We are lucky enough to have trusted neighborhood friends whose kids are about 10 years older than our own. They shared some sage parenting insight with us about communicating with our kids. The gist of their advice is this: Sometimes kids need to hear the same message 10,000 times before it really sets in. “ Develop a catchphrase,” they told us. “And use it consistently.” Recently sayings like, “Don’t pinch your sister!” and “Standing on the table isn’t safe for toddlers” have worked their way into our household vernacular. These aren’t catchphrases so much as warnings born out of necessity.
When our now 4 ½ year-old daughter started riding her Strider bike at age two, she did so primarily under the tutelage of Dax, a dad who consistently encourages her to get back in the saddle after every fumble and no matter the number of tears. It was this, and Blair’s awareness of her capability to nervously sabotage an excellent exercise in resilience, that inspired us to design our most intentional parenting catchphrase to date. When our kids get on their bikes, we’ve agreed, we will never warn them to be careful. Instead, we ask them to be “safe and smart”. And we discuss with them, in an age appropriate manner, what that means: Wearing a helmet, watching for cars backing out of driveways, waiting patiently for the best opportunity to cross a busy road. Sounds a lot like being careful, doesn’t it?
Be Safe and Smart
We believe that word choice matters. By using the catchphrase “Please be safe and smart” over and over again with our children, we hope that they will develop a sense of assuredness, rather than an inclination to hesitate, on their bikes. We want our kids to take reasonable risks on their bikes so that they can stay open to the pure joy of riding as they grow up.
After all, where’s the fun in riding a bike if it isn’t simply that, fun!