Me: “Be careful!”
Me: “Because you could fall!”
Kid: “I’m scared! Can you help me down?
Well, crap. That conversation accomplished absolutely nothing positive. I successfully brought fear into my child when I had the ability to bring empowerment. Have you ever done that? Unfortunately, this highly anxious mama does it all of the time. So often that the words, “be careful”, are out of my mouth before I actually process the entire situation. It’s almost as if my overwhelming fear of my kids getting hurt or my mama bear sense is too overpowering to be productive at times. Or maybe it’s the fact that my kids are way more confident than I ever was as a child and it’s just unnatural for me to be as daring? Either way, something has to give. As far as I have come when it comes to not micromanaging my children’s “risky” learning moments, I have to get better at promoting awareness and confidence versus doubt and fear.
Thankfully, Josee from Backwoods Mama, has a beautifully written post on how to navigate situations when “be careful” may be the first words to come out of your mouth. Among the many insightful words of wisdom, my biggest take away from her article was that the term “be careful” was really more about me than my kids. It was about my fear of them getting hurt, not theirs. It was about my sudden “worse case scenario” assessment of the situation, not theirs. Yes, there will be times where a situation will be deemed unsafe, but there are many times where it may just be risky. There is a difference between the two. Unsafe means dangerous. Risky means full of the possibility of danger. As their mom, if I give myself a moment to stop and reflect on whether or not the situation is indeed dangerous or just risky, I have the ability to teach my kids valuable lessons, instead of instilling them with fear. If the situation is the latter, I have the ability to choose my words carefully and teach them to assess it with me. In her article, Josee gives these examples:
- Notice how… these rocks are slippery, the log is rotten, that branch is strong.
- Do you see… the poison ivy, your friends nearby?
- Try moving… your feet slowly, carefully, quickly, strongly.
- Try using your… hands, feet, arms, legs.
- Can you hear… the rushing water, the singing birds, the wind?
- Do you feel… stable on that rock, the heat from the fire?
- Are you feeling… scared, excited, tired, safe?
- What’s your plan… if you climb that boulder, cross that log?
- What can you use… to get across, for your adventure?
- Where will you… put that rock, climb that tree, dig that hole?
- How will you…. get down, go up, get across?
- Who will… be with you, go with you, help you if?
Can’t you just see how much learning can take place just by asking these questions and allowing our kids to answer them?
I came across Josee’s post from 2018 only a few months ago, but I can’t even begin to explain how much it has impacted my kids and myself. It has greatly strengthened our relationship as I have been able to trust and empower them more as we navigate through our new homeschool/unschool journey. My hope is that if you are like me, full of anxiety and worry about your kids, you can learn to stop impulsively reacting. Instead, try consciously taking the time to reassess situations with a logical mind. Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone by using the phrases above to help empower you and your child(ren) too. Comfort is a beautiful thing, but so is learning. And sometimes the most learning comes from uncomfortable situations.