When we were first training dogs, one of the things that was said in a puppy class was that you have to “find your dog’s currency and then deal in it.” That currency could be cheese, hot dogs, a tennis ball, positive attention, ear scratches, whatever your dog LOVES. You’ve gotta figure out what motivates the dog before you’ll be able to get the dog to do what you want them to do. The dog has to feel like the inconvenience of performing the command is worth it if they get the reward that they want. Linus’ currency is turkey hot dogs, and Logic needs positive attention with occasional food treats.

I’ve found that this is true for more than just dogs. It’s true for people, too. When I was teaching middle schoolers, homework passes and bonus points were their currency. Kids will SKIP the 5-point problems on a test, run out of time to finish the test, and yet they still will have tried the 3-point bonuses. Makes no sense whatsoever, but it seems to be universal. And you can explain to a kid until you’re blue in the face that the REAL problems are worth more, but if they see the word “bonus” they’re suckers for it.

Helen’s currency is M&Ms and/or ice cream. She will do just about ANYthing for the promise of either of those. If I want her to eat her green beans and she won’t cooperate, I’ll just get out the ice cream and make myself a bowl, and enjoy it just a leeeeeeeeeetle bit too much. And suddenly Helen will inhale the green beans. I don’t do this EVERY time, mind you — I do not plan on having children with weight problems.

My mom found with us that we’d have impeccable table manners if at the beginning of the meal, 5 M&Ms were lined up at each place (including hers and Dad’s). For every manner infraction, one M&M was subtracted from your line (and added to the line of the person who noticed your mistake and voiced it). Occasionally she and Dad would flagrantly mess up on purpose — talking with their mouth full or putting their elbows on the table, just to give us a freebie. But the competition among siblings to keep all five of our M&Ms and NOT let a sib catch us messing up made for some very peaceful dinners:
“Would you please pass the salt, please, dearest brother?”
“Why, yes, my adorable little sister, here is the salt.”
“Thank you ever so very much.”
“You are so very welcome, it was my pleasure.”

Alice’s currency right now seems to be hugs and positive attention, but as she gets more verbal and understands more, it will be interesting to see what really motivates her. She’s a fiend for the M&Ms at the ends of meals now, too, though she doesn’t know why she’s getting them. Mostly, she just gets them for being cute, and for using words instead of grunting when she wants something.

My currency? Do things (particularly around the house) for me and I’ll be your slave. Gary Chapman calls this my Love Language: Acts of Service. I’ll admit it. I’m definitely motivated by that.

Jerry’s Love Language is Quality Time — sometimes all he needs is for me to sit in the same room with him. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we don’t. He just needs me to stop. moving. for. a. minute. and sit down with him. That’s hard for me to do, but when I DO it, the difference in his demeanor is amazing.

What’s your currency, or your Love Language?

6 thoughts on “Currency”

  1. Lately I’ve been finding that the Quality Time needs to include conversation. I want to talk to you and have you listen for whole minutes at a time, uninterrupted by “Helen! Put the chainsaw down!” and the like. In return, I’ll try not to bore you with whatever I’m talking about.

  2. Mine is Receiving of Gifts…

    “Gifts are visual symbols of love, whether they are items you purchased or made, or are simply your own presence made available to your spouse. Gifts demonstrate that you care, and they represent the value of the relationship.”

  3. EVERY COUPLE should discover their love languages. It explains so much about the strife that happens in relationships sometimes. We try to love others the way WE feel love. But then they don’t feel loved because we’re not speaking their language. It’s amazing. I’ve become pretty passionate about the Big 5…I want to be ready when the right man comes along to know how to speak his language. 🙂

    My love language is Quality Time as well.

  4. Mine is Acts of Service. I guess that means that cleaning the house and cooking me dinner tells me you love me. Where’s June cleaver when you need her?

  5. Knew you would be, Anjali — which is probably why we get along so well. 🙂

    My parents are polar opposites in most ways, and definitely not the couple you’d expect to see together. But they’ve been married for 42 years and are very happy together. Why? Because they’re both Acts of Service people. They don’t have to work very hard to make the other one feel loved — they just do what comes naturally. For Dad, that means fixing Mom’s car before she has realized that there’s really a problem, taking out the trash, doing the dishes. For Mom, that means that she goes home and makes sure that he has a lunch ready so that he doesn’t have to rummage in the kitchen, making sure his sock drawer is never empty, and keeping his clothes ironed and in the closet.

    I first read about the 5 Love Languages when Jerry and I had been married for less than a year, and I immediately knew what his main language was and what mine was (mine is pretty textbook, really). It immediately made life in our house a lot easier, though he and I both need reminding every once in a while to speak the other’s language.

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