Every parent wants their child to be safe, and most of us are guilty of being a helicopter parent, as much as we try not to be. It can be heart attack-inducing to see your kiddo climb a tree for the first time or balance on the edge of something high above the ground. You want your child to explore the world around them, but you don’t want them to get hurt, so what do you do? For lots of us, the answer is yelling “Be careful!” It’s the seemingly logical thing to say, but it’s not an empowering phrase to use, and family therapist Emily De La Torre (@mindful_madre on Instagram) explains why in an insightful Instagram reel.

The video showcases her favorite alternatives to yelling “Be careful!” The phrases “What’s your plan here?” “Do you know how steep it’s getting?” “I’ll be right here as you figure it out,” “Do you feel stable?” and “Take your time” flash on the screen with footage of kids playing in “risky” ways. De La Torre explained why these phrases are more apt in the reel’s caption.

“Taking risks is an important part of childhood. Children need this to develop body trust, resilience, confidence and self regulation,” she wrote. “When we foresee possible issues, we want to choose phrases that ENCOURAGE critical thinking and/or give specific things to *notice* or do.”

Then she gives even more examples of phrases to use: “‘Do you notice how that side is slippery?’ ‘Do you notice how weak that branch is?’ ‘Do you notice how close to the edge you are?’”

“Yelling ‘BE CAREFUL!’ may be a knee-jerk response, but it often feels like background noise to a kid. It’s so overused and does not give any information on *how* to proceed, therefore it bears little weight,” De La Torre continued. “The phrases above deepen creative problem solving and strengthen a child’s sense of self agency. The more we allow them to problem solve, the more they can understand the limits of their body. So climb on kiddos!”

Of course this is easier said than done. Don’t feel bad if you still find yourself telling your kid to be careful when they’re doing something that makes you feel uneasy—we all do it!—but keep these phrases in mind to help empower them to feel confident in their physical abilities.