I often find myself telling my kids to “be careful” in the most mundane circumstances. Be careful- pouring the milk. Be careful- climbing on the slide. Be careful- when you get into the tub. And then I pause to ask myself why I do it. It’s like a gut reaction that I can’t stop. Why do they need to be careful?
There is a bumper sticker that I really love. “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” Does a similar sentiment apply to kids? Careful children don’t learn as much as the ones who take chances-I wonder.
According to the Webster’s dictionary, one definition for careful is “marked by wary caution or prudence.” One of the joys of childhood is jumping in with both feet. Kids instinctively explore and act impulsively. And I think in most situations, they learn a lot in the process. Sure, accidents can happen, but most of all there is a whole lot of discovery.
Recently my daughter decided to climb a rock wall. She has done so many times with her grandmother at the YMCA. And she does it with confidence and enthusiasm. But this rock wall was outside (and very, very high.) She donned a helmet and the harness. She climbed up like a spider monkey. It was all good until she reached the top. At the top, fear set in and tears began to fall. I felt helpless as I watched her crying out to me. But as we cheered her on and offered reassurance, I knew she would ultimately gain strength. I was so glad she had the opportunity to try.
I am learning to let go and give my children more and more responsibilities. I hope that they value their mistakes and remember that risks are worth taking. I want them to climb to the top of the jungle gym. I want them to approach a new situation with confidence. I want them to fail so they learn to persevere.
The next time you tell your children to be careful, ask yourself if you should. (And for the record, my daughter made it down safely and smiled once her feet were on the ground.)