ADVERTISEMENT

We’ve all said it to our kids. It’s a phrase that seems to come as naturally as “I love you.” We use it too much, and I have been consciously trying to whittle it out of my vocabulary.

Be careful.

I, like most parents, felt that was the thing to keep force-feeding my son. We all want our kids to be safe, grow up happy and prosper. As caregivers we have that responsibility of protecting them from harm.

But seriously, people, pump the brakes a bit.

Listen up the next time you’re at a playground. Now that I’ve taken note, it’s pretty much the only thing I hear. Imagine you were driving your car and someone was yelling, “Be careful,” at you every block. That would unnerve far more than assist me.

And most of the time I hear the phrase, “Be careful” it’s inane. It’s shouted out by a parent who’s barely paying attention or busy checking their Facebook (that’s a separate column). I sometimes feel they are tossing out a “be careful” just to make themselves feel more comfortable. It gets used as a substitute for monitoring, but not interfering with a child’s play time.

Magda Gerber, a prominent early childhood educator, wrote extensively on giving toddlers room to breathe. She opined, “A child who has always been allowed to move freely develops not only an agile body but good judgment about what he can and cannot do.”

I tend to agree.

So what if your 3-year-old takes a tumble on the plastic slides at the playground? Their pliable little bodies are sturdy enough to handle the occasional tumble and by doing so, learn to fall. Even more important, how to recover. It also helps to teach them how their bodies work, limitations and self-awareness.

I want my son, Justice, to fall. I want him to know what it’s like to hit the ground, brush himself off and move on. Why? Because life moves on. Life doesn’t have a pause button. And there won’t always be someone yelling “careful” every time he makes a move. Remember that your child is exploring. He/she is stepping out of their comfort zone to try something new.

Let them do it.

Let them succeed.

Let them fail.

But most important, don’t tell them to “be careful.”

Special to the New York Times. Brandon Wright is a married father of a preschool son.