How do you react to the news that joy is a genius quality? Think about your own life. Isn’t the joy associated with accomplishments sometimes (always?) more satisfying than the prize or paycheck? We must give our children time to experience joy. We must share in their joy. This may be what keeps them persevering and exploring. Dr. Kathy will explain sources for joy that geniuses talk about. Watch for ways to encourage your children to discover their joy.

Communicating About Academic Challenges


You know by now, if you’re a reader of this blog, that all of us at Celebrate Kids believe children are smart in eight different ways. So are adults! All of us have all eight intelligences in different amounts. For instance, I’m much more word, logic, and people smart than I am nature and picture smart.

So what do we do when our children appear to have legitimate academic challenges?

We still look for how they are smart. We must know their academic strengths and talk with them about them or they will not know to use strengths to overcome weaknesses.

For example, as I’ve written about before, spelling doesn’t come easily to me even though I’m very word smart. So, I use a thesaurus to look up a word I know how to spell in order to find one I can’t spell. Knowing how I’m smart empowers me to do this. (I can look up “beautiful” to find “gorgeous.” Why is there an “e” in that word??!!??)

Don’t let them think they’re stupid. Help them understand that when something is challenging or hard, it doesn’t mean they are “stupid.” Don’t let them call themselves that and help them carefully disagree with anyone who does. Help them find a satisfying way to express their academic challenges when it’s necessary. I might say something like “Spelling isn’t easy for me because picture-smart and nature-smart are not my strengths.” Or “It’s hard for me to concentrate when reading some fiction because I’m not very picture-smart and I don’t see the action as I read.” Or someone might say, “Math isn’t easy for me because I don’t have as many brain cells in that part of my brain as I wish I had. But, I’ll use the ones I have!”

Purpose: Why Am I Alive?

Purpose Gives Children Hope For Today and Tomorrow

happy girl

“Why are we doing this?”

“What does this have to do with anything?”

“It doesn’t matter how well I do this because it’s not important.”

Have you heard these questions and statements and more from your children? They often indicate confusion about purpose, our fourth core need.

Children who have a healthy security, identity, and belonging, are much more likely to want to develop a healthy purpose. This core need is defined by the question, “Why am I alive?”

Children with healthy security have trustworthy people speaking into their lives. They will be more optimistic and realistic about their present and future purpose. Children who have a positive and complete identity will believe there’s much they can do. Therefore, they’ll believe they’re alive on purpose and they’ll be more successful as they look to achieve it. Children with healthy belonging are in good relationships and have people to serve and influence. These people will help them believe in their purpose and reasons to keep living even when the days are dark.


Our model of five core needs works in both directions. (As I introduce this concept today, you might notice there are arrows on both ends of the lines outside the pyramid.) Not only do the first three needs influence purpose, but purpose actually influences those needs, as well. For instance, children who begin to discover they were created on purpose with purpose will often choose to spend time with positive people who appreciate their purpose and don’t want to diminish their identity. These people who know their purpose will also value themselves enough that they want trustworthy people in their lives. And purpose will often cause a desire for greater character which means they become more trustworthy than they may have been. As a result, their security is further strengthened.

Just like our first three core needs influence the ones beyond them, purpose is significant because it influences the next one, competence. (I’m looking forward to posting about competence next Monday.) Without reasons to live and a knowledge of why we are alive, children don’t need to do anything well. I often find that qualities like apathy, laziness, impatience, and a lack of perseverance are rooted in a lack of purpose.

Purpose: Why am I alive?

So what does it take for children to believe they have purpose? They need hope for today and hope for tomorrow. They need to believe they can speak into the brokenness that they’ve personally experienced or observed on the World Wide Web and in the community in which they live.

The most profound and authentic hope of course is the hope they can place in God. To believe that He is not surprised by anything and that His power is still evident in the world is a huge comfort. Again, it matters when they place their security, identity, and belonging in God. When they do, it’s more likely they’ll find their purpose in God, too.

When they have people to serve and choose to serve them, they can discover their purpose. Putting others first and blessing them is a beautiful way they can glorify God, which is why He created them (Isaiah 43:7). When parents serve with their children, as I discuss in Screens and Teens, it gives us much to talk about. We can ask about the feelings they had, the skills they used, and whether they would like to have similar experiences again and why or why not. Through service, they can discover how much good they can do even if they don’t have relevant experiences and lots of skills yet. This in turn increases their hope.

A third thing we can provide that increases purpose is direction. I often teach that many of our young people today are multi-passionate and very skilled. What looks like apathy, as some sit around and do nothing, can actually be paralysis due to being overwhelmed by options. They hesitate investing in one hobby, school club, career, and the like because that means they can’t do something else.

Providing direction may be one of the most profound ways that identity facilitates purpose. When you observe carefully and speak specific, positive truth over your children, you help them find out how their combination of interests and abilities can work together to give them purpose. Your information helps them choose wisely.


Do you know children and adults who appear to be unsure of why they’re alive? What have I written here that you’ll think more about so you can help them? What might you talk with them about first? Do you need to better establish their security, identity, and or belonging? Or are those three healthy and they need hope, service experiences, and direction so they can believe in their purpose? Which of those might you start with? What kind of conversations can you have?

A lack of healthy purpose is a leading cause of the school dropout rate, unhealthy decisions, dysfunction, and suicide. Thank you for reading this and for taking it seriously.

All children and adults have been created by God with five core needs that must be met. In addition to reading my many blogs on this topic, my book, Finding Authentic Hope and Wholeness, explains them in detail.

Had you predicted that geniuses have a good sense of humor? Dr. Armstrong concluded that this ability to see things differently and hear things uniquely breaks us out of ruts and routines. It frees geniuses to be open to new ideas. Dr. Kathy shares a slice of her life that may be relevant to you and how you interact with your children. We think it will be helpful.

10 Ways To Encourage Your Child

As the school year is off and running, I thought this excerpt from No More Perfect Kids Might Help...

nmpkJill Savage and I thoroughly enjoyed writing No More Perfect Kids to help you. There’s a lot of good, practical help in it for when your children question who they are and get frustrated.

As the school year is off and running, I thought this excerpt from the book may be timely for you. I hope so! You can get more if you buy the book. Hint! Hint!

Ten Ways to Encourage Your Child
An excerpt from No More Perfect Kids by Jill Savage and Dr. Kathy Koch

Parenting is hard work and sometimes it seems our kids do more wrong than right. Add in household responsibilities like laundry and meals, spilled milk at the breakfast table, a child who comes in from playing outside and is covered in dirt, and sibling rivalry where the kids pick at each other all night and sometimes life just isn’t easy. Fatigue is normal and frustration is, too. Learning not to act unkindly in our frustration is a journey requiring grace for ourselves and our kids.

When we encourage kidsEven in the midst of real life, it’s important to say far more encouraging words to our kids than correcting words. When we encourage kids, we give them courage. It’s empowering, freeing, and strengthening. When encouragement is the norm, children will learn they can take risks, try new things, ask for help, and make mistakes without the fear of losing the acceptance, love, and support of their parents.

It’s not easy to give encouragement, especially on the hard days. There are, however, steps we can take to increase encouragement in our home.

Here are 10 Encouragement Enhancers you can use in your family:

  1. Don’t expect perfection.When we expect perfection we notice every little thing that’s wrong and that creates an environment of discouragement.
  2. Encourage childlike behavior. There’s a difference between childish behavior and age-appropriate childlike behavior. Discourage the first and encourage the second.
  3. Value what your kids learn. We need to pay at least as much attention to what’s being learned as we do to grades being earned and performances at games and concerts. This is one way we communicate that our kids are more than what they do and how they do.
  4. Resist the urge to judge all performances. One way to emphasize learning rather than performance is not always to ask about their scores or grades.
  5. Ask them how they feel.When talking about one of their athletic competitions, concerts, or tests, sometimes ask first how satisfied they were with the outcome. Two-way conversations about grades, concerts, and competitions will be more profitable than one-way judgments.
  6. Notice their strengths.Point out their character, attitude, and action strengths to help them when they work to make progress in weak areas.
  7. Don’t worry about their challenges.Understand some areas will remain challenges for our kids no matter how hard they try. Trying to get kids to change what they can’t improve is a sure way to discourage them.
  8. Celebrate what’s real.When one child deserves to be celebrated for something significant (e.g., no C’s on a report card for the first time in a year, a soccer championship, art being displayed in the county library), don’t create fake celebrations for your other kids in order to be “fair.” Use these opportunities to teach children to genuinely celebrate their siblings.
  9. Introduce them to overcomers.Discuss relatives and local people your kids know who have overcome great odds. Read biographies and autobiographies of people who have been highly successful even though they also struggled. We can often learn our greatest lessons from our greatest challenges.
  10. Have fun together. Play with your kids. Relationships are deepened while building forts and having tea parties with your little ones and going shopping and watching ball games with your older ones. The fun, relaxed moments you share make tough times easier to walk through and go a long way to creating an encouraging family culture.

Be patient with yourself as you work to increase the encouraging environment in your family. If you choose too many things to change, you and your kids will be overwhelmed and little progress will be made. Don’t look back with shame or guilt either. Today is a perfect day to look forward with hope, choose one Encouragement Enhancer to start with, and walk in a positive direction!

Helping Children Develop Healthy Friendship Skills

Authentic friendship is life-giving, nurturing, and worth stewarding well.

teen friends

Have you asked your children why they don’t have more friends? Or, are you concerned they have too many? Have you questioned their choice in friends? Have you had to pick up the pieces when they’re broken by how some “friends” treat them?

Many parents and educators are concerned about children’s relationships and how children treat their peers. Rather than listing the reasons here, since you probably have your own, let’s look at some solutions.

Understanding friendship skills increases the likelihood that relationships and friendships will be healthier. This means belonging, the third of five core needs, will be healthier. In last Monday’s blog, I explained its value and shared some ideas for meeting the need in healthy ways.

When you take the time to talk with your children and teach core principles of friendship to them, your children will also have healthier security and identity. If you take the time to read those two blogs, I believe you’ll see what I mean.

Flexibility, like the other genius qualities, has the potential to be a good thing and it might get kids into trouble. That’s why self-control is such an important character quality for geniuses. Flexibility is the ability to make fluid associations among ideas. These children don’t keep their thinking in a box, but rather will relate learning across topics and content areas. Dr. Kathy will share examples of why it’s a strength and how it can be a liability. You’ll benefit!

Christian Library Journal Reviews “Screens and Teens”

ter computer homework

I’ve had the chance to teach about technology’s effects on children’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors several times in the past few weeks. It’s such a joy to help parents and teachers connect the dots between children’s behavior and the technology we let them use.

My book about this topic has been out for seven months already. It’s very encouraging to know it’s helping many parents and children connect better. Parents tell me it’s helping them understand their children and compassionately respond to their tech use.

If you’ve been wanting to help friends understand my book and why it’s beneficial, I thought this review from the Christian Library Journal might help. Please share it widely. I’d appreciate that. Thanks.

Belonging: Who Wants Me?

Being wanted matters in deep authentic ways...

belonging community individual

When we know we belong, we can relax. When we feel safe and confident with people, we can be real. In turn, others can be real with us. Being wanted matters. It meets deep, real needs we have for belonging.

Belonging, like our other four needs, was wired into us by God and the healthiest way to meet it is in Him. As you can see from the pyramid of our needs, it’s dependent upon the quality of our security, which I explained in detail here a month ago. Our identity also matters. If it’s healthy, the chances are better that we’ll choose to belong to people who are good for us. I explained this core need in detail three weeks ago here. 

Belonging is important partly because the people we serve and hang out with can provide or affirm our purpose or convince us we don’t have one. Without a purpose, competence isn’t necessary. Without being able to do things well, defeat, discouragement, and hopelessness can settle in.


Belonging: Who wants me?

I experienced the power of the order of the needs over the weekend in several ways. I spoke at the Purposeful Parenting conference at a church in Indianapolis. My assistant, Linda, couldn’t go with me so a friend who is one of my thought leaders who has only traveled with me one other time came. Because Joyce and I know each other well, we know we can trust each other. I knew she was confident in what I expected, and I knew I could trust her in every situation. Because of our solid security, our identities went unchanged. We could be true to ourselves, and this meant our belonging was healthy. Therefore, we could both fulfill our purposes with excellence and competence.

Does this illustration help you understand how the way you’re meeting one of your needs and helping your children do the same influences the way the others are met? The connections between the needs can help you determine where to intervene when you see problems with beliefs and behaviors.

Maybe you’ll be able to relate to this slice of the weekend. I had spoken with my hostess and exchanged emails, but we hadn’t met until she picked us up at the airport. By the time we arrived at the church 45 minutes later, I knew all would be well. She was so much fun. So real. Very comfortable with herself which made us comfortable. Joyce and I were able to be successful. We were never distracted by an unhealthy belonging. We never felt like we had to perform to be accepted. I never worried about whether I’d be “good enough.” I knew I was wanted. Therefore, fulfilling my purpose with competence naturally followed.

Have you experienced times when you knew you belonged, fit in, and were wanted and it made all the difference? These are the experiences your children need. The quality of their belonging can explain why they are or aren’t successful.

Our hostess did another wise thing that contributed to the success of the weekend. She had a committee help her with the event. This meant many in the room knew each other well. There was healthy belonging among them and many who attended. They owned how things were going. It was part of their security and identity. You could almost feel the purpose and competence in the room because the first three needs were so solidly met.

Can you think of a time when you served, and your engagement with the people and task made a positive difference for you and others? If you have, then you know these are reasons to help children get involved with others.

What do these illustrations point out?

Finding our belonging in God makes belonging the most solid and secure. His love for us is deep and wide. It’s unconditional. He accepts us and wants the best for us. The relationship each of us has with God was the foundation of our belonging this past weekend. Between Joyce and me. Between our hostess and Joyce and me. Among the committee members. Among all of us in attendance.

Do your children know God and that He can fulfill their need to belong?

We can meet part of our belonging need by choosing to connect deeply with trustworthy people. What qualities does that make you think of? Dependable, honest, responsible, humble people? People who own their mistakes and apologize? People who listen and are fully present? It was qualities like these that made it easy to relate to our hostess.

Do your children know how to identify these and other qualities in their friends so they can choose who to get closer to? Do they behave in these ways toward others?

Many adults choose to form friendships with people who share similar beliefs. This tends to increase the quality and length of relationships. It often means they’ll have other things in common, too, which makes conversations rich. We can spend time together and have plenty to engage us. I saw this in the people who attended the parenting conference. Their joy and desire to connect during breaks made it hard to get them back in their seats!

When your children know what they believe and why they do, they’ll be able to talk about their opinions and ideas more confidently. They’ll more likely find others who believe what they believe. Therefore, they may change their minds less often, and that can be good, assuming their beliefs are healthy, of course.

Another reason the weekend went so well is that we shared strengths, talents, and interests. This is why identity – Who am I? – precedes belonging. Everyone in attendance wanted to learn more about parenting well. This interest kept us focused and unified. It and the strengths people exhibited throughout the day gave us much energy.

Do your children know who they are? Can they articulate their interests and talk about talents and strengths appropriately when trying to connect with peers?

What do you think of all this? If you evaluated the quality of your belonging and that of your children’s would you be pleased with the scores? God? Trustworthy people? Beliefs? Talents, strengths, and interests? What might you think more about? Talk about first? Work on first? I wish you well!

Come back to the blog next Monday when I’ll write about friendship skills and their role in helping kids develop a healthy belonging.

Are you surprised that one of the genius qualities is sensitivity? Dr. Armstrong believes that emotional responses to tasks motivate and inspire geniuses to keep working even after many “failures.” You’ll learn more, including the definition of sensitivity, and a very important caution from Dr. Kathy when you watch this video.