“Be careful.” What a common phrase parents say. Your kid is climbing a tree – “Be careful!” Your kid is carrying hot liquid – “Be careful!” Your kid is going for a drive – my parents still tell me to “Be careful!” And that’s fine. But it’s also not great. It’s not that helpful. What does “careful” mean to a kid? Maybe a good alternative to careful is to be slow – to take your time because what your doing requires concentration and thought and you don’t want to rush it because you could get hurt. But being slow and careful is boring. And kids hate boring. So I’ve got an alternative, let’s start telling our kids to “Be strategic.”
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It’s not that you shouldn’t tell your kids to “Be careful.” You totally can and should. It’s that there are times when “Be strategic” also works and I think it is often clearer and it starts to get kids to think about being strategic, which they don’t necessarily get when they are told to “Be careful.”
“Be careful” means to be cautious. It means to be slow. It means to take your time. It means to be aware of what is going on. Implied in “Be careful” is to think about what you are doing and plan it out. But with kids we need to be super explicit. Telling kids to “be careful” and expecting them to plan out their course of action in response to that piece of advice is unlikely to get the desired outcome.
Meanwhile, “Be strategic” is a little more proactive. It’s a little clearer what it means to be strategic. To be strategic is to have a strategy – to have a plan. So when your kid is looking down the stairs they don’t know how to actually descend and you say “Be strategic” the idea is that they will start to learn to pause before they just nose dive downward.
Being cautious and careful is slow and boring. Being strategic is cool.
There’s this military saying, “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.” And I’ve started saying it to myself as another alternative to “Be strategic”.
The point is, “Be strategic” is cool and it’s still slow. But even though it’s slow, it’s fast. And that’s cool. And your kids will respond to that. So try to start replacing some of your “Be careful” warnings with “Be strategic” and see what happens.
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