Every parent and grandparent throughout history have used this phrase in abundance when dealing with their children and grandchildren. I used to use it all of the time. We were treating our children like the high school home economics teacher made us treat that sacred egg that was assigned to take home and bring back safely a day later. Very delicate and anxious was the time spent with that egg, as were the first few years of our babies lives. But, we recently realized, probably through watching other families with adventurous kids, that one word rarely, if ever, comes out of their mouths. That word would be, “Careful!”
We’ve been touring around Northern California for the past week, staying in Pacific Grove, but out exploring the woods outside of Santa Cruz and the cliffs in the Monterey Bay. There are plenty of opportunities to scale boulders, romp in the tide pools, and walk on felled trees. We’ve been mindful of limiting the phrase “be careful” as it pertains to the boys taking risks. We’ve found that projecting similar language induces fear into the boys that may not have otherwise been there. We are putting our own adult fears and potential shortcomings onto our kids. We are setting up mental obstacles that they may later have to overcome before they can become the greatest version of themselves.
It’s not just the phrase “be careful”. It’s our world view. It’s true that we’ve got to give them a place to start in the world, but we don’t want to put up any artificial barriers.
Educate them on the risks of something without projecting or inducing negative emotions. Through this tactic, we’ve found that Hudson has become quite adventurous in a short amount of time. He’s climbing objects that he would’ve been trembling on before. More encouragement, and gentle pats on the head with kind words, such as, “I’m proud of your effort and sense of adventure”, leads to more exploration. It’s empowering not immobilizing and it’s been inspiring to see what kids can do when we take off our artificial constraints.
Our words transmit our emotions to our kids. “Be careful” what you pass along.