Letting Kids be Kids (rant)

Sally - posted on 04/02/2012 ( 31 moms have responded )

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Ok, this is a rant. A tirade. A huge pet peeve. I detest when I am out at a park, playground, anywhere there are children, over hearing the constant stream of "be carefuls" from parents. Why don't people let kids be kids? Why is everything so cautious? I watch parents hovering over kids on slides, monkey bars, low curbs. "oh Susie, you are to high up" Oh Johnie, don't swing so high" "oh you are too little for that." Stay away from the mud, be careful running. I want to scream at these people. SHUT UP. How can a kid learn to do anything, if you are constantly telling them to be careful? And what exactly are you telling them with "be careful"? Does it give them any information? Does it help them figure out how to do something? All it does is impart fear & apprehension.. Seriously, I don't get it. Instead of these constant chatterings of be careful why not give useful information, if you have to say something.. How about, "the grass is slippery from yesterdays rain." Or "There is a sharp rock next to you on that curb" or "this slide is taller than the one at home." You get my point, info rather than nonsense words that have no value. Being told to "be careful" tells the child not to trust their own instincts. It sends the message that the parent has no faith in the childs abilities. Have some faith, let them be kids. The brain cannot learn what it never has a chance to try.

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I never hovered with J. We followed the same rule mentioned above--if you can't get there on your own, you're not ready, and for the most part, by the time he could get there, he could fall safely.

That said, I DO use the term "Be Careful" all the time. When J was little, 1 or 2 years old, I was more specific, but once he was about 3, he no longer needed me to point out every potential source of danger to him. When I say "Be Careful" I am telling him to be aware of his body, his surroundings, and to look for potential danger himself. He's a big boy, he knows dangerous situations when he sees them, but sometimes he gets excited and forgets to be aware, so I call out "Be Careful" and he slows down a bit and takes stock.

Jenny - posted on 04/13/2012

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That's like saying calling out a kids name "Daniel!" is useless. I think it works just fine, it startles them, grabs their attention, and a lot of the time they know exactly why you are saying it.



I think we are over thinking the "be careful" phrase. Sure we could all be saying some thing more helpful than that, but no one is perfect and we don't need to be. Most of the times it is used to remind a child of an earlier warning, or is followed up by an explanation once you catch up with the kid.



The phrase comes very naturally to most paretns and it's not harmful, so I don't find it useful to disect the use of it, or brand it as un-helpful.

Starfish - posted on 04/19/2012

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Running and playing is fine, but I prefer to teach them to be aware of their surroundings and act appropriately than to teach them to fall down and bust their butts regularly. It's not much fun when you're breaking bones and bleeding all over the place. And yes, "Be careful" relates just the right amount of information to mine. It tells them to assess their surroundings, and play in a way that is not harmful to themselves or others.



I guess I don't really understand the school of thought that we have to let them experience everything possible for the sake of "learning". I didn't let them burn themselves on the stove to teach them that is was hot, and I don't intend on letting them Evel Knievel themselves on the playground to figure out that they shouldn't.

Jenny - posted on 04/06/2012

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to this post i say "Let parents be parents". Don't worry about how other parents parent, just because it doesnt make sense to you doesnt mean its not right.

There may be good reason why a parent is a hovering parent. They know their child the best, they have probably had enough experiences that drove them to be so attentitive.



"Be careful!" is just one of the quickest way to get the childs attention and to get them to slow down for a second. After explaining to a child for the 10th time that they have to be careful because the grass is wet and they might slip, i think it is perfectly appropritate to just yell out "be careful." In hindsight maybe "wet grass!" would be better, but i'm sure we're all working on what is most effective, we'll get better!



I remember a scary incident at a cross road trafic light. I was in the city on foot, waiting to cross the light with another 50 odd people, when one person started to take off before the rest of us, and I saw a car speeding across towards him and quickly yelled out "CAREFULL!"

What i had actually meant to say was "GET BACK, THERE IS A SPEEDING CAR COMING STRAIGHT AT YOU!!"

Thankfully "Careful!" was enought to jolt him back to the sidewalk and keep him safe.

Its just the first thing that popped into my mouth at that time. I'm sure that's what happens out there in the playground too :)

September - posted on 04/03/2012

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I think you can allow a child to explore and to trust their own instincts while keeping them safe at the same time. We were at the playground yesterday and our son was climbing up a ladder to the slide and at the top of the ladder was a horizontal bar that he could hit his head on. He was so excited about getting up to the slide that he didn’t even notice the medal bar so I told him to be careful not to hit his head on the bar. I'd rather warn him then stand there and watch him hurt himself. I do agree that some parents can be a bit overprotective but just because one is telling their child to be careful does not mean they don't allow their child to explore or trust their own instincts.

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Jasmine - posted on 04/24/2012

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I have to admit I'm kind of like that. I always feel terrible when my daughter gets hurt, but I know she's a trooper and will get past of pretty quickly. My mom is bothered my how my husband horseplays with our daughter and sometimes it makes me nervous too, but at the same time it's one of the ways that her and her father bond and it's something only they do together.

Audra - posted on 04/16/2012

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These parents could be concerned about a costly accident, especially now. I agree that "be careful" doesn't communicate anything, and that parents should do better to be specific about the danger...sometimes it's what comes out first. It's easier to spit out three syllables vs. a whole sentence. If I had to choose an 'extreme' I'd rather be at the playground with the hovering parent vs. the parent who doesn't monitor their child at all.

Corinne - posted on 04/14/2012

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I suppose it also depends on the child. If I shout 'Mia!', my daughter stops, turns to face me and listens. My son however, does not. He will turn his head and continue to run, yesterday he ran into a sign post.....

Cyndel - posted on 04/13/2012

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If we didn't have to pay-per-load at a laundry mat I wouldn't care how filthy he got. Sheesh I've gone belly down in fresh cow dung as a kid, I know what filthy is. But we can't afford that kind of laundry right now. We are moving in a month or 2 so I'm hoping we move to a house with w/d hook ups.

But in general I agree that 'be careful' is useless unless used to remind a child of an earlier warning, or in general to get a child to slow down for a moment.

Sally - posted on 04/13/2012

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I encourage mud & puddles. Even at 5, we don't go to the park or playground without dry clothes and shoes. We live outside of Seattle, if we avoided mud & puddles we would never go outside. Kids should get dirty, it is good for them. But I believe we have to let kids get dirty & explore nature. I think Nature Deficit Disorder is something we shoudl all be concerned about especially here in the USA. Another topic, I suppose.....

I still do not see the phrase "be careful" as helpful to a child. It does not convey any useful
information. I see it as a distraction. I have no problem telling bigger kids to watch out for little
kids, I tell my own that. I also have left a local park with my then younger daughter because the
grade school up the street got out and it was just too rough for her. But I didn't blame the kids.
They are kids, they need to get the energy out too.

Krista - posted on 04/12/2012

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I'm all for mud, though. :) I have no qualms about letting my kid get filthy dirty.

Krista - posted on 04/12/2012

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It does make it difficult for younger children to learn motor skills at the playground.

That's exactly right, Jenny. I was happy to let him go up to the high slide. He was thrilled. We were having a great time. But about 20 minutes after we arrived, a bunch of other families arrived, all with kids who were around 6-8 years old. And they were just wild and rowdy and totally heedless of anybody else. My son got knocked over twice, but on a low surface, and he wasn't hurt, so I didn't say anything, but stepped up my vigilance. And when he almost got knocked off of that high surface onto the ground, that was it.

It's a shame, because he was having so much fun, and I didn't want to discourage his exploration, but like you said...it's hard for them to learn motor skills when they're being knocked down by a bunch of heedless grade-schoolers whose parents are too busy texting to take their kids aside and tell them to slow the hell down and pay more attention to who is around them.

Sherri - posted on 04/11/2012

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@Sally sometimes you have too tell them to be careful especially when you have a child such as mine that literally has no fear what so ever and is not aware of his limitations. He will without hesitation try anything and everything even it is far more than his capabilities and will certainly cause himself serious harm. So do I tell him no that he is too little for that or no that is too dangerous or say be very very careful you can bet your life on it.

Also I despise mud so I will be telling them to be careful and stay out the mud. They are kids but playing in mud is not mandatory to be a kid, especially when they need to get back in my car or it is the only pair of shoes they have right now. Not to mention I don't want their clothes ruined, play clothes or not.

Maybe try and see it from another mom's point of view rather than judge because a parent is keeping their child safe. Trust me I have been a mom for 15yrs this isn't my first rodeo. I am quite certain as to what I am doing and it isn't and hasn't hindered them in the least.

Jenny - posted on 04/10/2012

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Oh Krista E, your heart must have been in your mouth! So glad you were able to catch him. What a relief. Some older kids just have no regard for the younger children at the playground. It does make it difficult for younger children to learn motor skills at the playground.



I think it's okay to let your kid climb up the slide if there's no one else at the park. I've seen some slides that have a "do not climb" sign on it. I think the right thing to do is not to let them climb up it, especially if there are other families around, it's the considerate thing to do.

Krista - posted on 04/10/2012

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I can't tell you Daniela, how many of those "looks" I have gotten. It is funny now, I can almost predict who is going to give me one...... Mostly I get them now because I let her climb up the slide. I don't see the harm if no one is coming down.



I'm with Kelina on this one. It's your business if you want to let your kid climb the slide, but I certainly won't be thanking you for it when my 2.5 year old sees her and decides that HE wants to climb the slide, even when other kids are trying to come down, and then gets upset and bawls his eyes out when I tell him no, that it's not safe.



We were actually at the playground with my son this weekend, and he had a great time, and went all the way up to where the big slide was. He must have gone down it about 6 times, and was doing great. And then the bigger kids started getting rowdy, and knocked him over, and he came this damn close to falling off of the top of the slide to the ground. Yeah, it's soft ground, but it's an 7-foot drop -- more than enough to break an arm, or a neck. It was only my oh-so-terrible "hovering" that saved him, because I was able to reach up and grab him to keep him from falling.



And all of the parents of these kids were just ignoring them, instead of reminding them to be considerate of the little ones. And goodness knows I don't dare say anything to those kids, because then their mothers would be after me for daring to scold their precious snowflakes. So I wound up taking my son home, and he was heartbroken.



And as far as what harm it can cause to climb a slide...well, I remember once when I was younger, and at a playground by myself. Another little boy came along and tried to climb the slide just as I was about to go down it. I told him to move, but he kept coming. So I nudged him with my foot, and he fell off the slide and broke his arm. So yeah...it can definitely cause harm.



Some parents do go over-the-top with the helicopter act, but most of us are just trying to keep our kids from breaking bones. So cut us a bit of slack, okay?

Jenny - posted on 04/09/2012

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I do understand why parents are careful and hover. However sometimes it is over the top. What drives me nuts is my MIL telling my kids not to run because they will fall!!!!! So what? They're pretty close to the ground at this age, the fall wont be so bad, and how will they ever get better at running if they don't have a chance to practice??

Now my husband's got in on this too, and i've got to encourage him to let it go. lol. Funny what some people get caught up on.

Sally - posted on 04/08/2012

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My 3 year old could & did know if someone is on the slide at the top or coming down she had to move. She is just 5 so not an "older" child. It is not my job to stop my child from climbing a slide because yours can't. She knows the rules & follows them. She can climb up as long as no one is on it at the top. Goodness, what harm does it possiblily cause to climb a slide? Why do we want to limit it to one single function? Doesn't climbing a slippery, slanted object add a new element? Isn't climbing and learning about leverage & balance a good skill? Since when is expanding one's accomplishments bad? Ever seen a kid climb a slide, see the look on their face? Look of pride at making it to the top? The joy of the conquering? I love it, encourage it and would never discourage it. Parks are too predictable, anything that livens it up is good with me.

Kelina - posted on 04/07/2012

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I agree with you for the most part. My mom was one, totally ruined me. I was way too cautious and scared as a child. When my son started furniture walking I can't tell you the number of times she freaked out. While he was still upright. The only thing I currently don't allow my 3 year old to climb is the climbing wall at the park because the top is a little difficult to get off and the fall from that point is about 7 feet. Other than that I couldn't care less as long as he's in sight. that being said-I hate parents like you who'll allow their kids to climb slides. While your child may be able to differentiate between what is safe and what is not, my 1 year old and my 3 year old cannot. My 3 year old is learning, but my one year old needs to be continually corrected after she sees someone go up the slide because she doesn't understand that while it was clear for that person it's not for her. And they also don't understand why other kids are allowed but they're not. The slides in our area are also pretty blind from the bottom to the top. So no, there's no need to hover over your kids, which does drive me insane, but have some respect for the younger kids who can get hurt doing the same things that older kids do-especially if you're at a playground that's aimed for younger kids. One of my biggest pet peeves is parents who allow their older kids play at parks clearly designed for 3 and unders.

Sally - posted on 04/05/2012

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I can't tell you Daniela, how many of those "looks" I have gotten. It is funny now, I can almost predict who is going to give me one...... Mostly I get them now because I let her climb up the slide. I don't see the harm if no one is coming down. It was worse when she was younger, now at 5, I have had other parents tell her to go down the slide not up. She'll look at them, look up the slide and say"its clear" and climb right up it. Drives some Mom's insane. Which secretly cracks me up.

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Just thought I better clarify, it was my daughter who made it up to the big slide, not my MIL...

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I am soooo with you on that! My daughter is 2.5 years old and the amount of times OTHER people hovered over her because apparently she was in mortal danger or something! It's not like I WANT her to fall, but I don't really have a problem with it happening either. If they never fall, then how can they learn that they need to be careful in the first place? Everytime she wants to do something new my heart sits in my throat. But I stop myself and give her some hopefully helpful advice instead. Sometimes she does fall, and then I get the 'you-didn't-watch-your-poor-kid' look. Though I have to say the playground isn't have as bad as the presence of my MIL. 'Be careful, you'll fall, mind Nina, you'll fahaaaall'. Recently she made it up to the big slide all by herself. I mentioned it at home and got a panicked 'Oh my god, I hope you were standing right next to her?!!!'. Yes dear, of course I did - NOT.

Minna - posted on 04/04/2012

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I still yell at my teen to "watch what you're doing' The 14 staples in his head and filleted finger are just the 2 bloodiest toddler adventures. The stupidest thing that happened was when his brother fell of the top of the slide at age 2. The next day he started. crawling Now this kid NEVER had crawled, was running steps long before this. Unfortunately he wasn't a great talker yet ,and would only say that his foot hurt. Took him to the Ped., confessed my bad parenting.. We were then sent to Cincinnati Children's Hospital where they took numerous x-rays. .Nothing was found. It was suggested maybe the fall frightened him,and he would soon bounce back.I thought this diagnoses highly unlikely,as he continued to try to crawl up on everything there, but took him on home . That night I noticed a small hangnail on his toe and clipped it off. Voila! The cure was miraculous! Took off running and never looked back. Minna

September - posted on 04/04/2012

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Sally I totally get what you're saying and I do agree. When we tell our son to be careful, we tell him why.

Corinne - posted on 04/04/2012

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Oh, I am so with you on this Sally. I hate our local park because of the helicopter parents and the 'to busy to check your broken, bleeding nose, can't you see I'm texting?' types. Plus, the local council have done away with most of the fun stuff. The massive slides have gone, the roundabout has gone, the monkey bars have gone... you get where I'm going. The only part of the park that is a challenge is the 'natural' section, it's supposed to look like it's made of logs but it's slippery and they have nothing for little hands to hold on to. My M.I.L used to be up the kids butts all the time (almost literally, she'd hold her hands out just below them) everytime we went to the park. Drove me mad.

Krista - posted on 04/03/2012

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No, I can see your point, Sally, that the term "be careful" is just way too non-specific to actually be useful when dealing with little kids. That makes sense.



I just didn't agree entirely with your assessment of people being cautious. But that's okay. This site would be rather boring if we always all agreed with each other.

Sally - posted on 04/03/2012

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I reminded my daughter that everyone has their own way of doing things. And I told her she was right the ground is soft. My daughter used to be painfully shy, she would barely talk in front of others so I would never tell her to not to talk. It could set her back.



My rant about the words be careful is that the words don't have meaning to kids. A three year old in full play mode has no clue what "be careful" means. It doesn't tell him what to do to be safe or to learn. It is meaningless chatter. But I sense I am in a minority. A place I find myself more and more. One of the reasons I quit posting on here. But I was bored yesterday and had just been to the park.

[deleted account]

Did you let your daughter know (in private, of course) that it is extremely rude to 'reprimand' an adult?



Sorry. That probably didn't come out like I meant it. I totally get your rant about not letting kids be kids and play and have fun, but your rant about the words 'be careful' just doesn't make sense to me. If the 2 scenarios are combined... yes, but not just the caution warning.



I do get that it's your pet peeve though. I've got a few of those myself. ;)

Sally - posted on 04/03/2012

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I guess that is my point September, telling your son to be careful, gives him no information. Telling him "there is a bar above your head." or "go under the bar." Tells him what he needs to be successful. Be careful is not information. It is a nothing statement.



Our rule at the playground or park is if you can't get there on your own then you are not ready for it. If you need help climbing, it is too high. I don't hold while they climb, I don't lift up to slide. When they can conquer on their own, they are ready. I make one exception at a particular park that has a short ladder and overly high monkey bars. I will lift her up to them after she climbs the ladder but I don't help her across. I don't help climb rocks, I don't help balance on logs at the beach. I thikn they need the trial and error to learn. Rarely is a drop off a monkey bar going to do any real damage. Most playgrounds are so safety conscience that my daughter gets bored fast, no real challenge. I might tell her, "those rocks are wet and slippery." In a situation that is truely dangerous, I will stop her actions but not without telling her why.



Like I said, this is a pet peeve. I dread going to the parks on nice days because of the parents. Even my 5 year old will ask "why won't they let their kids play?" or a few months ago she told another mom "why do you keep saying be careful, this is a playground. The floor is really soft." She meant the wood chips on the ground but didn't have the word for them. :)

[deleted account]

Considering that I have the kids that were climbing up their windows to touch the ceiling at 18 months.... 'be careful' is a frequent phrase of mine. ;)



Hasn't stopped them from exploring or doing anything, but has reigned in a little of the constant insanity... At least to the point that none of their antics have wound us up in the ER.... lol

Krista - posted on 04/03/2012

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I agree that "be careful" is pretty much meaningless to a kid. I DO tend to tell my toddler "Watch where you're going!" when he's playing, because otherwise, he'd be bashing into stuff or stepping out into thin air.



In defense of hovering, though, sometimes if the kid is really little, they DO need help. My son is only 2 1/2, and adventurous. He loves trying new things. So if he wants to climb up on the monkey bars, fine -- he can climb, but I'm right there with my hands hovering near his waist, ready to catch him if he slips. And if some parent wants to scorn me for hovering, then THEY'RE welcome to bring my son to the ER if he slips and knocks out his front teeth.

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