To help children change, remember that “change” means “exchange.” When you want them to do less of something, tell them what you want them to do more of. For instance, you may want them to use technology less sometimes. What can they do instead? The use of Dr. Kathy’s practical idea may help this month go smoother.

Christmas + Children = Play Time! Here’s How The 8 Great Smarts Can Facilitiate The Joy

Christmas and children – they just go together, don’t they? Perhaps you’re looking forward to spending time with children and teens later this month. Maybe you’re still shopping for their gifts. You’re not alone. Stores are still full. Website traffic is high.

Games and toys are some of the best ways to awaken and even strengthen their eight great smarts. Here’s a short list of suggestions taken from the end of each chapter of 8 Great Smarts.

Shop strategically. If you don’t know how the children are smart just pick one or two that sound interesting. If you do know, think about whether they’d enjoy a game for a smart they’re already developing or whether to buy one to better awaken one they haven’t used as much. Or, buy both!

Word Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Scattergories: If you can quickly come up with a list of, say, things at the park, in a drawer, and that you wear that start with the letter t that no one else thinks of, you can win this game.

Play Apples to Apples: One player draws a card. Each player selects a word card from their hand that they think is most relevant to the word on that card. If the judge picks your card, you win that round. Unlikely connections among words make for lots of laughter!

Logic Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Blokus: Players take turns placing pieces of their chosen color on the board. It’s tricky because each new piece must touch at least one other piece of the same color, but only at the corners. You win if you place more pieces than anyone else.

Play Clue: Crack the murder that took place in the mansion by asking the right questions to win this classic game. Junior version available.

Picture Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Telestrations: Picture the “Telephone Game” using drawings instead of whispering something into your neighbor’s ear. Lots of laughter.

Play Pictionary: Make quick sketches that others will hopefully guess correctly. Junior version available

Music Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Cranium: Answer trivia questions, create art, hum, act out clues, and use your vocabulary skills to win. Relevant to many smarts.

Play Encore: Draw a card with a word on it and sing at least six words of a song with that word in it. Judges memory, not musical ability.

Body Smart – Let’s Play!

Play tag (or any outdoor game).

Play Twister: Give the spinner a whirl and follow the directions. Just try to keep from falling over!

Nature Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Qwirkle: Match colors and shapes and use wise maneuvers and a strategy to win.

Play Rock On Geology Game: Rock and mineral collection includes fifteen specimens and fifty-plus polished rocks and minerals; five levels of play.

People Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Headbanz: Everyone but you knows what role you’ve been assigned. Ask questions to try to figure it out before you run out of time. You could be a mouse, dirty sock, or cash register.

Play Guesstures: You only have a few seconds to use classic charades techniques to get your team to guess the word on your assigned card.

Self Smart – Let’s Play!

Do quiet things together that your child chooses, such as completing a puzzle, coloring, building with Legos, playing with dolls, or playing a car game like “Who Am I?”

Shop, shop, shop! Play, play, play!

Making Christmas Memories a Priority

Making memories might be one of the most important things to do during this month.

When we concentrate on making memories rather than just “doing things” chances are that our experiences will be richer and go deeper. We’ll pay attention to the people we’re with rather than just the tasks at hand. Therefore, stronger emotional ties will be established. Other adults and children will be blessed as we interact with them intentionally.

Think about all the things you have scheduled and other tasks to accomplish. What if you think about them in the context of memory making? You might’ve already done some of things I list at the end of this post, but maybe you can now have rich conversations to still broaden the potential for positive memories that last.

What would it take for these activities and things on your to-do list to become memories that are thought of fondly next year? If you think back to past Christmases, what do you remember? Why do you remember those things and those people? Your answer to these questions may help you do things differently to create richer memories for your family this season.

Did humor make your list? I suspect it did because it’s often during times of joy and laughter that bonds are deepened. Look for opportunities to really enjoy each other this month.

Did you think of something that involved a surprise? That’s often the case for me as I reflect on strong memories of my childhood and even adult years. For your family this month, add something surprising that you’ve never done before. Or you could add a twist to something you have typically done. This will make it more memorable.

I was reminded this past weekend that some of the best memories are those about small and seemingly insignificant things. Seeing my sister-in-law putting newly-baked Christmas cookies into a tin that belonged to her mom and has been used for maybe 40 years or more. Hearing a song on the radio and remembering who I was with when I heard it performed at a concert last December. Wrapping paper that my mom would’ve loved. A recipe that was hers that her grandchildren still love. Dessert plates hand-painted by my grandma when she was about 18 that we still use at my brother’s home.

It’s the conversation surrounding these things that make the memories – and, therefore, the people involved – come alive. Let’s purpose to talk a lot about meaningful things as we’re out-and-about and in our own homes. Let’s get pods out of ears and eyes off of devices and talk. It can be done! Expect it. Have high expectations. Listen and talk. Talk and listen.

No one in our family would know about the Christmas cookie tins if Debbie wouldn’t tell us. My nieces and nephew wouldn’t know their great-grandmother painted the dishes their cake is on if we didn’t tell them. They wouldn’t know that the food they enjoy was first served by their grandmother to her father on Christmas Eve many, many years ago if my brother and I didn’t tell them.

Make memories, not just cookies. Make memories, not just a clean house, make memories, not just purchases. You get the idea.

How might concentrating on making memories influence the way you do tasks like these?

Choosing a tree. Decorating a tree. Shopping for a present for your child’s teacher. Choosing presents for friends and loved ones. Wrapping presents. Planning menus for times when family and friends will come over for dinner. Choosing outfits to wear here and there. Watching favorite Christmas movies together. Choosing recipes to make for different events. Making them together in the kitchen. Practicing the piano for an upcoming recital or to play for a visiting relative. Making cookies together. Eating some with hot chocolate in candlelight. Driving to see Christmas lights and decorations. Visiting shut-ins. Surprising neighbors with flowers, Christmas cookies, or something you know they would appreciate. Singing Christmas carols. Cleaning the house so it’s more ready for relatives to arrive. Attending church. Having meaningful conversations in the car on the way home. Practicing for and then attending church or school Christmas programs.

Kids’ behavior can become more challenging because of the busyness of December. Let’s be solution-focused. Try using a written record when your children frustrate you. Write down some details and you’ll see causes. Too many late nights? Or, too much sugar? Competition with a neighbor that elevates your son’s pride? Once you see causes, solutions are easier to think of and implement.

Knowing The 8 Great “Smarts” Reveals Your Child’s Strengths

It made my heart smile.

I love the way Leigh expresses herself here in what was a Facebook post. Read about her nature-smart son, Josiah. I love that she knows him this well and knows that what he’s doing is important and evidence of intelligence. I’m grateful for moms like Leigh and readers like you who I’m privileged to influence.

Thank you for reminding us that our kids are smart in different ways. My 10-yr-old can make wood kindling like nobody’s business. After a stressful day of a particularly tough subject, I found my son doing goat chores without being asked and then making small piles of wood starter for our wood stove. It made my heart smile knowing that by some school test-standard, he may have lagged behind but in his nature smarts he’s far beyond! Thank you for all you do to spur us on toward love and good deeds.

I was humbled to read her last statement because it’s my joy to share through speaking and my books and other materials. I almost didn’t share this here, but I wanted to see if this testimonial would make your heart smile, too. Also, here is a relevant question:

If you are not familiar with the 8 Great Smarts, click here to learn more and get your copy. If you’re already familiar with the 8 Great Smarts, how can knowing about them “spur you on toward love and good deeds”?

A Helpful Post-Thanksgiving Assessment

How was your Thanksgiving? How about the whole weekend?

Did you see the people you hoped to see? Was it quality time? If you spent lots of time alone, did you handle these times well?

Did you have the conversations you wanted to have? Did you get to share what was important to you? Did you feel heard when it was your turn to talk? Did you get to ask others the questions you wanted to? Were you fully present when they were talking? How would your children answer these questions?

Did you relax by playing a game like you had hoped to? Did you go for a walk? Did children and teens do things together? Did they engage only with their devices or did they pay attention to older relatives?

Did your family help out before company arrived and after they left? What about while the guests were in your home? Were spirits up and did people cooperate with each other? Did children and adults use initiative to do what needed to be done without always having to be asked?

Were people other-centered? Did you say “please” and “thank you.” Did you not assume, but communicate clearly? Did you give people advance notice of scheduled activities so they didn’t feel blind-sided?

Were you overwhelmed? What caused it and how did you respond? How would your children answer these questions?

What about joy? Fatigue? Contentment? Stress? Gratitude? Confusion? Peace? Frustration? Hope?

Why am I asking so many questions? Because Christmas is one month away and many of us will have similar times when we celebrate with family and friends.

We will be guests somewhere and/or people will be guests in our home. We will have expectations. Stress can build when they’re not met. There’s value in reflecting on this past weekend partly so that our Christmas celebrations go well.

Are there changes you want to make? Need to make? Will you? Christmas is too important of a celebration for us to not do what we can to make it the best possible experience for us and those we love.

Let’s think about this and then talk with family. Listen to their answers to some of these questions, help them listen to yours, and make some plans for the month. Then do everything you can to help the plans become reality.

This Thanksgiving week, let’s look for things we can agree to be thankful for. Although there are times when agreeing to disagree is essential and healthy, with our family and friends this season, let’s find and talk about things we agree about. It will do us good.

Thanksgiving Traditions Offer Opportunities for Cherished Memories


We were all there, seated at the large oval table in my brother’s dining room. Dave and his wife, Debbie, were hosting us for Thanksgiving, 1986.

Deb’s parents were there. My parents were there. Betsy, 13-months-old, was in her high chair. Our expectations for good food and a good time were high.

As was the family tradition, each of us had three kernels of corn at our place. We knew that when we’d be enjoying our pumpkin pie, we’d also take turns adding each kernel to a jar as we declared what we were grateful for. It was never hard coming up with three things. Going beyond the obvious – God and family – so our answers weren’t always the same was maybe a bit challenging.

Everything was going along like normal. Then everything changed.

Dave started with his three statements of thankfulness and then passed the jar to his right. Each of us took our turn. Some tears were shed as we talked about our love for each other. After my turn, I handed the jar to Debbie.

I don’t remember the first two things she talked about. I remember thinking she was getting very excited. That’s when it happened.

Debbie threw the third kernel of corn into the jar with such enthusiasm that it bounced out and landed on the floor. As she threw it, she screamed, I’M PREGNANT!!

I think we all jumped up while we screamed, cried, and laughed. We ran around hugging everyone. Debbie and Dave confirmed that we heard her correctly as we kept asking, What? How can that be?

Betsy, their precious daughter, was a most beautiful gift through adoption. Debbie’s doctors had made it clear that she and Dave shouldn’t expect to conceive any children. This baby God allowed them to conceive was a most beautiful miracle. A shocking surprise. Definitely someone worth the third kernel of corn.

Six months later, on May 12th, Kathryn Arlene Koch was born. There’s much I’ll always love and remember about Katie. How we found out about her is among my favorites.

What are you currently grateful for? Gather with family and/or friends and declare it!

The kernel of corn tradition is based on stories from the Pilgrims. During their first winter, their daily ration of food was only five kernels of corn. Yet, they were a grateful people.

More than normal, let’s be observant during the busy season of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Let’s notice eye contact and the lack of it, body language and whether it matches words spoken, whether fatigue or stress is setting in, and more. Let’s have the eyes to see and the ears to hear possible causes of irritability, argumentative behavior, apathy, and the like. Then let’s say something helpful. Listen to learn Dr. Kathy’s recommendation.

Cultivating Gratitude Year Round

Maybe what we need between now and Christmas is a change of heart...

If you have read Screens and Teens you know that cultivating gratitude is something I think we need to be consciously doing on a regular basis. Giving thanks cannot be something we do one day a year. Being thankful should be something we are.

What if we all determined to choose thankfulness between now and the end of the year and beyond? Yes, what if it truly becomes a habit that it’s a part of us? As I write on page 80, “Gratitude can be a built-in part of our identities. This is what allows us to be thankful “in all circumstances” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ).”

Rather than complaining about the entitlement easily observable throughout our culture and many people, let’s do what we can. We’re not responsible for everyone else. We can’t even change our own hearts, but Jesus can.

My hope for many people between now and Christmas is a change of heart. Is this relevant for you and/or your children? Would praying for God’s perspective be helpful? Would it help to pray for eyes to see what you have instead of what you don’t have? Would discussions and prayer about contentment be a good idea?

Truth can reign. We can model truth, talk about it, pray that it becomes believed, and more. We can ask God to show us the conversations to have with children to help shift their perspective.

What if these passages truly informed us during this season and beyond? Can you think of others to talk with your children about this season?

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:14-17

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Scripture is, of course, so important to being transformed more and more into the image of Christ. We can also take action. Waiting for the truths of Scripture to totally change hearts before stepping out in obedience isn’t necessary. Acting on truths can help especially children see the truths. They’ll believe the Scripture and continue to act on it.

For instance, what if we established something new during the upcoming Christmas season? What if, as we add new things to our home, we give away things from our home? This might happen the week after Christmas as toys, clothes, dishes, and more are put away where they belong. We can talk now about the expectation.

I know some families who collect things Thanksgiving week to give away to shelters and the like. This makes room in their homes for new things. And, more importantly organizations and struggling families looking for “gently used things” during December will benefit from what we give away.

We all have clothes we no longer wear, dishes we rarely use, toys that are no longer fun for our children, CDs we don’t listen to, DVDs we don’t watch, and more. Others can benefit. But, only if they’re not collecting dust in our homes.

When we and our children recognize how much we have that we don’t need, thankfulness should be easier. Contentment can reign. Let’s make this our story.