What To Tell Your Child Instead Of “Be Careful”

As a parent, you want the best for your child. The things you tell them are always with the best intentions in mind. When you tell your child to “be careful,” you are trying to keep them safe. This phrase, however well-intended, is extremely vague and lacks context in most cases. In order to raise independent children, it is important to try to evolve your language in a way that helps them understand “why?”

“Notice How…”

Rather than “be careful,” pointing out to your child WHY they should be careful can help them learn reasoning skills and encourage independent thinking. “Notice the steam rising up from the pot- that means the water is very hot” helps your child to understand why they need to be careful and what they need to be careful of, as well as signs to watch out for in the future.

“How Will You…”

Children can be impulsive from time to time. This often results in them getting into situations where they did not think of an “escape plan” (for instance, climbing a tree without thinking about how far they have to jump to get back down). Asking your child what their plan is can help them to learn to plan ahead and problem-solve.

“Are You feeling…” 

Stable? Safe? Scared? Cold? Asking your child how they feel will help to give them the awareness they need to evaluate the situation on their own based on their own perception. If your child is in a situation where they might easily fall, telling them that you think they are not stable can only do so much. Asking your child how they feel about the situation will help them connect their own feelings to the situation.

“What Can You Use…”

Keeping your child safe does not necessarily mean that they have to stop what they are doing. Sometimes, they just need the right tool for the job. Asking your child what they could use to help stabilize themself or to grab a hot bowl teaches them how to figure out safe methods of action on their own.

It is normal to want to keep your child in a bubble, protected from all harm. When you do this, however, they will have difficulty learning how to think and act on their own. Raising an independent child will create an independent adult who is able to use the skills they have learned to navigate the world around them.

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