Would you like to know a two-word phrase that has the power to change yesterday’s problem behavior to positive behavior today? That’s what Dr. Kathy shares in today’s video. Please share this with others if you think it’s helpful. As always, thanks for your support.

People Matter: Investing In Others Enriches Our Lives


I was reminded of something important last night. If we want our children to be able to carryon meaningful conversations with people, there are some basic understandings that come in very handy. But something much more important must be established.

I’ve written about friendship skills in some of my books and we provide materials to help especially preteens and teens engage with their peers. And, in my book 8 Great Smarts I explain that when we are being people smart we are better able to think with other people. This smart, like the others, can be awakened, strengthened, and trained. I encourage parents to do this for themselves and their children.

Some of us are introverted and we get our energy when we are alone and some of us are extroverted and we get our energy when we are with others. This, too, is valuable to understand as it relates to conversing with others. It’s definitely worth explaining to our children. Not only will they become more comfortable in their own skin, but they will be less judgmental toward others not like them and perhaps more successful at engaging with them in meaningful conversations.

Last night, to celebrate my birthday, I went to dinner with two friends who do not live in the area. We have not seen each other for two years. It was a glorious three-hour conversation that probably could’ve gone for several more hours except that it was late. Being people smart helped us. But, I’m introverted so sometimes times like this can be exhausting. It wasn’t. It was energizing and full of life that will last. Why?

We like each other and we genuinely care for each other. We asked about each other’s family members and how our ministries are going. We shared stories about God’s faithfulness to remind us of His goodness. We talked about struggles and committed to pray for each other. Our questions didn’t come across as obligatory interrogation, but rather genuine interest and concern.

All of this has to do with basic friendliness and other-centeredness which I wrote about on Monday. All the skills in the world won’t help if we and children don’t care about others. Knowing whether we’re people smart, self smart, introverted, or extroverted is valuable, but will never replace genuine interest in others. Care. Concern. Curiosity. Love. Maybe these can be taught. I know they can be awakened, modeled, and talked about. We have to get our eyes off ourselves.

There’s another reality. We and our children must be comfortable enough with ourselves to share ourselves with others. One-sided conversations don’t lead to friendship.

Do your children have a solid, healthy identity? Do they know themselves well enough to talk about themselves with humility and joy? They should. But, this can result in being self-centered if we don’t talk about others and our delight to relate. We were created to belong. To be connected. To love and be loved.

When is the last time we talked with children we influence about being friendly, open, kind, inquisitive, and conversational? Have we helped them know their strengths, interests, and challenges? Do they know which ones might be good to talk about with others? Who?

I think instruction can be valuable. Pray and think about this. Ask your children whether they want help. Talk about what help you wish you had.

I do think most of what my friends and I experienced last night was due to healthy self-awareness and genuine appreciation and love for each other. It resulted in vulnerable and confident sharing that was life-giving. Talk about this, too.

Guess what? Tonight I get to see these same friends again along with many others. And, tomorrow night and Friday night I’m having dinner with other friends. I can forget I’m introverted for a while because people matter and investing in others enriches our lives. I’m very grateful!

Can Being “Other-Centered” Unite Us?

If I asked you to reflect on our culture and observations you’ve made about people, what would you tell me you noticed?

You might comment on how judgmental you’ve noticed people have become. That’s not all though. You might continue by sharing your curiosity about why people think they need to share their opinions and judgments with everyone. Maybe you’d voice your frustration over so many people’s need to convince others that their opinions are right.

Maybe you would talk about how many people are on their phones texting, gaming, or scrolling Facebook even when they’re with others.

Maybe the quick pace concerns you and you wonder if anyone goes to the park anymore. Maybe you just went, had a blast, and realize slowing down and spending quality time with family is good for everyone. You wonder if others would agree.

People have told me selfishness concerns them. Entitlement. Lack of respect. Few positive role models of strong and healthy leadership. Terrorism. Selfishness.

Yes, yes, and yes. I would agree with you.

Chances are if you’ve read one or more of my books or heard me speak, you’re aware that I believe being other-centered is important. In fact, could other-centeredness be an antidote for much of what’s wrong?

If we were other-centered, would we not be so demanding if others don’t agree with our opinions? Would we respect their right to disagree? Would we put our phones down to more fully engage with others? Would we slow down and pay more attention to people than to tasks? Would we be more grateful and less entitled? More respectful? Better leaders truly looking out for what’s best for others? Less selfish?

Getting our eyes off ourselves and onto others would do us all a world of good! Maybe making a list of advantages with our children would be a valuable dinner-time conversation.

When reading Eric Metaxas’ new book, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, I discovered another reason to raise children to be other-centered. Or maybe I didn’t “discover” it as much as he gave words to what I’ve known to be true. I think you’ll also agree that this reason, too, is important. At this time in our country, I’d say it’s very important.

Here are some quotes, from pages 43-44, that I highlighted in yellow, starred in the margin, and am determined to remember:

Don’t we as voters bear a serious responsibility to think about the whole country and about its future? We have to voluntarily balance that weighty responsibility with pure self-interest.

For democracy to truly work, not just for one or two elections but for dozens and for hundreds, requires much more than people merely voting. The ordered liberties given to us by the founders work together as part of a fragile mechanism. People must understand that their responsibilities as citizens are so serious as to be vital to the democracy itself. If the voter is not voluntarily selfless to some extent, and does not merely think of himself but of others; and if he does not think just about the present, but about the future, it all falls apart over time. Self-government will not work unless the citizens bear the responsibility to vote in such a way that continues their freedoms and their ability to have free elections, that continues their economic prosperity. They have to vote in a way that does not trade the future for the present.

What do you think? Is our country in trouble partly because of the self-centeredness that’s increased over the past 10 years or so? Is this a conversation we can have with those we influence? I think so.

Dr. Kathy shares a powerful phrase in this video about power words. Using it is often better than saying “yes” and “no” when our children ask us a question. It can definitely decrease arguing and misbehavior. But there’s an even more important reason to use it with kids. Curious? Great! Watch this – it’s just 2½ minutes long.

Processing Feelings With The “8 Great Smarts”

7048714 - cute child girl in poppy field

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.

Do You Value Liberty? Pass It On To Your Children

3395156 - full american flag flying in the wind, with blue sky and clouds behind it

I wish my mom and grandfather (her dad) were alive. There are, of course, many reasons. I miss their passion for life. I miss our vibrant conversations. Mostly, now, they’re on my mind because Flag Day was last week and July 4th is right around the corner. As many of you have heard me say, I joke that I bleed red, white, and blue. It’s primarily because of them and their love for our country. (I miss my dad and grandmother, too, of course.)

I wish I could discuss Eric Metaxas’ new book with them. It would be so encouraging and so much fun! If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty is full of thought provoking important reminders and insights related to the founding of America and the value of liberty.

Do you value America and liberty? Do your kids know you do? Does it matter? Absolutely!

Reading this brilliant book will rekindle or light for the first time a deep care and concern for America. Eric shares why we must care. And, he shares why we must pass our passion on to our children and grandchildren.

Do you know what’s interesting? It’s exactly right now that we must be positive. There are many things about America many of us are concerned about. So, we may talk less about the good. We may become pessimistic. This is dangerous. There are so many quotes I could share. How about this one today?

We must forever refresh ourselves and reclaim our roots, or what was once fresh and green will harden and ossify and die. Those of us who call ourselves Americans have that choice before us today. … [We can be] Americans and fulfilling our duties as such we can prune the thorny punctuation choking her and free her to truly live and breathe. (Page 183)

Values, like one’s love for freedom, liberty, and one’s country, are primarily passed down in families. Or, they should be. Please don’t think you can outsource this to others like you can with piano lessons or soccer coaching.

How did my mom, dad, and grandparents pass down their love for America to my brother and me?

We watched the news and discussed it. Conversations count.

We discussed what we were learning in school. They gave us a broader context for history, geography, and the like. Especially if you homeschool or simply want your older children to have a more passionate understanding of our past and what’s at risk if “we the people” don’t make some changes, read the book with them. Education changes us.

We participated in and then watched July 4th parades together. We cheered for America. I have vivid memories of my brother and me decorating our bikes in red, white, and blue crepe paper when we were young so we could ride in a small parade. Then, when we were older, we gathered with my parents, grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins to watch our city’s parade. After my brother married and had children, they drove down from Madison to Wauwatosa to sit with our grandparents, parents, and other family members to watch the same parade Dave and Debbie watched when they were children. Traditions matter.

We participated in and watched Memorial Day parades and ceremonies at our city’s cemetery. Being aware of the country’s military history and sacrifices makes an impact on children. We learned about local people so it became more personal. Our military is relevant.

Our parents took us on vacations to historical places like Boston and Plymouth Rock, MA, and Washington, DC. We actually toured DC with our aunt, uncle, and cousins so that was extra special. We were privileged and I am grateful. Also, we went to the Black Hills in South Dakota and to many national and state parks. We toured many presidential birth places and libraries. History happened and matters today.

I’ll tell you a secret. My mom liked to cut a small piece of vine from these presidential birth places. My dad kindly wrapped them in wet paper towels which he put in plastic bags. These traveled home with us so they could plant them in a rock garden on the side of our home. It was beautiful.

Maybe taking trips to national parks and historical sites isn’t possible for you. I understand. With your children, you can visit the right websites and watch beneficial DVDs and YouTube videos. Remember, the library is free.

Especially if you’re concerned for the direction America has been going in lately, I hope you’ll find positive reasons to celebrate our history this July 4th. Have a great, safe time and have deep conversations, too.

Remember, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty may be just the book you need in order to rekindle enthusiasm and hope.

Do your children ask a question, hear “no,” and then enter into a debate? Do they keep asking or come back later that night or the next day and ask again? Rather than yelling and telling, “I already told you the answer is NO!” there’s a power phrase we can use. Dr. Kathy explains it and a caution to remember in a quick 2 minutes.

Seeing Those Around Us With Open Eyes, And A Listening Ear

Granted, I love conversing with people. One of my nicknames is “Chatty Kathy” and in my line of work and ministry, this gift serves me well! It isn’t difficult for me to strike up conversations, and guess what? It doesn’t have to be difficult for any of us if we have open eyes and a listening ear. The answers we find can be stunning, sometimes surprising, and many times beautiful.

About those tattoos and piercings…

“Tell me about your art.”

This began one of my favorite encounters of all time. I simply acknowledged a server’s tattoos at a restaurant. He was almost speechless. I don’t know if it was that I called it art, cared about his story, or was positive instead of negative or indifferent, but he was clearly moved. We had a great conversation and I was honored to hear what was behind each tattoo.

“I’m guessing your piercing signifies something important. I’d love to hear your story if you’d like to share it.”

I’ll never forget this teen boy’s reaction as I settled into my seat on the airplane. He was visibly stunned that I would know that his unusual piercing was probably important to him. He was clearly surprised to have an older adult even acknowledge him, much less care about him. I will never forget his answer. I don’t want to.

“My dad finally told me he loved me and I don’t ever want to forget.”

Now I was the one who was speechless.

Workshop Attendees Take Up the Challenge; Joy Replaces Judgment

“I love your hair. Would you mind telling me what products you use?”

A number of years ago, I challenged hundreds of women at a retreat to think about whether their opinions of teens were fair and right. For example, I asked how many of them held their purses tighter and closer to their bodies when walking past teens in a mall. Many admitted they did. This forced them to confront a belief about an entire generation based on a few bad apples who had made the headlines.

I shared my love of and respect for the generation. I  encouraged them to find a positive reason soon to talk with one or more teens in hopes their attitudes would change.

That afternoon, while on a break from the retreat, a group of women went to a movie theater. When they arrived back at the retreat center, one older woman couldn’t wait to tell me what happened.

While in line to purchase popcorn, she noticed how long and beautiful an older teen boy’s hair was. In the past, she admits she would have simply thought and possibly mumbled to a friend that his hair was far too long. This time, though, she turned to him and told him she loved his hair. But, then she went further and honored him more by asking, “Would you mind telling me what products you use?” She told me how much he clearly enjoyed telling her about his routine. He thanked her for her interest.

This encounter didn’t just help to change her attitudes about this generation. It changed her. She felt significant and optimistic. She realized that one conversation can increase hope and joy.

Sometimes The Questions Come Our Way

“Why did you do that?”

“Jesus loves you and God told me to give.”

This began the friendship between a college student and my friend, Andrea. Except for a casual encounter, they didn’t know each other and it didn’t appear that they had anything in common. Yet, Andrea was inspired by God to contribute along with many others so he could attend an advanced study summer opportunity.

This young student didn’t understand why a complete stranger 20 years older than he was would help him. He stopped by to ask. In Andrea’s answer, they discovered they had Jesus in common. They ate lunch together several times after this and Andrea made sure to pay attention to his academic progress. Although they didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything, Andrea always put Jesus first and trusted Him to care for her friend. This is her typical was of being. I love this about her.

This young man graduated in May and relocated to Orlando. When Andrea learned about the tragic loss of life there, she texted him on Sunday morning very concerned. She heard from him several hours later.

This young man had been at the nightclub earlier that week but wasn’t there at the time of the shooting. She texted back and communicated her relief that he was well.

After reading some of his Facebook posts since the tragedy, she knew he wasn’t dealing well with what had happened. He admitted to being fearful, lonely, angry, and frustrated.

Andrea reached out to a good friend of mine who lives in Orlando who she only knows on Facebook. He quickly responded, “Yes, share my contact information with your friend. Thank you for caring.”

She texted her friend, sharing the contact information, and received this response: “TY so much! I am all alone in Orlando, no friends or family. And so frightened.”

God did this because Andrea is sensitive to the Holy Spirit and reached out to this student even though they’re quite different. She chose to hang out with him at lunch and was eager to talk about Jesus.

God did this because I’m friends with many people not exactly like me. Andrea friended one of them years ago, has enjoyed getting to know him, reached out, he said “yes,” and now Andrea’s friend isn’t alone during a very challenging time.

That’s beautiful. That’s the power of conversation, connecting, and God.

One observation. One comment. One question. One conversation. One relationship. Then two. Three. More. Hope is transferred. Jesus is, too.

How Big Are Your Footsteps? Guiding Our Children Through Tragedy

I need to add my thoughts about Sunday’s tragic mass shooting in Orlando to what others are saying and writing. Yes, it’s a need.

I couldn’t not write what follows here. Frankly, I’ve had many more thoughts than I include. I’ve decided to focus on these ideas and questions primarily because most of my blog readers are parents of school-age children.

In general, among the most important things parents can do is pass their values and beliefs onto their children. This is important for many reasons, including that beliefs cause behaviors. In other words, when we don’t like children’s behavior, we can ask ourselves what beliefs are behind them. To most permanently change behaviors, change their beliefs.

It’s true that children may discern at some point that they don’t want to adopt our same values and beliefs. But, parents must do what they can so this doesn’t happen. When it does, grieve and pray and don’t give up. Your influence isn’t over.

It’s also likely that children won’t follow in parents’ footsteps if they don’t know what they are. This may be the greater tragedy. They would if they could.

How big are your footsteps? Are you parenting so your children want to follow?

How did you respond when learning of the tragedy? What did your children see you do? What did they hear you say? What questions did they hear you ask? Did all of this lineup with the beliefs you say you have?

Looking back, is there anything you wish you would have done or said differently? It’s not too late. Do it now. Say it now.

By experiencing these encounters with you and through you, your children can learn much about the world, you, themselves, others, and God and His ways. You can use tragedies and times of great blessing to teach much about your values and beliefs. When you’re intentional, your children will more likely learn what you want them to. You can use times like this to evaluate your children’s behavior. Do they talk about and react in ways that indicate they saw your footsteps and chose to step into them?

Let me share some things worth thinking about. I believe they can help us decide what we want to explain, teach, and model for children. They can help us identify beliefs and values we say we have and those we demonstrated on Sunday. For example:

When we heard about the tragic shooting in Orlando did we feel first or think about what to do first? Did we so quickly judge and think about reasons it happened that we didn’t feel for the loss of life? Many people’s lives ended. Partners, parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, best friends, coworkers, neighbors, … So many people are grieving personal intimate loss. I want us to feel their pain. It matters. It connects us. It compels us to better future actions. Do you agree? Why or why not? What’s the evidence?

If we believe “all lives matter” and we say we want children to believe that, then did we grieve the loss of these lives at the same intensity and regret we have when others have passed away, no matter their circumstances? If not, then maybe all lives actually don’t matter in the same way to us. Is that okay? Why or why not?

Do we truly weep with those who weep? What does this grief look like? Sound like? Feel like? Why does it matter? Just because it’s in the Bible? (Romans 12:15) In the case of Sunday’s horrible tragedy, do you think it’s okay to grieve with gays and lesbians even if you don’t agree with their choices? Why or why not?

Do we believe love is the answer to many of the evils in the world? Unconditional love? Why or why not? If we’ve talked with our children about love, have we taught them how to love? Why to love? Have we been practical? In our families, what does loving others look like? What does indifference look like? My friends at the Colson Center teach that outrage is not a strategy. I agree. What makes love a strategy?

When did we pray yesterday? What did we pray about? Who did we pray for? How did we help our children understand God’s love and His ways in light of yesterday’s loss of life? How are our values showing up?

Because there are real problems in the world, have we taught our children the differences between disagreeing, persuading, and arguing? Do they know how we decide when it’s our business to get involved in someone’s life and when it isn’t? Do we say it’s okay to agree to disagree, but not model that?

Do we handle discouragement, frustration, and fear well? Have we taught our children how to?

I know many parents want to protect their children. Absolutely! But, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare them to understand how to handle life. Let’s protect them and prepare them.

How big are your footsteps? Are you parenting so your children want to follow?

In this video, Dr. Kathy shares how to use “yes” and “no” as power words and why “maybe” usually lacks power. Her caution in using it and her suggestions for using it well will encourage you. You’ll discover that even “maybe” can have power. You’ll learn a lot in under 3 minutes if you watch. As always, thanks for your trust.