I stopped saying “be careful” to my son when I realized how often I found myself saying this phrase to him. I have heard these words uttered by my husband many times but never realized how often ‘I’ actually said this to my little one as well.
So why the sudden change you may ask?
Well one evening, my son was getting down from the bar stool as he was looking at something on the fridge and talking to me. (Way too much multi-tasking for a toddler). Of course, my initial reaction was to say “be careful”, but having said it so often I doubt it completely registered with him. It was then that it dawned on me. I didn’t really care if he was being careful, rather, I wanted him to be aware of what he was doing. Shoot, he could get down as sloppy as he wanted as long as he was aware of where he placed his foot. As long as he was focused on getting down and not looking at something on the fridge and talking to me about something I am sure was important to him.
The fact is I do want him to “be careful” when he is crossing the street or stirring a hot pot of soup cooking on the stove with my supervision. I also want him to “be careful” when he is around a newborn or puppy. What I need him to do is “be aware” of what he is doing; like getting down from a bar stool or riding his bike yelling “look mom!”. Those are the countless times (when he attempts to get my attention) that result in him hurting himself. Which brings up the exact point – I don’t need him to “be careful” per se, I need him to “be aware.” Aware of what he is doing, aware of his surroundings, and just overall awareness of his environment and himself.
So why is it important that we are conscious of word choice? Well, because it shapes our children, what they think of themselves, and how they view and interact with others in the world and in their environment. It is the same reason why we use “tricky guy” instead of “bad guy”. Good and bad is all relative. Someone giving candy to my son might be nice, unless he is trying to kidnap him. Now that guy IS tricky, appearing nice, but with alternative motives.
Words are powerful and sure, saying “be careful” might not shape my son in a bad way, but I would much rather have him “be aware” when interacting with the world, rather than being careful all of the time. I want my son to interact with the world, not out of fear, but with awareness, and care when necessary. I can only imagine a world where people were more aware of themselves and their environment. Do you have words that you and your family try not to use?