Learn How to Parent Differently: Child Expert Shares How to Raise Kids With Biblical Character

In her newest book, Dr. Kathy Koch tells parents how parenting to cultivate character in kids helps them change culture.

By Nancy Flory Published on January 17, 2024

“It’s never too early” to teach kids biblical character traits. “Little infants are watching and listening,” Kathy Koch (“Cook”), PhD, told The Stream recently. “And it’s never too late. You can have an 18-year-old, you can have a 24-year-old who’s lost. They’re always watching what moms and dads are doing. And they might not thank you for your wisdom, but that doesn’t mean that we should stop living rightly before them hoping to be influential.” 

Koch’s newest book, Parent Differently: Raise Kids With Biblical Character That Changes Culture was released in November. She’s the founder and president of Fort Worth-based Celebrate Kids, Inc., and holds a PhD in reading and educational psychology from Purdue University. Koch talked to The Stream about her book and what parents can do to instill biblical character in their kids.

Do as I Do

Parents should know that if they want to teach their children biblical character traits, they must be prepared to practice them as well. “We have to do them too. … If you’re asking children to be brave and you appear to be timid, you’re in trouble. If you ask your children to be resilient, which is so important that we overcome difficulties, but they don’t see you overcoming difficulties, they’re gonna battle internally, like, ‘What’s right? Who she is, or what she says?’ And you don’t want your kids to be in that battle of integrity.”

It’s best to teach character traits as a family. “Own it as a family. Decide as a family, ‘We’re going to work on confidence.’ ‘We’re going to work on courage.’ ‘We’re going to work on generosity as a family.’ ‘We’re going to work on joy.’ And mom and dad can work on this too.”

Gratitude, Joy and Self-Efficacy

Parent Differently stresses gratitude, joy and self-efficacy. Koch explained why. “I chose gratitude because it is a parent virtue. There is evidence that suggests that children and adults who are grateful are many other things. In other words, grateful[ness] gives rise to or gives birth to joy, confidence, self-respect, generosity, goodness, other-centeredness, the very qualities that we would say that we want.”

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Koch also said that technology can ruin gratefulness because it causes people to believe they are entitled. “We can have whatever we want when we want it.” Especially younger people who are raised on technology. For believers in Christ, gratitude should rule our lives. “We have so much to be grateful for the fact that God created us and he didn’t have to. The fact that Jesus died for us before we asked him to, that the Spirit is a gift. You know, there’s so much.

“I chose joy as second, partly because gratitude gives birth to joy. … Gratitude and joy are very much connected. And Joy in Jesus, right? It ought to be a constant aspect of who we are. 

“And then the third one, self-efficacy simply means that I can do what I’ve been asked to do. … This ability to be and do empowers children to be well and do well, even when no one is looking.”

Even in Scary Times Character Can Show Up

In some ways, kids today have a lot more to deal with than previous generations, like COVID or the war in Israel, for example. Koch said that, even during scary times for kids, character can show up. “What are the decision makers believing about themselves and others? Are they self-centered and selfish? Or are they other-centered and generous? Is there any kindness here?

“And one of the things that I would love to see parents do when we talk about the war is ‘Let’s look for the good things.’ Kind of like Fred Rogers β€” look for the helpers, right? There are always helpers. So, which mission organizations are really on the ground doing well? Which organizations are investing money? Well, ‘Who could we contribute to as a family? And we know from the research we’ve done that this organization gives 90% of the money to Israel and doesn’t keep 90% back in America for administrative costs.’ So I think it helps kids to know that there are things they can do, teach them to pray for wisdom and love to reign. And for God’s will to be done and for their hearts to not be heavy.”

Koch is the founder of CelebrateKids.com and has podcasts for parents on the website. For more information, go to CelebrateKids.com.


Nancy Flory, Ph.D., is a senior editor at The Stream. You can follow her @NancyFlory3, and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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