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Photo: pkproject (Shutterstock) If you’ve ever watched your not-so-sure-footed kids ascend a tall— very tall— rope climbing structure at the playground, or hoist themselves atop a large, wobbly log in the woods, or attempt the monkey bars alone for the first time (at breakneck speed), you may have felt the urge to call out, “Be careful!” And why? Because arms do get broken at playgrounds and no one wants a trip to the ER. And, likely, because you heard it a lot when you were growing up. But there are several reasons this oft-repeated parental admonition can do more harm than good. (And several better ways to help your kids generate risk awareness and engage in safe behaviors.) Here’s why you should steer clear of this common phrase—and what you can say instead. Why saying be careful is ineffective It’s not specific enough . An urgently uttered “Be careful!” could mean anything from Watch out for that tree branch , or There’s a tarantula on your head! When we say “be careful,” our kids are often not even sure what there is to be careful about. It’s overused. Since “be careful” is such an ingrained, knee-jerk phrase, we tend to say it a lot, for situations both big and small. We say it when they’re about to jump off a wall and when they’re just getting out of the tub. But frequently uttered, nondescript phrases lose their meaning over time, and tend to be ignored. It instills fear . […]