52 Weeks of Talking to Our Kids: Reminding Kids to "Do the Next Right Thing"

In the last “talking” post, I described a time in which talking isn’t needed at all. (You can read that here.) Those times are not all that frequently, however, since usually our kids have wanted our input, advice, and help. (And if they didn’t want it, they probably really needed it, so it was up to us to find a way to make it happen.)

To balance that “just listen” vs. “give too much input,” we came up with a solution that has become a popular buzzword in our home.

In this approach, we listened, listened, and listened. Here and there we would give suggestions—“What do you think would happen if you did this?” or “What do you think of this?”

The child would often find solutions herself through this “more listen than talk” approach. Sometimes just saying all of the problems, scenarios, and hurts aloud bring out the best solutions without a lot of input.

Regardless of whether we listened ninety percent and talked ten percent. Or listened fifty percent and talked fifty percent. Or somewhere in between….

There came a point (even if it wasn’t until two or three in the morning), when the child would dry her tears, sigh fretfully, and stare into space.

And this is when we said the words that the child was ready for: “What are you going to do now?”

And this is where the child said the magic words (which used to be please and thank-you but now were much deeper and more important than those): “I’m going to do the next right thing.”

She knew what that was. She knew that getting back at those who had wronged her would never work. She knew that harboring bitterness wouldn’t solve anything. She knew that recounting the offense over and over wouldn’t help. (We had talked enough for the previous sixteen years that she had already learned all of those lessons.)

And then, once again, it was confirmed to us that all of those years of talking—in various places, at all hours, for however long it took, about whatever the child needed or wanted to talk about—was worth it….because the child knew exactly what to do in the current situation: “the next right thing.”

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