My oldest daughter recently completed a science fair project that involved timing traffic signals. As she used a stopwatch, I had the chance to observe the drivers making their way through the intersections. I noticed a lot of people in a hurry to reach their destinations. We’ve all been there, running late with the clock ticking—maybe if we go a little faster, try to squeeze through that yellow light…
The problem is, when we’re hurrying, we often forget to be cautious. Cautiousness is knowing the importance of right timing in accomplishing right actions. The Latin root, cautio, means wariness, heedfulness, and circumspection.
When we rush through life, whether driving or doing homework, we may overlook tiny but important details. Being cautious gives us time to reflect before making decisions or taking action. Slowing down also gives us the opportunity to enjoy the ride instead of always racing to the next place.
Prairie dogs carefully construct their underground homes with mazes of interconnecting tunnels. At first glance this may appear to be mindless burrowing with no clear purpose. But in reality, the prairie dogs display an abundance of caution when building their tunnels. Multiple entrances and escape routes help the prairie dog avoid predators like hawks and coyotes.
“I Will” Statements
1. I will think before I act.
2. I will follow safety rules.
3. I will ask permission.
4. I will talk at the right time.
5. I will look out for danger.
Being aware of our surroundings helps us spot potential opportunities and hazards. The following game is a great way to develop awareness and pass the time in a waiting room or standing in line. Have your children close their eyes and then ask questions about their surroundings. What color is the floor, how many windows are there, what color is your sibling wearing? To make sure the game is fun, you might ask one question, then have them open their eyes and take a good look around before having them close their eyes for another question. Vary the length and difficulty of this game according to your child’s age and abilities.
The familiar “Mother May I?” and “Simon Says” games also reinforce cautiousness before action, since the players have to listen carefully and be sure they have permission before moving ahead. With both games, remember that your children will have more fun if they get to take a turn as Simon or ask you questions about your surroundings.
Just as right timing is essential for cautiousness, praising children’s actions at the right time reinforces positive behavior. Immediate praise lets children know that you are paying attention and leads to more positive behavior.
Learn About Cautiousness
- A Pace of Grace by Linda Popov offers adults a strategy to slow their lives to a manageable pace, allowing for joy and balance.
- The Lion King 1½ movie may not have been as good as the original, but the meerkat musical number is an excellent animated illustration of cautiousness.
- Look Both Ways: A Cautionary Tale by Diane Shore and Jessica Alexander follows the adventures of Filbert, a gray squirrel. The rhyming scheme engages young readers while reminding them to be cautious. (Not to worry—not a single squirrel meets an untimely demise.)