Christian psychologist: Kids must develop 'resilience' to fulfill God's purpose for them

Kathy Koch shares tips to help parents navigate ways to avoid over coddling their children and how to instill God-centered, biblical resilience during a live discussion with Focus on the Family.
Kathy Koch shares tips to help parents navigate ways to avoid over coddling their children and how to instill God-centered, biblical resilience during a live discussion with Focus on the Family. | Screengrab: YouTube/Focus on the Family

Parents must allow their children to occasionally endure hardship to build resilience if they want them to understand God's purpose for them, according to an education expert. 

Focus on the Family hosted a live YouTube discussion on Tuesday with Kathy Koch, the founder of Celebrate Kids, a Christian ministry based in Fort Worth, Texas, and author of the book Resilient Kids: Raising Them to Embrace Life with Confidence.

Koch warned that if children “don't develop an ability to walk out of their trauma, they won't become who God intended them to be."

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"And it's only when we're resilient, when we come back from difficulty, that we'll learn and grow and discover how life works. We'll develop character, faith, perseverance, diligence, problem solving, health, mental health, all of that,” Koch said.

Some parents are coddling their children to the point that they always return to them in unhealthy ways to have their issues resolved by their parents, she added. 

“People are aware that it's necessary that we allow our children to suffer a bit and struggle and learn how to step up, or they'll become way too fragile," Koch continued. "But I think a lot of parents are afraid to let that happen. They don't know the balance, allowing the struggle, but also preventing the struggle, and there's tension there." 

Koch alluded to Romans 5:3-4, which says, " ... we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."

Facing struggles grows children in their spiritual and character maturity because they have to rely on God in difficult times, Koch noted. 

“Let your children struggle sometimes. Let them suffer the consequences. They forgot that there was a test. You chose not to remind them. They earned a C. They didn’t get it. They earned it. You look them in the eye [and you say], ‘You chose to forget to study. There’s a consequence for your actions,’” she said. 

Koch said that parents have to realize that “it's not about us," adding that "this is where moms and dads have to take a step back and go: ‘if my kids struggle a bit, and I look like a bad parent, I am not a bad parent. I did a wise thing by teaching my child that consequences are a result of the choices you make.'"

“I know it's not easy, but if we don't do this, we're going to have fragile kids who boomerang back home all of the time," Koch continued. "They won't succeed, and they will not fulfill the purpose that God has for them."

According to Koch, struggling through life's circumstances helps remind Christian children of God's love, mercy and grace over all of humanity. 

Koch said parents need to give their children space to try new things that might be challenging for them, even if the effort involves some difficulties. 

“I think primarily we develop our character and our hope [in struggles]. We know that God will come forward for us. We know that He's on our side. We know that His wisdom, love and passion and mercy and grace is real because we’ve needed it and we’ve begged for it, and we’ve experienced it," Koch said. 

And this is where we develop perseverance, teachability, patience and hope, other-centeredness. Being led by someone else because we can’t make it out of the valleys on our own and then we grow. We make progress." 

Koch noted that "most resilient people don’t want to sit down in the valley," but rather "they want to figure things out."

"So, they try again and they try again. These are children who don’t wine and complain ‘mommy, it’s too hard; I can’t do it.’ But instead they go, ‘Shoot, this was hard. I wonder what would make it easier,'” she said. 

In her former teaching days, Koch said she worked with children in second grade who were learning to put their coats and shoes on during the winter months. 

On one occasion, she had a difficult time not helping each student to put their shoes and coats on when she saw that they were struggling with learning the tasks. 

“I could have put all 28 snow suits on faster than watching that, but I knew that they had to figure it out,” Koch recounted. “I do want to rescue them. I do want to love them well. And sometimes, I feel like I can’t let them struggle. But no, they had to figure it out." 

“You can’t steal their victory. If you do everything for them, you steal their victory. They don’t have that chance to feel good about themselves. And that’s not right. We have to let them figure it out so that they can grow up.”

Nicole VanDyke is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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