Best-selling author Dr. Gary Chapman offers practical advice to new parents in a discussion based on his book Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Became Parents. (Part 2 of 2)
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Dr. Gary Chapman: "I would say, either read a book, go to a class, talk to a counselor, learn something before the baby comes. And, in the early stages keep reading, keep going to workshops, keep attending classes at your church. Always be in the learning mode. You can be a good parent."
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John Fuller: That's Dr. Gary Chapman and he's with us again on "Focus on the Family" to share some practical advice and encouragement for you as an expectant parent. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I'm excited to continue our discussion today to help expectant parents and those in the first year or two of, maybe even if you have a child 4- or 5-years-old, this is gonna be very important to you or you're a grandparent. This'll be important for you, as well. One, what's your role as a grandparent? And then two, things you can share with your adult child about parent in the most delicate of ways, of course. (Chuckling)
But we are gonna cover some ground today. If you missed last time, get the download or get the CD. We'll have those details for you, but I think it is a tremendous resource for you.
John: And Jim, you and I both walked away from yesterday's conversation with our guest saying, oh, there is some application points for us (Laughter), even though we have teenagers.
Jim: Did you, John? I didn't. No, I'm kidding. (Laughter) I think we all did. (Laughter)
John: So, get the download or CD and Dr. Chapman's book, Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Became Parents, at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And Dr. Chapman is senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and he is a very popular marriage seminar speaker and addresses so many different things. He's certainly, Jim, one of our top guests in terms of listeners respond to what he says.
Jim: Well, also I think, in the Christian book space, he's the No. 1 author within Christian …
Jim: And also, John, Gary's one of the most popular, if not the most popular author in the Christian publishing space. And Gary, with that long introduction (Laughter), let me say, welcome back.
Gary: Well, thank you. I'm glad to be here again.
Jim: You know, we left off last time talking about one of your most popular books, in fact, The Love Languages.
Jim: In fact, we left off last time talking about The 5 Love Languages and I told you at the end of the program I wasn't sure what I was. You said "words of affirmation" and John, you said the same. Let's hit the five again and I'll try to take a stab at what I might be.
Gary: All right, words of affirmation, you look nice in that outfit. [I] really appreciate what you did, just verbally affirming the other person. Another love language is gifts. It's universal to give gifts as an expression of love. The gift says they were thinking about me.
And then there's acts of service, doing something for the other person that you know they would like for you to do. And in a marriage, that is such a thing, those cooking meals and washing dishes and washing cars and mowing grass and changing the baby's diapers and all those good things.
And then there's quality time, giving the person your undivided attention. I'm not talking about watching television together. I'm talking about sitting on the cough with the TV off, looking at each other and talking or walking down the road and talking with each other.
And then there's physical touch. We've long known the emotional power of physical touch. That's why we pick up babies and hold them and kiss them and cuddle them. And long before the baby understands the meaning of the word "love," the baby feels loved by physical touch. So, those are the five love languages.
Jim: Those are good and I want to work that into how we identify the love language of our children at an early age and we'll do that. I think mine is, like you guys, words of affirmation when I think about it. That probably is the one that excites me more than the others (Laughing).
Jim: So, I'll land there--
Gary: Well, let me pause.
Jim: --words of affirmation.
Gary: Well, let me pause and say, you're doin' a great job in this interview, Jim.
Jim: Hey, I feel good (Laughter) already. That's it. (Laughter) That's my love language. But tell us about that with respect to children. I think I notice with Troy it was easier because it was just so self-evident. He would jump into my arms every morning. He still does that as I'm reading prep for the broadcast at 6 in the morning. He'll wake up; come down and he'll sit in my lap as a 14-year-old now.
Jim: He's a bit heavy, so (Laughter) he's a big kid, but you know, he'll sit in my lap and I still cuddle with him like that.
Jim: That physical touch is really his love language. I can remember, Gary, I think we were having you here at Focus on the Family to talk about those and I was doing the prep for that program and I said to Troy, I said, "What do you think your love language is?" And I began to read 'em and he was probably 5 or 6.
Jim: And he said, "Physical touch."
Jim: He knew it.
Jim: Isn't that amazing?
Gary: Yeah, it is. I think you can determine a child's love language certainly by the time they're 4-years-old, maybe even earlier, by observing their behavior.
Gary: How do they respond to you and others? My son was the same. His is physical touch and when he was 3 or 4, when I would come home in the afternoon, he would run to the door, grab my leg, climb up on me, you know. My daughter never did that.
Gary: At that age she would say, "Daddy, come into my room; I want to show you somethin'."
Gary: She wanted my undivided attention, quality time. They're adults. That's still their love language. His is physical touch; hers is quality time. So, you can identify it rather early. Before that, you just give 'em all five.
Gary: Give them all five and even after that, you give them heavy doses of the primary, but you sprinkle in the other four, because we want the child to be able to receive love and give love in all five languages. That's the healthiest adult.
Gary: So, this can be very helpful to parents who really want their children to develop this key skill in terms of emotional development around these.
Jim: Really unlocking your child's heart in that area, huh?
Jim: Let's go to the other continuum for the parent in that regard. You talk in your other book about love languages, you talk about it being seasonal, that you can lean into different love languages. It depends on what's happening around you.
Jim: I'm sure you mean you maintain your core, but the other ones become more important to you. Describe that seasonal aspect of the love languages.
Gary: Well, and this is especially important when the child comes or when you have one or two young children, because let's say for example, a mother's love language may be gifts or words of affirmation. But when she has two or three preschool children, I can tell you acts of service is gonna jump to the top.
Gary: And when that husband is willing to jump in there and help her or do those things with her in the home, boy, she's gonna feel loved by him. So, it's almost momentarily her primary love language changes.
But when the children get a little older and then they begin to do some of the things for themselves, it'll go back to being gifts or words of affirmation. So, yes, that's what I mean when I say that sometimes the seasons of life will affect what your primary love language is. And in keeping the marriage alive after the baby comes, this is really important to recognize.
Jim: --Gary, let me ask you about this. You encourage parents to evaluate their own childhood and uh … also compare that to who they've become, where they're at now.
Jim: Looking at both those positive and negative traits, what can a person hope to learn from doing that?
Gary: I think what they do, if they will sit down and ask themselves, look at my father. What do I see in me that was in my father? You're gonna find some things. And you're gonna see how powerful his influence was on you. Same thing's true of the mother.
Jim: Do you think we underestimate that—
Gary: I think we do.
Jim: --as adult children.
Gary: I think we do underestimate it. And your understand the influence they had on you is gonna make you aware of the powerful influence you're having on your child. That's why, you know, in the book when I ask that question, which is to me the most sobering question I ever ask myself, what if my children turn out to be just like me?
What if they handle their anger the way I handle my anger? What if they drive a car the way I drive a car? What if they have the same work ethic that I have? What if they talk to other people the way I talk to other people? And I could go on. I deal with a lot of those in the book. But it's a sobering thing, because my model is gonna have a greater impact on my children than my words.
Gary: In fact, if my words and my model are too far apart, they will lose respect for me.
Jim: Let me ask you this, because spiritually speaking this is very critical and seems important to raise. When you see those attributes almost through nurture, I mean, these are the things you learned as a child, behavior patterns that were set early on, as Christians, as believers, in many ways, we're tryin' to uproot those negative things and replace them with what we would call the fruit of the Spirit, right—love and joy and peace and goodness, kindness and mercy.
How do we concentrate on that, as well, not just identifying who my dad or my mom was and how they influenced me in my personality, but how do I uproot those things I don't like that I see and plant something better, something God-oriented in my heart?
Gary: And I think that's precisely what God's trying to do with us. You know, we affirm our parents for the positive things and we go to God and recognize the areas in which we are weak or we are not handling things well.
This is the whole spiritual growth thing and that's why it's so important for parents to spend time with God every day individually, reading the Scriptures, listening to what God wants to say and do in you and responding to Him. It's a growth process. We're all in process and the goal is to become more and more like Christ. So, our personal relationship with God is extremely important in the way we relate to our children.
Jim: For the person listening, the mom who didn't have that healthy relationship with her mom or with her father, now she's worried. She's heard what we've said (Chuckling) and she's concerned.
Jim: What does she do to begin to think about that before the baby arrives and maybe she's just had the baby and this is now an awareness for her.
Jim: What are some practical things that she can do? When she catches herself getting angry, what should she do?
Gary: Yeah. I think the good news is, we can learn new patterns of behavior as adults that we did not learn when we were children. The anger for example, we can learn how to hold our immediate response. You know, the Proverb says that. "A wise man restrains his anger." We get a way in which we can redo that. It may be counting to 10 or counting to 25. It may be going to water your flowers. One lady told me she decided that's what she was going to do. (Laughter) She felt anger, she was gonna go water her flowers.
Jim: The flowers are really healthy, right? (Laughter)
Gary: She said—
John: They're flourishing.
Gary: --the first summer I did that, I almost drown my petunias. (Laughter) But we can learn new patterns of … of behavior in whatever the area is. We don't have to be locked into what we learned from our parents growing up, especially if it's negative.
Jim: Yeah, you also mentioned in your book, Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Became Parents, you mentioned creating a family or a parenting mission statement.
Jim: And of course I go, oh, that's what I needed; another list. (Laughter) But speak to that. You know, one of the things that we've talked about on this program was the necessity for house rules and—
Jim: --some experts will say, have as few as possible. Others say, no, house rules are great. Kids know the boundary.
Jim: So, what does a parenting mission statement do? And what does it look like?
Gary: I think it's simply a statement in terms of what you hope will happen as these children, by the time these children get to be 18 years of age. What do you want them to be able to do? What attitudes do you want them to have? What do you want their vision to be in life? Where do you want their heart to be?
And, it's just getting a vision of what we've got 18 years to bring this child to a place where they're gonna be on their own. They're gonna go off to the university. They're gonna go and join the military. They're gonna do somethin' else, we hope, you know. And so, we've gotta have a clear picture of what we hope to accomplish—
Gary: --while they're with us in these 18 years.
John: Well, and I appreciated something you said off mic to me the other day and that was, that you and Karolyn had a couple of things you wanted to give your kids as they grew up. Do you remember what you said?
Gary: Yeah, yeah, Karolyn and I always said, we want to give them roots and we want to give them wings. And when they got to be adults, Karolyn said, "I think we overdid the wings." (Laughter) Because they both flew off and never came back.
Jim: (Laughing) Yeah, right.
Gary: I mean, they visit, but they never moved back.
John: I thought that was really a good way to frame it and that might be part of your mission statement as a parent. And if you want to get other reference points, of course, we'd recommend Dr. Chapman's book. This is "Focus on the Family" and you can get the book at our website or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Gary, as a new parent, like many of us as new parents, you thought about academic skills, I'm sure you got the games for the kids (Chuckling) early on.
Gary: Oh, yeah.
Jim: I bought them so many things that were beyond their age limit. You know, it'd say "5 to 10" and they're 6-months-old.
John: And you're thinkin', "Oh, that's … " (Laughter)
Jim: Well, they'll grow into it (Laughter), you know, right? Or maybe they could start early, 'cause they're so bright, John. (Laughter)
John: Exceptionally so, yeah.
Jim: But that's one thing that all parents, we're interested in their academic ability, but you've given a lot of thought to social skills, as well, not just the emotional side that we've talked about like anger and things like that, but simply the social skills. How much does parenting play into that and how much is kind of nurture? It's inbred into the child. They're introversion, their extroversion, their people skills. How much can we really teach them as a parent about social behavior?
Gary: I think it's the social skills that we can teach them. You know, personality might be there, but we can teach them social skills.
Jim: What do those look like, just to help me understand the—
Gary: Well, I think—
Gary: --I think that a lot of folks have the idea that if their children will just get academic excellence, they're gonna make it in life. All of us know a lot of adults who lose jobs simply because they can't get along with people.
Jim: The EQ, they call it--
Gary: Yeah, yeah.
Jim: --the emotional side.
Gary: So what we want to do is teach them such things as kindness. Be kind to people. Give people words that build them up and do things that benefit people.
Jim: How would you role play that for me for a young parent who hasn't gone through that a few times. But if you see unkindness in your 3- or 4-year-old, how do you point it out in a way that they're gonna get ahold of it? So, I've—
Jim: --done something that was unkind. I yelled at or teased the little kid next to me, what would you say to me as my dad?"
Gary: I think one of the first things we would say is, "Honey, you know, that's not kind and we need to apologize when we hurt somebody with our words. So, tell Mary that you're sorry." And yeah, they may not be feeling that they're sorry, but they're at least learning to say the words, you know, "I'm sorry that I hit you." "I'm sorry that I said that to you."
And also, we speak kindly to them. When we're yelling at them, we're not teaching them to be kind. And also, we apologize when we're not kind to them. Apology teaches you, "I don't want to do that again," you know. So, kindness. There's the whole thing of gratitude. We want our children to have a sense of gratitude, not be grumbling and complaining everywhere they go that things aren't right.
Gary: We want them to see the good things that are there. You know, one of the games we suggest in the book is, when the children are old enough to talk, everybody gets in a room and everybody just goes round and round. Everybody thanking for something.
Jim: Yeah, right.
Gary: Thank You, God for the chair. Thank You, God for the lamp. Thank You, God for the rug. Thank You for the pillow. Thank …" You know, just see how many things we can thank God for, because in thanking God, then we're more likely to thank people.
Gary: And obviously when they receive a gift or somebody does something kind to them, learn to say thank you to that person. Common courtesies is another thing, you know. We had a whole list of things that in the book that we talk about, common courtesies. Don't talk with food in your mouth.Don't chew is the biggest …
John: That's one we've been workin' on. (Laughter)
Jim: Why are you lookin' at me?
John: I'm just thinking. (Laughter) 'Cause you have teen boys and my observation—
Jim: Oh, yeah. (Laughing)
John: --would be that teen boys don't resonate with that particular one.
Jim: Oh, actually, one does well with that. The other one doesn't. So (Laughter) I'm not outing who's who. Now Gary, it's funny, 'cause you grew up in in North Carolina, right--
Jim: --and your kids did. I thought those behaviors came naturally (Laughter) to folks down there.
Gary: Well, you know, every parent in every section of the country will have different common courtesies, you know. But one of ours was, don't pick the biggest piece of chicken. (Laughter)
Gary: And always--
John: Don't take the last one.
Jim: Now wait a second.
Gary: --always knock before you go into your sister's room—
Gary: --and ask her if you can come in. You know, just those—
Jim: You know, seriously—
Gary: --common things.
Jim: --though, I love when I'm in the South, and the little kids are saying, "Yes, sir," "No, sir," "Yes, ma'am," "No, ma'am." That's very common. You don't really hear a lot of that in the rest of the country.
Jim: I mean, it is one of those things that they do very well in the South. Hey, let me ask you this, Gary. When you see a discrepancy that I'll describe here in a moment and this is what I mean, you know, when your child is older and maybe does sleepovers at friends and then of course, the parents talk. And your friends say, "Oh, so and so was so good at our house. I mean, he did the dishes without being asked. He made his bed." And you the parent are going, what kid is at your house?" (Laughter) "'Cause that's not the kid I have at my house." (Laughter) But that can happen, too? What do you trust in that environment? What he's doing at your house or what your son or daughter might be doing in their friend's home when they're over there? Who's the real kid?
Gary: Well, I think first of all, you affirm what that mother said to you and you tell that child. "You know, Mrs. Jones said this about you. I am so proud of you."
Jim: Right. So, now you 're affirming the positive behavior and they're more likely to do it at home. But I think the thing at home is, we train our children either to be faithful in doing their chores or we let them slip. It's up to us, you know. They're gonna do what we expect them to do and if they don't follow the rules, then there needs to be some kind of consequences. If you don't make your bed, then there's a consequence. You decide what the consequence is. Let the kid know. You know, you don't make your bed, okay, fine. I'll make your bed. It'll cost you 50 cents out of your allowance, okay? (Laughter) I'll be happy to make it for you.
Jim: That's a good one.
Gary: So, you decide.
Jim: I didn't think of that one.
Gary: So, you know, you have boundaries. You have expectations and you have consequences if they don't follow what they're supposed to be doing.
Jim: I like that.
Jim: Oh, I like that. Gary, I've gotta say though and I'm sure most parents, let me just guess, 90 percent of parents will say when it comes to "please" and "thank you," how can you tell a child probably 10,000 times over the course of four or five years (Chuckling), remember to say please and thank you? And you're still sayin' it when they're 7-, 8-, 9-years-old. And they're gettin' it sometimes, but it's amazing. That's gotta be one of the most taught principles in human history and they still will fail to do it. Why is that?
Gary: Well, I don't know why the child doesn't pick up on that quicker, but I think if we have some consequences to their not saying that—
Jim: Rather than just a reminder.
Gary: --yeah, yeah, they're far more likely to do it.
Gary: You know, I know this …
Jim: What's an appropriate consequence?
Gary: To say for example, after dinner's over and the guests have gone to say, "You know, honey when Mrs. Jones gave you that little gift, I noticed you didn't say thank you. And you remember what we said, when you fail to (blank), we take 25 cent[s] out of your allowance, okay. So, I know you'll remember next time and I'm proud of you, okay?"
Jim: Do I get an extra 25 cents, dad (Laughter) when I remember? (Laughter)
John: I like one thing.There's a nuance to what you just said, Dr. Chapman and that is, even during a corrective moment with a small younger child, I mean, this goes through all this is the case for all kids, of course, but you feed in some sort of affirmation for, "I know you can do it. I know you can do better. I'm affirming that I have expectations and I think you can rise up there." That seems pretty important, but I don't do that so naturally.
John: I want to dial in on the wrong behavior. Why is it important for the child to hear, "But I know you can next time?"
Gary: Yeah, that's why I suggest, for example, that whatever discipline you're going to do, you wrap it in love. You express the child's love language perhaps before you give the discipline and then you express it afterwards. And the child goes away feeling, okay, I did wrong. That was fair. But if you just clobber them, you know, verbally or otherwise, and you don't give any affirmation to them, they walk away feeling, eeh, I try to be good. I just—
John: Doesn't pay.
Gary: --messed up one time and I got it.
Jim: Yeah and Gary, that's a critical statement you're making there, because I know and I think to some degree, I've made that mistake, where we can overdo the correction to the point where the child feels like I'm not very good.
Jim: And when you get to that point, you've got more work as a parent to do, bailing them out of their emotional stresses—
Jim: --because shame and constantly feeling guilty can have its own negative course, can't it?
Gary: Yeah, and in a home like that where that's what the child gets all the time—you did wrong; you did wrong; you did wrong, one of the results is, you get to be an adult and you're saying to yourself, if I ever get to be an adult, I'm never gonna be wrong again.
So, you have a hard time apologizing, because you don't want to admit that you're wrong, because you've been told that all your life--
Jim: And a hard heart.
Gary: --and you're trying to get over that.
Jim: Yeah, that's something, but it's so critical Shame does such damage, shame does such damage to children.
Jim: And we've gotta be mindful of that as parents. As parents, there might be some parents saying, "Well, you don't know the kid I've got." They're really strugglin'. "They don't do many things right. I don't see many things to affirm." Speak to that parent's heart about the need to go with some of that and absorb it and keep that child's integrity, that child's sense of confidence intact so they can begin to grow. It's so critical isn't it, with a child?
Gary: It is. I think one of the things when our children are misbehaving or doing things they shouldn't do or breaking a rule, obviously the consequences is [sic] part of it. But in the context of all of that, we need to affirm the child for something positive about them. And we need to look for things that we can be positive about. If all they ever hear is condemnation from us, they grow up with no confidence in themselves and they're gonna have struggles their whole life.
But if you say to them, "You know, I really noticed what you did. This was really powerful. I really appreciate this. Man, that's a good trait." You know, you look for those traits that you can affirm. Maybe they only did it one out of 12 times, but they did it once. You affirm that once.
Jim: You know, it's so interesting, Gary as you 're saying that, I'm thinking that's really the same advice in marriage.
Jim: And as you're saying it as a marriage expert and it is. It's what you do in relationships.
Jim: It's human relationship. Whether it's your spouse or your child, you've got to find something good that, that person can hold onto, that I'm not all bad.
Gary: Yeah, yeah.
John: Dr. Chapman, going back to the big picture that you offer in this book, Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Became Parents, how much of the outcome of the parenting journey ahead of me should I own? How much should I feel a responsibility for? We've touched on it kinda during the conversation.
Jim: Yeah, that's pretty direct. I mean, 99 percent or 50 percent?
John: Yeah, I mean, what does a new parent need to know about that?
Gary: Well, I think first of all, we ought to recognize that we do have a responsibility. The child is a gift of God and the child is totally helpless. The child will not make it without us. We obviously, the food and the sleep and all of that are the essentials to keep the child alive.
But they have all these other needs, social needs, emotional needs that we've touched on. And I'm the primary teacher to that child. I mean, but before they go to kindergarten, all these things, they're gonna be learning from me. So, I do have a tremendous responsibility.
But on the other hand, to the parent who's saying, "Well, I tried. I did all those things and then my child turned out badly, you know. Is that my fault?" And that's the common question they ask. You know, what did we do wrong when an adult child makes a poor decision.
And I have to say this. You know, look, God's first two children made poor decisions and they had a perfect Father. So, you're not perfect. I'm not perfect. We do the best we can and books like this will help us I think do that.
But we're not responsible for the decisions of our adult children. They are free to make decisions on their own when they get to be adults. And sometimes they're gonna make poor decisions. We need to be there for them. We need to let them know we love them, but we don't need to take the guilt of what they do on ourselves, because they've made an adult decision. So, I think it's important to keep that in balance.
Jim: Gary, this has been like always, such an insightful and wonderful time with you. You have a way of just getting down to the practical nitty-gritty of how to do this and how to do this well, which is so important for us. And for those listening. I hope you've been encouraged and let us know if we can help you. That's what Focus on the Family is here to do. I mean, we have wonderful donors and supporters who are able to equip us to be here for you. And one of the things is, we're a, I think, a treasure chest of resources, because of the partnerships we have with people like Dr. Gary Chapman and so many others in all kinds of areas of family.
And it's just a wonderful partnership and Gary, I so appreciate the many times you've been out here to be on the microphones, to talk with all of us about these insights. Thank you for sharing your wisdom through "Focus on the Family" to so many people. It's wonderful to have you here.
Gary: Well, thank you, Jim. It's always good to be here with you and John.
Jim: May I also say if you have benefitted from what we're doing here at Focus, man, we would really appreciate you supporting the ministry. That's how the work gets done here. It's not through the sale of resources. That's only about five percent of our budget. The other 90, 95 percent comes in pure donations. So, if you can help us to be here on the counseling lines and on prayer lines and all the other things that we're doing to encourage and hopefully, point people in a better direction in their marriages, in their parenting efforts, we would deeply appreciate your financial support today.
John: Yeah, donate and get a copy of Dr. Chapman's book or get a copy of Dr. Chapman's book and a CD or download of our two-part conversation when you stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us. Our number is 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
And, uh, by the way make a generous donation to support the work here of Focus on the Family as we come along side parents, whatever season you're in of parenting, to help you. If you'll make a generous donation today, we'll send Dr. Chapman's book to you as our way of saying thanks for joining the partnership team.
Jim: Gary, on that young couple in your church, we just got the news, "We're pregnant," we happen to have a counseling session with you. We give you the news and we ask you, "Mr. Chapman, what's one thing we could do differently than you did to make sure we're being the best parents we can be with this little one?"
Gary: I would say, either read a book, go to a class, talk to a counselor, learn something before the baby comes. And in the early stages, keep reading; keep goin' to workshops. Keep attending classes at your church. Always be in the learning mode. You can be a good parent.
Jim: I like that.
John: And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. We hope you'll have a great weekend and be back on Monday as Scott Klusendorf shares a compelling defense for the pre-born baby.
Scott Klusendorf: "What makes humans equal? Simply this, we all have the same human nature. And men and women, you had that human nature from the moment you began to exist."
John: That's Monday, as we once again help you and your family thrive.
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Gary ChapmanView Bio
Dr. Gary Chapman is the senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. He's also an international public speaker and the best-selling author of numerous books including The Five Love Languages which has sold more than five million copies and has been translated into nearly 40 languages. Dr. Chapman holds several academic degrees including a Ph.D. in adult education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.