Stop Saying, “Be Careful!”

“Be careful!” Kids hear that from their parents a lot. How useful is it? Not very, actually. First of all, it does not teach the child to be careful. Rather, it only teaches them to be afraid. It gives them the sense that the world is full of danger and that bad things happen when they make a mistake.

There’s no doubt that we want our children to be aware of the risks and dangers around them. How will children learn what they are and how they should act from these two words? More information is definitely needed.

Consider this scenario. The rain has just stopped, and the ground you and your child are walking on is wet. Concerned that your child might slip and fall, you say “Be careful.” Instinctively, he grips your hand even tighter. While you might have succeeded in keeping your child from falling, has your child learned what he ought to do when walking on a wet surface? Not really. 

Wouldn’t it have been better if you pointed out to your child that a wet surface could be slippery, and to avoid slipping, he could walk slower and take smaller steps. Of course, he can still hold your hand for added safety. 

Instead of saying “Be careful!” In seemingly dangerous situations, take the opportunity to help your child foster greater awareness of their environment and their bodies by pointing out how they can stay safe. It’s important that you let your kids engage in risky or challenging play because it’s a great way for them to practise problem solving skills. 

By Parcsen Loke, Family Life Coach, Centre for Fathering. 

Food for Thought: We face risks every day of our lives, but we should not live in fear. How would you help your child understand the difference between risk and danger?