the night. And whatever time it is, I’ll say, in a facetious tone of voice, that she can’t possibly have anything, because the cutoff was (I glance at the clock) 2 minutes before that. For some reason this silly little exchange makes her feel all is right in her world.


  8. Jen says:

    This reminded me so much of my Lucy! She is almost five and I treasure those sweet times in the morning as she is always the first of the siblings to jumpt out of bed. Four is such a sweet age!

  9. Toni says:

    Stage directions. That is about the most precious thing I’ve heard today. I love that you “got it”, the message within the directions. And you can bet I’m gleaning from it for my own bunch.
    Toni (coming in from WLW)

  10. Laura says:

    This is important stuff. She is super aware of her own needs and her love language and I’m glad you are aware of that! It would be easy to feel offended. What a cute story, I love it. =)

  11. Kendra says:

    I absolutely loved this post. It sounds very familiar – I also have a daughter with very specific, enthusiastic ideas and requests, and I really struggle with taking time out of my day to truly listen and pay attention to all of the little things she has to say.

    But I think I’ll have a different view of it all, thanks to you! You are so right – what a beautiful way to see right into their little hearts. The opportunity to connect is priceless, and I don’t want to miss a thing!

  12. Tim says:

    My daughter did this too, not the same thing every day but the stage direction type rehearsing. She’d tell me what the interaction should look like and I’d tell her that it sounded like a great way to do it. Then we’d do it her way. I guess I like the idea that my daughter was developing her strengths even then.

    She’s 20 now. And she’s strong.

  13. SAHMaegan says:

    Thank you for this post! I needed this.

    My 3 year old does this a couple times a day, but it’s the same everyday. When he wakes up in the morning we have the routine (he gives instructions first, I follow the rules), when he wakes from nap (repeat), when he gets in the car and I buckle him in … all involve surprise that he’s up and giving hugs and kisses. In the carseat I have to ask “are you ready for an adventure my love?” … up until reading this post, just now, I just went along half-heartedly and wondered what this was all about (although hugs and kisses are never halfway, but the instructions …) … Now I want to cry. Oh his sweet little soul.

    Thank you for this post, you opened my eyes.

  14. Save My Marriage says:

    This is really such a new way of loving that I’ve never heard of, but it seems more appropriate and I wish I’d tried it with my first child. Don’t get me wrong, my son and I have wonderful love-filled relationship, but it’s good to acknowledge that there are different personalities and ways we each express love and want to receive love. I think if we were more aware of this we could greatly improve all types of relationship we have with a lot of people around us. If I ever have another child I will make sure to give this a try, but even if I don’t I will incorporate letting people know how I want to be loved and encourage other people to let me know how it is they want to be loved. What’s important is that we realize we all have different styles and we all have different needs.

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