Spiritual Identity – Helping Your Kids Develop A Deep Relationship With God

Spiritual Identity - Helping Your Kids Develop A Deep Relationship With God

Spiritual Identity

Helping Your Kids Develop A Deep Relationship With God

In the first blog in this series about raising children with a complete identity, I drew an analogy between parenting and archery and bowling. I wrote this:

You have to know what you’re aiming for when you think about raising your children. What does your bull’s-eye look like? What would you consider a strike? Being intentional is wise. Having strategies to help you accomplish your goals makes it more likely that you will be successful.

Do you agree with me that it may be most important to have strategies for developing children’s spiritual identity? As important as the other identities are, if you’re raising your children to value faith and a personal relationship with Jesus, then strategies definitely matter.

But, first, what’s your bull’s-eye? What’s a strike when it comes to their spiritual growth and identity? Do they know? Do they agree? Knowing your goal – your bull’s-eye and strike – will help you determine strategies.

When asking 7th graders in June what they would consider a high compliment in the spiritual category, they answered with these phrases:

  • Be a good Christian with actions.
  • Peace
  • Close to God, godly man
  • Teachable
  • On the right path
  • Loving
  • Christ follower, faithful
  • Christ follower, disciple maker, missionary, the hands and feet of Christ, Christian
  • Faithful
  • Believer, passionate, bright from the inside
  • Disciple maker, believer
  • Have a strong faith in God
  • Close to God
  • Christian, heart for Christ, faithful
  • Faithful

Like with the other identities, their answers encouraged me. If these were my children, I’d be pleased. Do you see something here that you hope your children would list? What’s missing that you’d love them to aspire to?

I encourage you to make a list. Ask your children what they’d list and compare. This will help you see if they’re catching what matters to you and/or if you need to talk about everything more.

Once you’re set on some spiritual goals, then think about the strategies. How will you partner with God to try to cause your children to become who you want them to be?

What role will each of these play? Why?

  • Worship (Private and corporately)
  • Church attendance (youth group, Sunday school, children’s church)
  • Church involvement/volunteering
  • Bible reading
  • Bible study
  • Scripture memorization
  • Prayer
  • Quiet time
  • Family devotions
  • Service
  • Giving
  • Fasting
  • Sacrifice
  • Rest

Again, look at the list you made of goals for your child’s spiritual development. I hope you have more statements like, “Loves God” and “Spending time with God is important” than “Prays daily” and “Reads the Bible.”

Let’s always remember and explain that we do what we do to become who we are.

Read that sentence again. I hope you agree! We read the Bible to become devoted to God’s truths, to fall in love with God, and to discover how to live rightly. Pray to develop a more intimate relationship with God. We give to become more aware of needs and to discover God is generous. We fast to increase our reliance on God and to grow our faith.

You get the idea. Talk with your kids about who you hope they are spiritually and how you’d love to help them become those things by doing what’s relevant.


You can read the earlier blogs in this series here:

Introduction to blog series about a complete identity

Intellectual identity

Emotional identity

Social identity

Character quality identity

Physical identity

Kathyism #205 – Remember To Be A Good Steward Of Your Time

Continuing a fun video series on things in Dr. Kathy’s office, today she introduces you to two related items. If you agree with her that sometimes a visual reminder is valuable, you might want to buy something similar to place on a shelf. Watch to see what they are.
#Kathyism #celebratekids #DrKathyKoch #stewardship #time

Complete Identity – Your Physical Self

Complete Identity - Your Physical Self

Complete Identity

Your Physical Self

Today I continue the blog series about helping children develop a complete identity with a look at the physical self. I’ve already written about the importance of several others. When you think about children having an identity related to their physical selves, what do you think of?

There are three components to this identity.

  • There is physical health. I remember when I was in grade 6 and a boy named Jay tripped me while we were ice-skating. He used a broom that we were supposed to be using for a fun game. His choice resulted in my right arm breaking. For weeks, all people seemed to notice about me was that I was in a cast and had a broken arm. That’s all they wanted to talk about. And I bet I enjoyed talking about it, too.
    • Children and teens with ongoing health issues can perhaps put too much of their identity in this component. Or, they might be forced to if that’s all people ask about or talk about when with them. People might not know about their intellectual, emotional, and social identities and which character qualities they highly value. This is definitely limiting.
  • A second component of the physical self is physical abilities. This certainly includes athletics. Teenagers who value this part of them, when asked who they are, will tell you first that they are a starter on the basketball team or that they enjoy playing soccer. Drama is also associated with physical ability because if you’re good at drama you can make your whole body look old even though you are young, you can laugh with your whole body to exaggerate when you are on stage, and you can stand as still as a statue if your role requires it for a while. Working with your hands with clay or the small motor coordination to do science experiments carefully is also part of the physical ability self.
  • The part of the physical self that most people think of first is probably the appearance self. Tall, short, overweight, slender, beautiful blue eyes, fair skin, naturally curly hair, …  you get the idea.

How Can We Talk To Our Kids About Their Physical Self?

In 1 Samuel 16:7 we read that God looks at the heart. He would want us to also. I enjoy telling children that there are very few people described by physical appearance in the Bible. When we do know something about the physical identity, it is because it is relevant to the purpose for which they were created. For example, we know Esther was beautiful because it is relevant to her story. We know Sampson had long hair because it’s relevant to his story.

If you don’t want your children and teens to over-emphasize their physical appearance selves, don’t talk about it often. If they hear you talk with others about their beauty or if you compliment them more about that than anything else, they’ll start to prioritize it. They might think it’s the basis of their security with you. They may think, “My dad doesn’t know much about me, but he sure thinks it’s important that I’m pretty.”

Would you want your children to talk about all three components of a physical identity if you were talking with them about their physical selves? Why or why not? What would you prefer them to say or value? How do you want them to prioritize this identity in relation to their social, emotional, character qualities, and intellectual identities?

What I Thought Teens Would Say

Those of you who have been reading my blogs, know that earlier this summer I spoke with several hundred 7th graders about who they were created to be. I asked them to identify a high compliment they could receive about their physical identity. I was stunned and very encouraged by some of the responses. These were what I thought many teens would list:

  • Strong, athletic
  • Fast, good-looking, athletic
  • Strong, beautiful
  • Sexy, fast, strong
  • Strong, fast
  • Pretty, athletic, fit
  • Beautiful, strong
  • Athletic, strong, in shape
  • Good at sports
  • Handsome, muscular, athletic
  • Physically fit, strong
  • Athletic

Check out these responses. What do they indicate? I think these young people are mature and were able to think of others and respond with maturity. How I wish that schools and church groups would be full of kids wanting these physical identities and looking for these identities in others.

  • Diverse
  • Beautiful in their own way
  • Comfortable, different, unique
  • Comfortable with yourself
  • Confident
  • Naturally healthy

What do you think?

Again, what would you prefer your teens or children value regarding their physical selves? Are you strategically parenting so they will? What are you talking about? Not talking about? What do you affirm? Do you criticize something over and over again?

Also, when we find out what children and teens value, what can we do to help them either achieve their preferences or change them if we believe they’re unhealthy or unrealistic? Think about this, too, and maybe talk with your children. For instance, 7 groups of my 7th graders value “strong.” I wonder what they mean by that and why it’s important to them. Would they like to work to become strong or do they just hope it will happen? What about “beautiful in their own way”? (I LOVE this one!) What thinking patterns do they need so they can believe this of themselves and others? What difference might it make? This would be such a great discussion!

As always, thanks for reading the blog. I praise God for your interest and teachability. Now, invest in your children because you took the time to read it. Oh … what if we invested in ourselves and our thoughts regarding our physical self? Yes, that might be worth it, too. For sure!



You can read the earlier blogs in this series here:

Introduction to blog series about a complete identity

Intellectual identity

Emotional identity

Social identity

Character quality identity

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.