Dad’s the Word Column: Can you be too careful as a parent?

Freelance writer, blogger and married dad-of-two, Gareth Ellis, talks about trying to get the balance right between letting children explore and making them safe.

I’ve always been a cautious kind of guy.

When I was younger, I didn’t really want to climb trees or do anything dangerous, I rarely talked back to my teachers at school for fear of the repercussions, and I liked doing things that were safe.

So, it’s no surprise that as a dad I am very cautious with the kids as well – I think the number one phrase that comes out of my mouth when I’m with the kids is ‘be careful.’

Jess and I have a very different approach to things in this regard. Where they might run down a hill or climb onto something, Jess is happy to let them explore, whereas I can’t stand the thought of them falling and hurting themselves.

That’s not to say Jess doesn’t care, but just that we have a different approach to things. So many times now I have watched, often through my fingers, as Rupert runs down a hill close to our house, because I’m scared he’s going to fall over.

I know falling over is part and parcel of growing up and by letting him experience it we’re not monsters, I just hate the thought of him being hurt when it could be avoided.

We recently went to Willen Lake and one child went in one direction and one went the other. In a second, I had to do a risk assessment to see who was in the most danger.

Was it my two-year-old, Rupert, climbing the rope bridge or my one-year-old, Emilia, running down the hill.

Now Emi is walking I love seeing her toddle around with a look of sheer joy on her face.

But again, I can’t help but say ‘careful, baby’ as she walks across the room. I guess I’m no different to
any parent, right?

We don’t want our children to hurt themselves, and even less so on our watch.

The reason for me is that it looks like I wasn’t paying attention. The question is, when does careful become TOO careful?

I don’t want them to get hurt, but I don’t want them to be scared of everything just because their daddy
was worried they might get a graze on their knees.

At some point I’ll have to find that line between letting them explore and holding their hands forever.

I mean, before I know it they won’t want to hold my hand at all – at least not in front of their friends.

Gareth writes a regular blog at and you can follow him on Instagram at @dads_the_word_blog

This feature was published in the October/November 2021 issue of Celebrate:MK lifestyle magazine. Read the full magazine above or by clicking on this link.

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