“Are You Okay?” Vs “You’re Okay!”


As we climb the stairs, Lars trips on the top one. My heart stops still. My mouth starts to open, but then I pause and take a deep breath.

I’m standing behind him, and even after a couple of years, it is still work for me not to say, “Oh no! Ouch!” in these moments.

But since I’ve been consciously trying to change my reaction, he bounces up and says, “I’m fine, Mom!” all on his own.

As soon as he started tumbling and walking, I’ve used the question “Are you okay?” when he gets hurt. This is much different than telling him, “You’re okay. You’re okay.”

Both of these phrases try to accomplish the same thing: resiliency.

But in asking him what his body is feeling, the emphasis is on assessing and responding appropriately to his own feelings instead of being informed of his feelings or looking to me and my reaction to figure out if he should be hurt.

And yes, there was a time where he was “working” with this idea. Sometimes I thought he could be exaggerating his response to my “Are you okay?” – but I knew that is his way of checking if I was consistent in my reaction.

Asking him if he’s okay has paid off.  He immediately gets up and judges for himself if he’s hurt. And most of the time he keeps going! This is the definition of resiliency for me.

Using “Are you okay” has also instilled empathy. If I get hurt, Larsen’s first reaction is to ask if I am okay.  It’s sweet to hear.

This has been an example of what I call counterintuitive parenting.  Contrary to my first thought of telling him “You’re tough” or “You’re okay, You’re okay” after a fall so he would hear it and adopt it as his inner response, I made the small shift to asking instead of informing, and it has made a huge difference.

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