Last week’s video was very serious so Dr. Kathy thought she’d do something more light-hearted. In this first video in a series about things in her office, she introduces you to a stuffed animal. Yes, you read that right and it’s in her office.

Are You Encouraging Positive Character Qualities in Your Children?

Are You Encouraging Positive Character Qualities in Your Children?

Are You Encouraging Positive Character Qualities in Your Children?

Last Saturday it was a privilege to teach 16 to 24-year-olds about how they are smart. Their joy as I presented was not surprising. I think everyone wants to know that there are explanations for their preferences and their behaviors. Did you read Monday’s post about helping children develop a healthy character identity? The smarts are relevant.

I talked with these students about how the ways we’re smart influence our choices and the ways we behave. For instance:

  • Logic-smart children may debate more than others and struggle with respecting those they believe make no sense.
  • Body-smart children may touch everything in grandma’s apartment even though she has asked them repeatedly to not to do that.
  • Self-smart children may develop pride in their own opinions and not be terribly teachable.
  • Music-smart children may ignore everyone around them because they “have to” listen to their favorite music.
  • Word-smart children may tease and gossip.
  • Picture-smart children may be judgmental about people’s appearances.
  • Nature-smart children may not to be on their best behavior when stuck inside for a long time.
  • People-smart children can manipulate others quite easily.

I imagine those are enough examples to help you understand why we always teach that self-respect, self-control, and respect for others are character qualities to prioritize. It is these three that often motivate children to use their smarts only for good and not to do harm.

There were positive reactions when I shared illustrations along these lines and talked with these teenagers and young adults about how their misbehavior may be birthed in their smarts. They saw why some of the same misbehavior continues to be an issue for them.

How Can We As Parents Help?

Think about how you can encourage children you love to improve their behavior by adding positive character qualities to their repertoire rather than paralyzing their smarts. “Stop that!” can paralyze them from using the smart related to the negative behavior. They might stop enjoying music altogether. Maybe they won’t ever want to visit their grandma’s apartment again. They may isolate and not want to interact with people since they always seem to get into trouble when they do. Stopping negative behavior is, of course, appropriate. But, we don’t want children of any age to stop being smart.

“Start this!” is beneficial. Start being other-centered. Start being compassionate. Being careful. Start being humble. Start being kind. Be open. Start being ….

How would you love your children to finish this sentence so they’ll use their smart strengths in smart ways?

Character Identity – Are You Telling Or Teaching?

Character Identity - Are You Telling Or Teaching?

Character Identity

Are You Telling or Teaching?

In early June, it was my privilege and joy to teach hundreds of 7th graders about their identity. Because, I wanted them to understand how multi-faceted they are. I wanted them to choose to invest in all of themselves. It matters partly because identity controls behavior.

Consequently, if children only know a part of themselves, they’ll struggle greatly if that part fails them. For instance, last Monday, I wrote about children’s social identity.  If that’s all they have to depend on, what will they do when they feel only negative about it? Isolate. Separate. Treat peers and others badly. And more.

What Your Teens Are Saying:

When I asked these young teens to tell me a high compliment they could receive if someone described their character identity, groups listed these qualities:

  • Kind, encouraging
  • Trustworthy, kind
  • Charismatic
  • Good, kind-hearted
  • Honest, truthful
  • Sweet, loyal, integrity
  • Humble
  • Perky, always happy, encouraging, bubbly, friendly, peppy, humble, helpful, careful, kind, loving, compassionate heart
  • Loyal, respectful
  • Easygoing, positive, problem solver
  • Open-minded
  • Hardworking
  • Diligent, respectful, responsible
  • Courageous
  • Good role model

What do you think?

I think these are great kids! Can you imagine if all of us consistently exhibited these qualities? Seriously!

So be grateful with me that these teens want to be known as having these qualities. Perhaps ask your children the same question. What character qualities do they highly value? Then, let’s ask ourselves how we can help them. Picture yourself talking with them about these. Which ones will we be better at modeling? Will accountability help us model those that aren’t natural strengths of ours? How can we teach these character qualities?

Teaching is a key. It’s absolutely essential that we talk about the character qualities we want our kids to choose. While modeling them prevents the hypocrisy that angers children. But, teaching matters because these qualities aren’t easy to embrace 24/7.

4 Ways You Can Help Your Children:

  • Starting with the old-fashioned dictionary might be wise. Definitions often reveal fine differences between qualities.
  • Since contrasting the qualities with their opposites is effective teaching. Share an example of someone being courageous and an example of someone not being brave. Teach about loyalty vs. someone giving up quickly on a friend. Also, contrast kindness with rude behavior. What does encouragement sound like and look like? What about discouragement? You get the idea.
  • Would role playing or making up dramas with your kids help them understand why and how to live out these qualities? Especially if they’re body smart and people smart, this could be great fun and very effective. What about watching favorite movies or shows and looking for examples of positive and negative character qualities? We could do the same thing with stories they’re reading.
  • Since there are numerous examples of many of the qualities these teens mentioned in the heroes we know from the Bible. I imagine the same thing will be true regarding qualities your children identify as important. Look for examples together. Did Jesus use that quality? When was he courageous? Encouraging? Respectful? Responsible? Was Paul hard working? Who can you think of who demonstrated loyalty? How does a study of significant men and women from Scripture inform our ideas about humility?

So What Can You Do As Parents?

If you engage your children in discussions like these, I’d love to know how they go.

Most of all, let’s not just expect our kids to wake up another day with better character. Children tell me they don’t want us to “tell and yell.” They want to be taught. They need to be taught. It honors them. I pray God blesses you as you persevere.


You can read the earlier blogs in this series here:

Introduction to blog series about a complete identity:

Do You Know What You’re Aiming For?

Intellectual identity

Emotional identity

Social identity

In last week’s video, Dr. Kathy shared a parenting philosophy she is in favor of. This week, she talks about the type of parent who greatly concerns her. She admits it’s a serious topic. You won’t be laughing if you watch. We predict you will be thinking. Curious? Good!

Developing Friendship with the 8 Great Smarts

How are you doing? What have you been thinking about lately? Maybe your kids and their friends are on your mind since another school year is upon us. Many parents I talk with ask questions about how to help their children with relationships. They can be complex today, can’t they?

That’s one of the reasons I wrote Monday’s blog about children’s social identity. We can help them identify goals for their social selves. But we can do more.

If you’ve heard me speak about the 8 great smarts or read my book, you know that the way kids are smart affects how they relate to peers. When we help them understand how they are smart and how others are smart, they can understand how to talk with their peers and what they might enjoy doing with their peers.

Read on…

Developing Friendship with the 8 Great Smarts

Do you know children or teens who struggle with friends? Who doesn’t? Maybe they think they don’t have enough friends. Maybe they’re trying to have too many. Maybe their friendships don’t tend to last long. Or, maybe they stay at the superficial level. Developing relationships into friendships has never been easy. It’s more complicated today because of social media, family and cultural issues, and busyness.

What if I suggested that when children discover how they are smart, they can more successfully navigate the complexity of friendship? That’s not all. Parents can think about their smarts and how their children are smart when wanting to have fun together and deeper conversations. Both are more likely. It’s true. (I’ll write the rest of this about peer friendships, but everything here can be applied to your desire to stay connected well to your children.)

When children know their smart strengths and want to get to know peers better or just have a good time, they can choose activities that are a good fit. They’ll be most comfortable so they’ll be able to be themselves. Knowing about the smarts also allows children to predict which smarts are strengths in peers they’d like to get to know better. Now, they can choose activities and places with them in mind and they’ll be most comfortable. Make sense?

If I’m already a bit stressed at the prospect of trying to make a good impression and I’m in a situation I’m not comfortable with, our time may not go well. I may be nervous. I may not be able to have confident conversations. I may not think of questions to ask so our conversations don’t last long. I may be bored and the person may think I’m bored with him or her. Not good!

For example, I’m not very picture smart. So, I don’t go out of my way to go to art museums. I have gone with others to honor them. A wise choice! But, it’s not easy for me. I’m out of place. I don’t know why they’re excited with this painting or that sculpture. I don’t always know the words they’re using to describe what they say. (And, I’m word smart! But, the smarts don’t always work together. Because picture smart is one of my weaker intelligences, I don’t have a strong vocabulary for the arts.) Because I’m normally a strong conversationalist, stress can build. I’m also very logic smart so I typically enjoy thinking with questions. I can’t do that in an art museum because I don’t even know enough to know what to ask. Perhaps you can relate even if your smart strengths are different.

So, how can we help our children create positive encounters so relationships will grow into friendships? Teach them how they are smart and how that can influence their decisions and conversations.

When children are body smart, they think with movement and touch. They enjoy moving and will stay most engaged when they have the freedom to move. They like to keep their hands busy. They’ll also enjoy participating in physical activities and will probably enjoy watching sporting events, too.

When children are logic smart, they think with questions. These children may most easily connect with others who also enjoy investigating ideas. They may enjoy discussing books together, going to museums, and exploring and discovering new places and things.

When children are music smart, they think with rhythms and melodies. Connecting over music and musical groups will solidify relationships for music-smart children. They’ll enjoy going to concerts and listening to music together at home or in music stores.

When children are nature smart, they think with patterns. These children will enjoy spending time outside, going for a walk, spending time at a pet store, and going to the zoo. They may enjoy collecting things together as they examine different patterns. Bonding with each other’s pets will also connect them.

When children are people smart, they think with other people. These children will often have healthy relationships because they have the ability to discern people’s motives and more. They enjoy talking, brainstorming, and discovering truths together. They often prefer to be with several people rather than just one other person. They don’t necessarily need to do much together; it’s being together that matters.

When children are picture smart, they think with their eyes in pictures. These children may enjoy crafting together, talking about art and colorful things even in malls, and watching movies. Sometimes they’ll engage longer in conversations when allowed to doodle. Enjoying and examining pictures in books may result in great conversations. They’ll also enjoy talking about the things they see in their vivid imagination.

When children are self smart, they think with reflection deeply inside of themselves. These children usually don’t need as many friends as others do. But, they still need to be connected to healthy peers and family. Having their thoughts and opinions respected is important. They’ll often prefer quiet and talking about things worth thinking about. They’ll enjoy questioning others about their beliefs so others need to be confident.

When children are word smart, they think with words. Talking, talking, and talking more will often be the preference of word-smart children. They need friends to listen and engage in conversations. They may bond by reading the same book and then talking about it. Walking through bookstores together will be considered fun.

What do you think? I hope you have ideas relevant to one or more of your children. (There are many more ideas and illustrations in my new book.) And, remember my illustration of going to art museums. If you know your children are going to be somewhere or doing something that isn’t necessarily a high interest or strength, prepare them as best you can.

Talk with your children about what you’ve noticed about their smarts. When they know how they’re smart, they’ll be more confident and more creative with friends. When discovering how their friends are smart, they’ll better honor them. That will be a win-win.

8GreatSmarts_3D-web8 Great Smarts is an extensively expanded re-release of my 2007 book, How Am I Smart? If you read that, you might be wondering how 8 Great Smarts is better. I include much more about character, added relevant ideas about technology, included more ideas about learning with all the smarts, reorganized the chapters for a fresh read, and ended the chapters very uniquely. I think you’ll love it!

What’s Your Child’s Social Identity?

“How are you?”

If you read my last three blogs, you’re beginning to understand that this question that we are often asked, and that we ask our children, isn’t simple.

If your son answers while thinking of his intellectual identity, he might answer great! But, if answering with his emotional self in mind, he might have said lonely or frustrated.

If your daughter thinks of her emotional identity, she might answer terrible! But, if answering while reflecting on her intellectual self, she might have proclaimed, super!

Maybe the internal contradictions are why children often just grunt, shrug their shoulders, or respond OK. And, this is only while considering two of six identities!

Today, let’s consider the social identity. No matter the age of your children, this matters. It’s about friendship, being friendly, community, establishing belonging, and being connected in meaningful ways.

What goals do you have for this identity for your children? What do you hope they’ll strive for? Talk with them about your hopes and goals as another school year begins. But, do more than talk. Help them. model for them what’s healthy. Be available for their questions. Share wisdom. Dry their tears. Be vulnerable about your past struggles. Identify missing skills and teach them. Think strategically and plan intentionally. Progress is very possible!

As in my past blogs, I’ll share here what groups of 7th graders listed as a high compliment when I taught this concept to hundreds of them back in June. Perhaps this will help you think about how to present this issue to your children and how to choose important goals.

  • Teamwork
  • Friendly
  • Friendly
  • Outspoken, friendly
  • Nice, helpful
  • People like being around me
  • Outgoing
  • A lot of friends, interactive, open, trustworthy, compassionate, fun to be around, respectful, perky, responsible
  • Outgoing, funny, friendly
  • Nice, kind, optimistic, caring
  • Optimistically outgoing
  • Friendly
  • Good at talking to people
  • Self-control
  • Funny, easy to get along with

I wish I could follow up with the five groups who listed “friendly.” If your children answer with this goal, I hope you’ll follow up. What do they mean by the word? What’s the evidence that someone is friendly? What does it look like? Sound like?

I’ve been observing people from afar. It’s been interesting. I’ve assumed someone is friendly based on body language, facial expressions, and how closely they sit next to someone. Am I right? Could I be wrong?

If you ask your children what “friendly” is like with peers they don’t know yet and what it’s like when they know peers well, I’d love to know what they say. Be prepared for an interesting discussion. I’ve been observing my own behavior at church, for instance. I’d like to be known as being friendly. How do I present myself to guests? How do I present myself to those I’m already friends with?

There’s much to think about! Again, the question, “How are you?” isn’t as simple as we used to think it is.


You can read the earlier blogs in this series here:

Introduction to blog series about a complete identity

Intellectual identity

Emotional identity

You might assume Kathy wants parents to hover over their children to make sure everything goes well. She doesn’t. She’s one of many who believes that kind of attention does not help children. Listen to learn what she is in favor of. It’s almost the exact opposite. You may be surprised.

Processing Feelings With The 8 Great Smarts

On Monday, I shared about the importance of helping children develop a healthy emotional identity. Just two days before, I had shared at a convention that children can use their 8 great smarts to process feelings well. I share this every time I teach about the smarts because parents and teachers have consistently appreciated the information and examples. Writing Monday’s post and reflecting on Saturday’s convention experience reminded me of this post from last June. I believe it’s important enough to launch again. I hope you agree. And, as always, I hope and pray you’re blessed by reading it.

Processing Feelings With The 8 Great Smarts by Dr. Kathy Koch

Lately I’ve included the importance of talking with children about their emotions in most of my messages. Even though the topic may not be in my notes and may not appear to be immediately relevant, the idea comes to mind. Then I share. Then I know it’s relevant. Parents nod. I watch them take notes.

Children and teens have many emotional responses to life. Boys have as many as girls, but they lack emotional vocabulary so this can make feelings even more stressful for boys. Because of kids’ exposure to the world on the web and live, unedited footage of happenings locally and everywhere, they see and hear much more than we would have at their age. Consequently, they feel more, too.

As people know who have heard me teach about kids’ 8 great smarts, we can teach children to think with all 8 and feel with all 8. When we encourage them to process feelings with their smart strengths, they’ll have more complete feelings. They won’t be negatively controlled by feelings and they’ll eventually have a healthier perspective toward the event, themselves, and other people.

The same ideas may work for positive feelings such as joy, gratefulness, and excitement and those we may think of as negative such as fear, grief, anger, and doubt. It may be more necessary to help children process hard feelings, but when we do, they’ll learn things that will help them when positive feelings also feel overwhelming.

As you read through my ideas, you could have the unwarranted and tragic killings of the young lives in Orlando on your mind, some sadness a child had to deal with such as being cut from a sports team, or their joy at earning a top score at a music competition.

Let’s guide children to use their smarts to process their feelings – to better feel their feelings and think about them, too. I’m certainly not suggesting you sit them down with directions like, “Okay, now let’s think about your feelings with movement and touch so you can use your body to process them.” No … I’m simply asking you to remember to lead them through your words and actions to opportunities so they can process feelings with their smarts.

Here are some suggestions:

When using word smart, children think with words. They will need to talk. Some may want to have long conversations with you. Others may prefer short conversations that occur on-and-off. And, some won’t need you at all. It’s more a matter of them being allowed to process their thoughts in words – out loud, on paper, and perhaps by typing. They may also benefit by listening to you talk about your feelings and how you’re dealing with them.

When using logic smart, children think with questions. They want things to be fair and get frustrated when they’re not. Therefore, incidents like the Orlando tragedy can make them very angry. We need to be available to their questions. Conversations will be very helpful. Also, they may do research online about the incident that triggered their feelings, people involved, how others are responding, and the like. When using our logic, we are solution-focused. For example, hundreds in Orlando gave blood. Airlines and hotels helped with expenses for family members. Rallies were held so victims could be honored and those grieving wouldn’t be alone. Thinking about these types of things will give logic-smart children great hope.

When using picture smart, children think with pictures. They often see images vividly in their minds and will almost always remember their dreams in more detail than others will. They may also draw on paper. Drawing or coloring with them may help them process feelings because you’ll be right there as they’re thinking and feeling. We can also ask them what they see in their minds as we’re talking. This question may surprise your children, but it’s very honoring. They will feel known and safe. As they listen to the news and overhear our conversations, words can trigger pictures. Images they see on TV and the Internet trigger pictures. For many picture-smart children, they’ll struggle to not see them. Therefore, guard their eyes.

When using music smart, children think with rhythms and melodies. Listening to their favorite music can be especially important as they process both good and hard feelings. They may also want to play or sing. For example, I know many piano players, both children and adults, who play when emotional. You can sit in the room with them and sing or play with them. Just being available will give you opportunities to then talk with them. All children have all 8 smarts and they work in combination. So, these children may be better able to talk with you about what they’re feeling after they first process their feelings through music.

When using body smart, children think with movement and touch. Therefore, they will need to move freely and often while feeling their feelings. Movement and touch help them think and relax. Help these kids by going for a walk with them, talking while you push them on a swing, go to the driving range, and shoot hoops in your driveway. They may want and need even more hugs and other physical contact than normal. Fist bump them, walk holding hands, and scratch their backs while talking at the table. If exercising, dancing, drumming, or crafting are normal activities, they’ll need to continue these or stress will badly build.

When using nature smart, children think with patterns. They may need to spend time outside just sitting on a bench or walking in a park. They can benefit from doing this alone and with others. If they have pets, they’ll gain more comfort from interacting with them than others. Garden with these kids, go to a pet shelter, and visit the zoo. These children may open up more in these environments.

When using people smart, children think with people. Like when children are word smart, they’ll process with words. But, these children need conversations and don’t do well feeling or thinking alone. They’ll grieve best and process their fears and confusion most deeply when spending time with other people. They’ll want to test their thoughts and feelings by sharing them and having you react to them. Interacting with others feeling the same feelings can be comforting. These children may want to visit memorials and attend gatherings of others.

When using self smart, children think with reflection. Unlike children using their people smart, when being self smart, children process their thoughts and feelings alone, thinking and feeling deeply inside of themselves. They will actually prefer to feel alone, in quiet and privacy. They’ll need space. Stress will build if they don’t have it. It’s a fine balance, isn’t it? Parents and other significant people in their lives need to know how they’re feeling and what they’re feeling. You’ll learn to not ask them in groups. And, don’t expect quick answers. Share some of your feelings with them and this might encourage them to share their feelings with you – someone they’re safe with. and, remember that the smarts work together. Is your self-smart child nature smart? Go for a quiet walk in a park. Is your child picture smart? Sit side-by-side and color. This may help them open up. Is your child music smart? Listen to his or her favorite music together. Just being present will help them.

Okay, what do you think? I truly hope this isn’t overwhelming, but is a blessing. What if you printed this out and had it handy to refer to in the future? Children (and adults) must process feelings in healthy ways or they become overwhelming or we stuff them deep down to deal with later. But, too often we never do. That creates bigger problems later. Being available and guiding our children to feel what they feel may be one of the most important things we do. Bless you as you parent well in this way.

What’s Your Child’s Emotional Identity?

If someone asked your children to describe themselves, what might they say? If you were asked that question, what would you say?

Chances are good that we and our children might not mention our emotions. Yet, they’re a very important part of our identity.

Knowing our emotions matters because feelings influence behaviors. Would you agree that if you’re angry, you may not behave in the ways you prefer? When you’re anxious, do you recognize you don’t behave the same as when you’re at peace? Feelings influence much. How about being ignored? Offended? Scared? Uncertain? Enthusiastic? Puzzled? Annoyed?

Helping children identify their emotions and name them accurately can help them process their feelings well. They can learn if they need help to do so, perhaps by talking with you. They can learn how some emotions cause others. This is essential so they deal with what’s really going on. For example, they may truly be angry, but it was triggered by jealousy. Or, fear. Or, hate, confusion, perfectionism, or disappointment.

Are you raising boys? They have as many feelings as girls, but often don’t have the vocabulary to name them. Girls and women seem to have a natural thesaurus for emotions. We can be frustrated, angry, upset, disappointed, concerned, and irritated. Guys are angry. That’s their word. (Certainly there are factors that won’t make this always true, but when I teach on this, the majority of men in the audience nod to indicate they agree.)

As I wrote in the first blog in this series, it’s wise for parents to think strategically and plan intentionally about who they want their children to be. You may do nothing more important than raise children well so spending time thinking about who you want them to be is time well spent. That’s an understatement!

What are the emotions you’d love your children to have consistently? Or, how would you like them to describe themselves? As I explained last Monday in a blog about having a healthy intellectual identity, I recently taught these concepts to a large group of 7th graders. I asked them to tell me what would be a high compliment in the emotional identity category. Before you look at their answers, how would you like your children to answer this question?

  • Loving
  • Caring
  • Stable
  • Kind and loving
  • Friendly, joyful, happy, compassionate
  • Happy, joyful, resilient
  • Loving
  • Joyful, grateful, kind-hearted
  • Humble, mature, stable
  • Joyful, happy, stable
  • Trustworthy
  • Joyous
  • Optimistic
  • In control of emotions

As I ended last week’s blog:

What do you want to be true about your children emotionally? What’s your bull’s-eye? Do they know that? Would they agree with you? How must you parent for this to be their reality?

As we say at Celebrate Kids, wishing it so won’t make it so. We can’t just wish this identity for our children. Talking about it isn’t enough. That is, of course, helpful and wise. But, to assure they define themselves in the ways we value, you’ll have to guide them, walk with them, affirm them, correct them, and maybe more. Are you up to the task? If not, adjust your expectations and change your bull’s-eye or you and your children will be disappointed. Discouragement can set in.

Having a goal matters. Working to make it a reality is loving. Make a plan now. Your children will benefit.

Be encouraged today! Parenting is hard work if you choose to do it well. Having a priority isn’t the same thing as working on a priority. Don’t believe the lies that everything today should be easy.