Saying “Be Careful!” to children is probably one of the least helpful things we can say to them. According to backwoodsmama.com it’s not specific enough. “Be Careful!” does not tell your child exactly what to be cautious. Either they’ll give you a look of confusion (“what’s there to be afraid of?”), ignore you (“this isn’t scary!”) or lose concentration (“and then get hurt!”).
The other problem with saying “Be Careful!” is that it tells them you do not have confidence in their ability and that they need you to solve this challenge and others. It teaches kids that they should avoid taking risks, trying new things and making mistakes because bad things could happen, and yes bad things can happen, but kids need to engage in risky and challenging play for healthy growth and development.
So What To Do and Say Instead
Help Your Child Improve Awareness by Saying:
- Notice how... these rocks are slippery, that branch is strong...
- Do you see... the poison ivy, your friends nearby?
- Try moving... your feet carefully, your quickly, strongly.
- Try using your... hands, feet, arms, legs.
- Can you hear... the rushing water, the singing birds, the wind?
- Do you feel... stable on that rock, the heat from the fire?
- Are you feeling... scared, excited, tired, safe?
Help Your Child Problem Solve by Saying:
- What's your plan... if you climb that boulder, cross that log?
- What can you use... to get across, for your adventure?
- Where will you... put that rock, climb that tree, dig that hole?
- How will you.... get down, go up, get across?
- Who will... be with you, go with you, help you if?