Dr. Kathy Koch helps parents identify and unlock eight "intelligences," or "smarts," in their children, and discusses ways to encourage their growth and understand how they connect with God. (Part 2 of 2)
Dr. Kathy Koch: I'm Kathy Koch of Celebrate Kids, Inc. And it's been my joy to be a guest on the "Focus on the Family" radio this year. And I've met people all over the world that have read things produced here, depend upon the podcasts and the broadcasts and the information on the various websites. And it's life-changing and you know that or you wouldn't be listening to me right now. So, I would just love to encourage you to support this ministry with prayer and with sacrificial financial giving. If you've been blessed in any way, shape or form, just your life in general has had what I call the "Focus effect," then I want to encourage you to support them and let them know that. Any gift of any size, coupled together with other gifts of any size is what keeps this ministry on the air, giving you what you need--that hope and that ability to keep walking through the valleys and getting over the barricades. Life is hard, but Focus on the Family is here and we're wrong if we don't put the money where it needs to be. So, I think Focus is a great place and I encourage you to consider that.
Jim Daly: Well, those are some really kind words from Dr. Kathy Koch. I'm Jim Daly and you know, she's right. I so appreciate when a guest comes on and she's heard the feedback from the broadcast that we aired with her. And people were touched and lives were changed. Together we do that each and every day here at Focus on the Family, the so-called "Focus effect."
John Fuller: Uh-hm, yeah.
Jim: I love that. I think that's the "God effect." And right now you can double your donation thanks to some generous friends of Focus on the Family. Give the gift of family here at the end of the year, so more people can thrive in their family, not just survive.
John: Yeah and now is a crucial time for us here at Focus on the Family in terms of end-of-year giving. And so, please make that tax-deductible donation today when you call 800-232-6459. And again, your donation will be doubled when you get in touch today.
Now last time, Dr. Kathy Koch showed us how she not only determined how she's smart, but also how she's helping thousands of parents, teachers and even students understand how each one of us is uniquely designed by God with eight different kinds of smart.
Jim: Dr. Koch brings such a refreshing view for us as parents to look at how our children are learning and how they're thriving in some areas, but why they may struggle in others. That's true of our household. Her whole theme from her book, How Am I Smart? makes sense to me. And if you missed the first part, you can get it as part of our entire set of our best of the best programs for 2014. It's available both in CD or as a download.
John: Yeah, we have more than a month's worth of programming on our Best of 2014 set with marriage experts like Shaunti Feldhahn, David Clarke, Larry Crabb, Juli Slattery. There are programs about parenting. You'll hear from Kathy Koch and you'll also hear ways to raise that strong-willed child and make the most of teachable moments. There are some faith-strengthening programs, as well. It's all included in the 2014 best of Focus CDs and you can find out more about the CDs or the download at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: And John, we'll also at that website, post the eight different ways that you're smart, which Kathy has provided. That'll be helpful as we continue into our conversation today about How Am I Smart? with Dr. Kathy Koch on "Focus on the Family."
Jim: We went over briefly a few of the eight smart types. We'll hit a couple more today. John, this is something that we can post on the website, so parents can look at it and be better informed in that way.
Jim: But there's no test that you can take. Why is that? 'Cause just about everybody does some kind of 10-point test and you can define which smart type you are. Why does that not happen with your model?
Kathy: You know, you'd have to use word-smart and self-smart to take the test. (Laughter) So, it would violate the model. We do actually have a checklist that's available and others have created things. Dr. Gardner, who is the inventor and discoverer of all of this, has said that he will never allow a test to be equated with the model that he would endorse, because of the reasons that it would conflict. You know, you'd have to know the words on the page. You'd have to self-smart, aware enough of your inner self--
Kathy: --for the test to work. So, what I recommend parents do, is observe their children. What do they do in their spare time? What kinds of things do they ask questions about? Are their questions always about physical activities? Or are their questions always about nature? Are their questions always about art? What do they do while in school? And are they an A-student in math and a C-student in history? That will tell us that logic overrides picture-smart perhaps.
Kathy: So, it really is and then I sometimes just ask kids. In fact, what's interesting when I do a school program on this, at the beginning they'll say, "Oh, I'm not smart. I'm the stupid one. My brother's the smart one." You know, it's so sad that they've not been affirmed. They'll say to me, "I'm creative and I'm talented and I'm outgoing."
Kathy: And then they listen to me and they go, "Oh, my goodness. The reason I'm creative is because I'm smart?" And the reason that I'm a good dancer is because I'm body-smart?" They've never been told that they're smart and that's why they do well at what they do well at.
Kathy: It's so invigorating for their mind.
Jim: Let's talk about that for a minute, because you look at children. I mean, I love kids. I love my two boys. I love their friends. It's interesting to observe their behavior and to see that childlike heart, that enthusiasm, that imagination, the curiosity that they have.
Jim: I love all that. And so, when I'm looking at their world, it's sad to see teenagers particularly, that seem so burdened down with a variety of life's heavy weights.
Jim: You know, they don't feel good enough. They don't feel adequate. They didn't measure up to some expectation that either their mom or their dad had or both had. And they then implode emotionally and spiritually. And they get into things they shouldn't get into. When you look at those issues of premarital sex and drug abuse, what is really going on there when it matches up with the smart model?
Kathy: Wow, what a question. I think when they're under stress, they act out and they choose an addiction or a behavior or an attitude or a belief that feels safe to them, if that makes any sense.
Jim: Right, they're comfortable in—
Jim: --that spot.
Kathy: --right and you guys, we could talk all day. The school is designed for logic and word-smart people. Let's be honest--
Kathy: --because what do we do all day in school? We talk, listen, read, write, ask and answer questions. They're what I call the "school smarts." But how many of us know people who, school was their A place and they did very, very well in school. They liked it, but they're flunking life.
Kathy: And they're flunking life, 'cause life isn't logical. And there are other types of skills, attitudes and beliefs that come to play. And then, how many of us know people where they barely made it out of school, but they're "acing" life, right?
Jim: Yeah, many, many business leaders fit that--
Kathy: The creative entrepreneur, who used a combination of the smarts in really unique and creative ways in combination with other elements of who they've been created to be, you know, personality and all these other kinds of things.
So, my passion is to help people understand that you are who you are supposed to be. Live long enough to find out why you are that.
Kathy: And if we let them do that, they'll have less tendency for drugs, alcohol, cutting and suicidal tendencies.
Kathy: Now that's not easy for people to hear. Those are some radical thoughts I just put out there, but that's part of my passion, is that we would know these kids well enough to help them be successful and avoid and let me say this, Jim. When we meet a child who has fallen into an addictive behavior and whatever it may be that has us really burdened as parents, the way we approach the solution should be according to how they are smart. If they're not word-smart, talking to them isn't going to change them.
Jim: Yeah, it goes right over their head.
Jim: They shut down.
Kathy: The picture-smart, let them doodle and draw how they're feeling and let us draw back to them how we're feeling. Now that's a stretch for me, as somebody who's not very picture-smart. But I would honor my child and do that. Somebody who's nature-smart, I'm not gonna talk to them in a dark den about their dilemma. I'm going to go for a walk in a park.
Kathy: I'm gonna go swing on a swing set with my 17-year-old. I'm gonna go sit outside a restaurant that they love and have a drink of coffee and a Coke at a café, outside in the sunshine, where my nature-smart daughter can revel. She's not gonna talk to me honestly in a dark den.
So, knowing our kids can help us speak life into the tragedy, as well as helping us prevent it from ever taking place, if we're detectives of our kids early enough.
Jim: Is it ever too late to become that detective?
Kathy: It never is.
Jim: If you have a 17-year-old that seems like he or she is off the rails and you can, you know, translate what you've written in your book, How Am I Smart? and apply it, go for it, you're saying. Don't cast your child--
Kathy: Children tell us all the time in our work that they want to be in communication with their parents. They may not look like they want to--
Jim: (Chuckling) Oh …
Kathy: --and so, parents have backed off and parents have assumed the peer group is more important. All the research says, they still care what mom and dad think.
Kathy: They still care deeply what grandparents and pastors and group leaders--
Jim: --mostly their family, what their--
Kathy: Mostly their family.
Jim: --family thinks.
Kathy: So, we need to find the right teachable moment. We need to find the right way to make them feel not broken and defective, but open. We wait for them to come to us, versus us coming to them sometimes. I believe in talking to kids in the dark at bedtime, because they don't--
Kathy: --have to look at our eyes. Kids tell me all the time, they don't want to talk … especially if they're picture-smart, they don't want to remember dad's face looking disappointed. So, they like talking in the car where they can't make eye contact with you, 'cause you're driving. And they like talking in the dark, because they can't see that you're disappointed and filled with fear.
Jim: You know, so often here at Focus, we receive many, many responses from parents that feel burdened, they're heavy-hearted--
Jim: --because they haven't done it perfectly. And the key thing is, you know what? There are no perfect parents. We in the Christian community, we put so much pressure on ourselves and on our children to perform, that we fail I think in that area, to realize that we're sinners that give birth to sinners--
Jim: --and that we have to certainly recognize that and prove it. But speak to me as a parent, where maybe you could help me not blow it with that child. You know, you have your logic-smart child. What are things that I shouldn't say to that logic-smart child?
Kathy: Oh, the first one that comes to mind is, "Well, just get over it." (Laughter) You know, because those of us who are logic, it's what we think. And our energy is there. So rather, "What makes you think of that question?" You know, "What caused you to wonder that? Can I help you with that?"
My dream is that we would help them when a child says, "I can't," well, what can you do? When a child says, "I don't get it," well, why do you want to get it? And how much energy? Are you complaining or are you asking for help? It's a great comeback for kids. It's if you're whining, I'm done with you. You know, that's a 2-year-old behavior, okay? But if you're really curious and you're really open to research, then let's investigate it together.
Kathy: So, you know, get over it. Yeah, I don't care. I don't understand you. When a child hears, "I don't understand you," that's hurtful.
Kathy: Now it's okay for a parent to say, "Oh, my goodness. I don't understand. I never would've thought of that. You are so fascinating to me. I'm your mom and I delight every day in unwrapping you a little bit more and finding out more about how you think and how you walk through the world. Talk to me more about that."
Now initially some kids are gonna go, like yeah, really, Mom? But I think we need to say what we need to say, because it's about, you know, keeping that communication open. And these ways of being smart can really, really help.
Like a body-smart kid, you go to a basketball game with them and you sit next to them and you enjoy the basketball game and you talk about how high did he just jump? That's amazing. And in the third quarter your son looks at you and shares his heart with you--
Kathy: --because he's having a real bonding experience that feels safe to him, versus the kitchen table, tell me about school (Chuckling).
Kathy: You know, which they're not necessarily into because of … for--
Kathy: --for variety of reasons.
Jim: Well, no, and this is really intriguing to me, that you know, there's tools that we can use as parents to better understand our children and then to speak in their language.
Jim: That's what you're really saying.
Jim: And we just need to take the time and the patience to do it. Those sources of conflict that we have and that's another one. We carry a lot of guilt because we as parents, we do lose it from time to time and we'll get upset or we'll get angry, because they're pushing our buttons. You know, we're thinking of it from the parents' perspective to the child's perspective. Children are pretty smart about how to push their parents' buttons, too.
Kathy: Oh, yeah.
Jim: So, they're doing these things without maybe knowing the model of the eight smart types.
Jim: But they know how to get to you.
Jim: And they'll do it. Why do you think that conflict exists in the human condition? What is God doing with it and--
Kathy: Oh, man.
Jim: --what should we do with it?
Kathy: That's so intriguing. I think part of it is and this is gonna sound bizarre, I think part of that conflict is to mature us.
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Kathy: You know, because our faith grows when we persevere through trials. And sometimes it's the iron sharpening iron right there in the living room that, that happens, but I ask kids in my school programs, how many of you have gotten your parents to say yes when they should've said no? And 80 percent of the kids raise their hand and laugh. And then I say, "Don't ever be proud again of doing something evil when you were given a gift that was to be used only for good." And you could hear a pin drop within seconds as they realized, because that's a word-smart, people-smart combination--
Kathy: --where I can figure you out and I can get you to be angry and then you're embarrassed and I have all the power as this 15-year-old. That is so wrong. And I like to say to kids, you were given these intelligences for good and not evil and if you're a believer, to glorify God with it. Grow up and be right and do right with that. One of the things that's cool. Some parents have read my book with their children.
Kathy: Or they'll read sections to an 11-year-old and go, "Look at this woman. She says you're smart because you do this." And all of a sudden, there's this other authority that says to the 11-year-old, well, you are smart. It's not just mom saying that. And now we understand that we're different, because we are uniquely created in the image of God. You know, children aren't created in your image; they're created in God's image, so they're going to be different. So, let's own that.
And we say to our kids, you know, I know that you're not as nature smart as I am. I really need help weeding the garden, 'cause Grandma's coming over and she is not gonna be happy if all those weeds are there. Would you honor me with 15 minutes of your time? Go to the nature-smart part of your brain. (Chuckling) You know, you can actually go there (Laughter), okay? And let's go outside and make this happen. And that's honoring where we acknowledge to the kid, I know that this isn't something that you would naturally want to do, but I'm asking you to do it anyway because you're a member of the family and we have responsibilities to honor each other here and this is a way we can do it.
Jim: Hm. You know, again, some of these things, we'll post these eight and certainly you should get the book, How Am I Smart? We'll make that available, John.
John: Indeed, yep.
Jim: And we're not gonna be able to hit all eight of them, but the music one intrigues me, probably because young people, so many connect to music. So, when you think of a music-smart child, yeah, look how the youth culture connects to music. What's happening there? Why--
Kathy: That …
Jim: --is it such a draw?
Kathy: That's a great question. To be honest with you, I think part of it's a draw 'cause it's the way to escape.
Kathy: So, they put the pods in their ear and they can self-centered and selfish and they don't have to connect with the--
Jim: Well, and maybe--
Kathy: --people in their world.
Jim: --and maybe dumb down what you were saying earlier about all the pain in the world, all the--
Jim: --needs in the world, if I could tune it out a little--
Jim: --I get a respite from it.
Kathy: Bingo, it's a self-medication mechanism, which is obviously healthier than other ways that they could choose to escape. Now the intelligences have interest and ability. So, there are some people who are very interested in music, but they don't have ability. And then there are some who are very …
John: That's me, folks. (Laughter)
Kathy: You've raised your hand though, that you're an interest guy. You know, there are some people who play many instruments and are also interested. There are others who use it as a cultural connection, where young people are like, I better like music 'cause everybody else does and I don't want to feel left out. So, it is interesting. I do believe that it is both picture smart, because of video and websites and the color in the world and music-smart. Those two I have seen increase over the last 20 years. And I think that's just part of the culture. It may not stay that way. So, parents and grandparents need to awaken that part of their brain in order to connect better to their kids.
Kathy: So, to say, hey, would you share one of your pods with me. I'd love to hear what you're interested in. What kind of music are you listening to? What an honoring statement to make to a 17-year-old. You might be appalled and then you have a discussion.
Jim: Yeah, and--
Jim: --as to why you are.
Jim: You know, we've talked about this before, but so often we're quick as parents, particularly Christian parents, obviously when you see the ad on television that is horrible, because it's too risqué--
Jim: --you grab the remote. You turn it off and you simply say, you know, "We don't watch things--
Jim: --like that in the home." And then you walk away. And the child's sitting there going, okay. And is there more definition here? You know, it's good to explain why--
Jim: --so they can connect why we're not allowing it and why we're upset about it and why it's not wise to allow those things into our heart.
Jim: But so often as parents, we just truncate it, don't we?
Kathy: We do. We need to teach discernment. I think that's extremely important in the day of social media and the exposure that our kids have to so much, to discern right from wrong, better from best, good from bad, healthy, unhealthy, complete, incomplete, the world's ways, God's ways, why do we make the decisions we make?
And what I would say to a young child possibly is, you know, I have discovered that you are very picture-smart and your eyes are very important to you.
Kathy: And you think very well with your eyes. That's why you doodle. That's why you love fiction. That's why history intrigues you, because you see the explorers in your eye. Therefore, we will control what we allow you to watch and how much we allow you to watch it.
Jim: So, your strength can become a weakness--
Jim: --and you use it in that context.
Jim: That's a great tool to parent--
Jim: --in that way. Let's connect this to God--
Jim: -- because obviously, God has created all of this, our patterns, our smart types. I mean, it's the way that He has wired us. That's what you're describing. You're a Ph.D. in this area. You are discovering God's design as a scientist.
Jim: And it's intriguing to me and I love it. I love how really science does point back to God--
Jim: --and a Creator and an Intelligence and the fact that we're not here by mistake. Some might challenge that, but I think it's hard to challenge. But when you look at the eight types, how do we apply those in connecting with God and perhaps more importantly, how our children can connect with God?
Kathy: When the Holy Spirit nudges me to talk with someone about Christ, I almost always try to determine first which intelligences they may have a lot of--
Kathy: --so that I can talk first about the God they're looking for. Now it's the God of the Bible that they need and I would want to eventually teach them the whole of God. For instance, if I find out that someone's a landscape architect or somebody enjoys going to the zoo in their spare time, I might talk about God as Creator. And I might share Psalm 23 and how we are spending some time at the quiet water. Have you spent time at the quiet water? What comes to mind when you're there?
And well, let me tell you about my Jesus, whom I love and how He's a Shepherd and He strategically walks us to the quiet places, so that we can spend time with Him and quiet down. I might share Jonah and how that really happened. And can you imagine what they would've been like. Where to be honest, guys, I'm not very nature-smart and so, God as Creator has never been important to me. Do I value His creation? Do I think it's amazing? Absolutely. Have I connected in my spiritual walk to that role He plays? No. It doesn't make me bad.
Kathy: And it doesn't make me a bad Christian.
Jim: You're just indifferent to that aspect.
Kathy: Absolutely. It's just not gonna be my driving force, if you will. Whereas, as a logic-smart person, I came to faith in Christ when my pastor showed me Colossians 2:3--
Kathy: --that in Christ is hidden all wisdom and knowledge. I came to faith in Christ when I discovered that I would get the Holy Spirit, Who would be my teacher and that the Word of God would become more clear after salvation, rather than before. I didn't come to faith in Christ because of love. I was deeply loved by an amazing family. I didn't think I needed it. What I wanted was wisdom and answers to my questions. And praise God, I had a pastor who looked at me and said, "You're always gonna have questions. That's great; that's how your mind works."
Jim: And he wasn't annoyed by it.
Kathy: No and then he said, "You know enough to believe yet?"
Kathy: And I'm like, oh, Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead. Oh, shoot; that's so simple, it's hard.
Kathy: So, when we can determine the smart that a child is operating in, in that moment, like this week it's word-smart; next week it might be something else, we go there. The word-smart person, different translations of their favorite verse. Definitions of love in Greek and Hebrew, because they're little, but they love that.
Looking at different cross-references for the logic-smart, looking that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell the same story in different ways. For the people-smart person, the "one-anothers" of the New Testament and the Person of Christ. And can you imagine the intensity of his, "I got that."
Kathy: And you know what, Bethany? I see you having those qualities. You're such a great friend and people enjoy being with you. Therefore, you really need to be careful, because you're very persuasive before you even know you are--
Kathy: --connects them to the truth that they need to gravitate toward. The music-smart person, who chooses a church for the quality of the worship and doesn't necessarily care if the pastor preaches a good message. This is why it's hard for a family to choose a church, because everybody has a different thing that they prioritize.
But they need to examine the lyrics of the chorus and see that it does come from a Psalm. And they need to study maybe the theology of the hymns and do some biography checks on the composers of the great music of our day. That will drive the music-smart person toward a deeper understanding of Christ, where it wouldn't work for somebody who's more picture-smart.
Jim: Well, again, it's a brilliant way to understand how God has crafted us.
Jim: And that's really what you're depicting here. When you get to the divisions in the human experience, you know, you look at the denominations--
Jim: --within the Christian expression, a lot of it is rooted right here, isn't it? People that are music-smart, they're gonna gravitate toward that, like you said. A logic-based person will want good teaching.
Jim: And it's interesting to me that even the Body of Christ kind of splinters into these communities where they're comfortable. And this provides kind of an explanation for that, doesn't it?
Kathy: I think so. That's really cool that you caught that. I do think that there are certain denominations that would link well and certain churches and the church develops so much of the character of the senior pastor, that if the senior pastor is very body-smart and picture-smart and word-smart, his teaching will have more stories and he'll be more demonstrative in his teaching style, versus the pastor who stands behind the pulpit and never moves.
So, there are some things that factor in there. One of the things that's very intriguing to me about church is the people-smart, self-smart. There's a lot of churches today [sic], a lot of pastors who are proclaiming, you must join a small group. We are a small group church. Well, guess what? If I'm self-smart, I don't necessarily grow in my faith in a group, because the self-smart person craves quiet, peace, privacy and space--
Kathy: --contemplation and reflection. And even in family devotions, I've recommended to families, you know, do your devotion at the kitchen table. Praise God for the dads who are doing that and the moms who are doing that. And if you know that you have a self-smart child, who thinks deeply, then you break after 12 minutes and say, "Let's take a 5-minute break. Go to any part of the house you want and think about two answers to this question."
The self-smart kid is like, "Oh, thank you for my peace, privacy, space and place I can go." The other kids aren't hurt by it. They don't need it per se. But they can benefit, too from going to that self-smart place.
Kathy: So, for a church today, for a youth pastor to figure out how to do church, for the self-smart kid, who's quiet, reflective and needs time, space and alone time to ponder and maybe wants to share with one person what she discovered from that passage, but not the whole group--
Kathy: --and then sitting right next to her, you have the people-smart kid, who revels in the brainstorming and in the theology that comes from a deep discussion. That's not easy. And this is where my dream is for pastors frankly, to get ahold of this and to look at, how have we designed our Sunday schools and our small groups and even our worship services?
I was at a church once. I won't name it. There was nothing on the wall and no plants in the front. (Laughter) And I was doing a seminar there for parents on this topic. And one of the parents raised his hand and said, "This is why I struggle in the sanctuary. I'm so distracted every Sunday," because the walls were tan. There was no art, no banners, nothing to look at and no plants for the nature-smart part of his brain either.
Jim: So, it set a mood that was depressing to him.
Kathy: He didn't feel honored--
Kathy: --in the way that he was created.
Jim: These are such fascinating subtleties though, Kathy and you have really illuminated so much. I hope ... boy, I hope many, many people will pick up the book, How Am I Smart? We've talked about it, the idea of identifying two or three areas of your child's tendencies here in the way that they process, their intellect, how they apply their "smart" to life and begin to use that to nurture them toward a relationship with God, obviously and to do the best they can do in the environment that they're in.
If your child is high ability and high interest in most categories, ask yourself if pride or unfair thoughts will creep in, because they're quite capable kids. That would be another aspect, something that you cover.
Likewise, if your child ranks low and feels debilitated because they don't measure up, you have touched on these things, but again, I hope people will pick up your book to go a little deeper. And I just really want to say thank you for spending the time with us and we'll post some things on the website and it's been a great joy having you here at Focus.
Kathy: I've loved being here. Thank you so much for giving me this privileged opportunity.
Jim: Good to have you.
John: Dr. Kathy Koch is one of our featured guests on our CD or download set of our best programs from 2014 and her book is called How Am I Smart? Now if you'd like some further insights about how God has wired each member of your family with those eight different kinds of "smart" that she describes, you'll find details at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio . Or call us. It's 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And when you generously donate to Focus on the Family--a gift of any amount today--we'll send this book to you as a way of saying thanks for supporting this family outreach.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. Dr. Larry Crabb describes how to have unity in your marriage, as we offer more trusted advice and encouragement to help your family thrive.
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Kathy KochView Bio
Dr. Kathy Koch is the founder and president of Celebrate Kids, Inc., an organization dedicated to helping parents and educators understand and meet the needs of today's children. She is also an international speaker and the author of several books including Screens and Teens, No More Perfect Kids and How Am I Smart? Dr. Koch earned her Ph.D. in reading and educational psychology from Purdue University. She resides in Ft. Worth, TX. Learn more about Dr. Koch at www.drkathykoch.com.