You might recoil at some suggestions for bonding because they don't sound like fun or just aren't “you.” But after trying a few ways to bond, you'll probably find a good fit for your child, and hopefully for yourself, too. You also need to understand different love styles, how people express and receive love, to find what works best for your child. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, has been a trailblazer in identifying different love styles. The first style, quality time, has been covered pretty thoroughly above. Below are some other styles your child may respond well to.
This is perhaps one of the most misunderstood ways of expressing love. It's important to have a clear concept of how gifts can and cannot express love, because everything in modern culture costs money. For this reason, giving gifts to a kid who prefers another love style can give her the impression you're trying to “buy” her.
Gifts are most effective for people who really value them as an expression of love. If your daughter melts over presents, you can give her a present now and then, “just because.” Sticking within your budget and being sure that presents aren't a substitute for your attention or love are important considerations for the parent of a kid who loves gifts.
Also, focus on gifts that appropriate and thoughtful, perhaps even those that don't cost a dime, like flowers you pick, cookies you bake, or handwritten postcards from a business trip.
Loving words are also misunderstood, often being dismissed as glib, slick, or simplistic. But for some people, compliments, praise, and words of love do wonders for the spirit. As a parent, you can say “I love your sense of style and the way you dress,” “Give me five! Atta boy!” or “Look at the A you got on the spelling quiz! I'm so proud of you!” If your kid warms up to this kind of talk, ramp up the praise and pile on the compliments whenever possible. You can even send e-mails or texts to an older kid who's always plugged in.
Saying “I love you” is an exception. As kids get older, especially boys, many of them start to shy aware from the sheer mushiness of this phrase. Don't stop saying it at least once a day, even to kids who don't respond to it, because even the kid who sneers when you say it is glad to hear it.
Some people feel most loved when they are held, stroked, kissed, hugged, and otherwise lovingly touched. Frequent pats, tousles of the hair, and squeezes on the arm throughout the day make these children's hearts swell.
The increased awareness of child abuse has raised the “ick factor” for touching kids in even the most appropriate and loving ways. People who have no intent on abusing a child may often resist doling out lots of hugs because they worry onlookers will consider their exuberant physical displays of affection abusive. This is especially true for adults who themselves prefer touch over any other love style — they might feel grotesque or under-valued. Everyone needs to be touched, and if your kids don't like it as much as you do, find a level that's comfortable for everyone.
Obviously, all touch must be age- and sexually appropriate. As your child grows, you may even wish to point out how important touch is to her, so when she becomes sexually active she can be aware of how she judges others' behavior.
Loving favors are simple acts done to ease the life of another person. You might feel like you do plenty to ease your child's life as it is, and you probably do. But favors out of the ordinary help some kids feel loved. You could do one of your child's chores, fix a broken toy, move a heavy piece of furniture that's in the way of the closet, or do an Internet search to find operating instructions for a gizmo your kid is having problems with.
Parents of kids who value favors should make sure a favor is sincere. Don't do a chore that has been the cause of defiance by your child. Don't serve favors with a side of insults, à la “I did this because you haven't got the gumption to do it yourself.” Instead, receive the child's thanks, if it's offered, with a simple “You're welcome” and a smile.