If you were to close your eyes for a minute and think about your day, what phrases do you remember uttering to your kids on repeat? Chances are the words “be careful!” were shouted at least once or twice (probably along with “no hitting!” and “who did this?”). But that’s not so bad, right? You’re just trying to keep your children—and anyone who crosses their path—out of harm’s way.
But here’s the thing: Constantly telling kids to be careful means they won’t learn how to take risks or make mistakes. It’s basically the two-word equivalent of helicopter parenting (and its cousin, snowplow parenting).
“Taking risks means sometimes failing,” writes parenting expert Jamie Glowacki in Oh Crap! I Have a Toddler. “If you never take a risk, if you play it safe all the time, you become afraid of making a mistake. You become afraid of failure. The ramifications of this core attitude affect people throughout their entire lives.” Remember, failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing—in fact, getting out of one’s comfort zone often goes hand-in-hand with success. (Just ask Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates or Vera Wang).
And here’s something else to consider—shouting “be careful” to a child who’s happily swinging on the monkey bars sends them the message that you don’t trust their judgement or that there are hidden dangers that only the grown-ups can see. Cue the self-doubt and anxiety. In fact, one study from Macquarie University’s Centre for Emotional Health found that not encouraging kids to take risks can cause later anxiety issues.