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Children Will Listen

I tell people when I facilitate workshops we do not teach human qualities, we model them. Good sportsmanship, integrity, and kindness, to name a few of those qualities, are prime examples. We seem to live in a world of “do as I say, not as I do”. Children are observant and intelligent and see through this so easily. They know when things do not add up and are inconsistent. In a world that changes so rapidly, adults need to be vigilant, authentic, and careful about the modeling they do.

Stephen Sondheim wrote this song for the musical, Into the Woods. I enjoy songs with deep meaning in the lyrics and this one is a prime example

How do you say to your child in the night?
Nothing’s all black, but then nothing’s all white
How do you say it will all be all right
When you know that it might not be true?
What do you do?

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say “Listen to me”
Children will listen

Careful the wish you make
Wishes are children
Careful the path they take
Wishes come true, not free
Careful the spell you cast
Not just on children
Sometimes the spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you
Careful the tale you tell
That is the spell
Children will listen

How can you say to a child who’s in flight
“Don’t slip away and i won’t hold so tight”
What can you say that no matter how slight Won’t be misunderstood
What do you leave to your child when you’re dead?
Only whatever you put in it’s head
Things that you’re mother and father had said
Which were left to them too
Careful what you say
Children will listen
Careful you do it too
Children will see
And learn, oh guide them that step away
Children will glisten
Tamper with what is true
And children will turn
If just to be free
Careful before you say
“Listen to me”

About ivonprefontaine

In keeping with bell hooks and Noam Chomsky, I consider myself a public and dissident intellectual. Part of my work is to move beyond (transcend) institutional dogmas that bind me to defend freedom, raising my voice to be heard on behalf of those who seek equity and justice in all their forms. I completed my PhD in Philosophy of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. My dissertation and research was how teachers experience becoming teachers and their role as leaders. I focus on leading, communicating, and innovating in organizations. This includes mindfuful servant-leadership, World Cafe events, Appreciative Inquiry, and expressing one's self through creativity. I offer retreats, workshops, and presentations that can be tailored to your organzations specific needs. I published peer reviewed articles about schools as learning organizations, currere as an ethical pursuit, and hope as an essential element of adult eductaion. I published three poems and am currently preparing my poetry to publish as an anthology of poetry. I present on mindful leadership, servant leadership, schools as learning organizations, how teachers experience becoming teachers, assessement, and critical thinking. I facilitate mindfulness, hospitality retreats. and World Cafe Events using Appreciative Inquiry. I am writing and researching about various forms of leadership, how teachers inform and form their identity as a particular teacher, schools as learning organizations, hope and its anticipatory relationship with the future, and hope as an essential element in learning.

29 responses »

  1. Wow, a powerful illustration of the adult child influence. Thank you Ivon.

  2. Thank you for the excellent reminder, Ivon.


  3. I remember seeing this play before I had children. It takes on a whole new meaning to me!

  4. Absolutely brilliant – love those words, “We seem to live in a world of “do as I say, not as I do”.
    Our own inability always leads to that place of “Do as I say.” I sometimes get the feeling it’s sheer desperation. Such a good post. Thanks Ivon

    • You are welcome Don. I think we can attribute it to the busyness of life, but, when we acknowledge that, it offers opportunities to step back and be mindful and aware of the models we present.

  5. This poem just floored me, Ivon. It really says it all.

  6. Hi Ivon and Happy New Year! It’s been a while now…thanks for the wonderful job and support. I’m Looking forward to greater connection this time round. You bring it out so well. What a difference it makes modelling things…and how amazingly children learn and grow. A truly defining read. Best wishes!

  7. This is an extreme eye opener for us adults,Ivon.Yes the distant dream for all of us is to be the perfect role models.Unfortunately we fall prey to circumstances and then the power struggle begins- we start dictating the young minds and then lose the vision that we need to empower these children by giving them the perfect tools instead of always trying to win the argument.

    Excellent article ….

  8. Children want to grow up fast, to do adult things, so they will copy what the adults are doing. If they see inconsistent behaviour they will follow that which the adults do rather than what they say the child should do.

  9. Totally agreed with you on this~ Great post!! Cheers! 😀

  10. YES. If more young parents only understood this … If I myself had! But it’s never too late to learn.

  11. I remember listening to the score of this years ago, but didn’t know all of the beautiful and wise lyrics. Thank you for this thought-provoking post–and also for visiting my blog, your kind comment and the likes. peace

  12. I used to teach children, and the best way to teach is by example. Thanks Ivon!


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