Child is Father of the Man – Proverb Meaning and Expansion of idea


The proverb ‘child is father of the man’ basically means that the qualities and personality traits one acquires as a child are well carried over when he or she grows up. As a child, if you loved visiting outdoors and roaming in the woods, then there is a very strong possibility that you would love the same when you grow up as an adult.

Expansion of idea

The proverb ‘Child is father of the man’ conveys that the personality traits and the values, and other qualities that you have as a child, it is in more probability that you will display the same qualities and traits when you grow up as an adult.

There could however be another explanation of the proverb as some people claim. Some find the proverb as comparing childhood and adulthood on the grounds of truthfulness and sincerity. Children are truthful and often teach adults a lesson, whether, knowingly or unknowingly. They think that the phrase refers to this specific personality trait of a child, which is indeed superior to the adults.

Whatever the claims may be, but the best possible expansion of the proverb ‘child is father of the man’ is that the qualities you have as a child will more likely be carried to your adulthood.

Short Stories on ‘Child is Father of the Man’

A story is the best way to understand the true meaning of a proverb. It incorporates real-life examples with the proverb, giving an entertaining and worthy explanation. Keeping this in mind, I have given below a couple of fresh stories on the proverb “child is father of the man”, for your information.

Short Story 1

As a small kid, Ronil would venture into nearby woods, whenever he had time. His parents didn’t like his affinity for the forests and animals, initially, as they were concerned about his safety. Very obviously they thought that it isn’t safe for their child to venture alone into the woods that might be housing dangerous animals or reptiles.

However, Ronil never gave his love for the forests, even as he grew up. Understanding this, his parents very considerably didn’t demoralize him, but rather encouraged him to go on trips with his class. They also advised him to take all the safety measures and precautions on those trips. Perhaps this is the correct way to bring up a child. They should not be discouraged to follow their dreams and passion, because it could lead to frustration and a sense of failure.

Ronil’s childhood love stayed with him even as an adult. He is one of those lucky individuals who live their dream every day. Ronil is today wildlife warden, a very respectful service under the Indian Forest Services. Recently his father came to visit him in his office. He found that even today Ronil is as happier to talk about forest and animals as he was decades back, as a child.

Behind Ronil’s chair, there was a poster on which it was written ‘Child is Father of a Man’. The father smiled and said to himself – I have heard the phrase a thousand of times, but thanks to Ronil, I today understand its true meaning.”

Short Story 2

There lived a little boy named Manjunath in a south Indian village of Puttabaldi. It was a small village consisting of a dozen huts of farmers who sow crops in fields. Resources in the village were scarce and villagers have to go to the city 10 Km away to get groceries and other things.

Somehow, may be due to lack of money and resources, Manjunath developed the habit of stealing. He stole pencils, paper, food, or almost anything he could get access to. Worst, his ailing mother and farmer father had some clue about it, but they neglected, thinking that he will improve with time.

Being a small village, the children were few and hence were closely watched by the school’s teachers. One of the teachers of the school probably knew about Manjunath’s stealing habits. One day the teacher told Manjunath that tell his parents that he would be visiting his house tomorrow. Confused, the boy went home and gave the news to his parents.

The next day the teacher visited the boy’s house and asked the boy to play outside while he had a word with his parents. The teacher asked Manjunath’s parents, whether they were aware of their son’s stealing habits. To his surprise, the parents told that they were aware, but they just thought that he will leave the habit as he grows up. The teacher rubbished the claim saying that – haven’t you heard that child is father of a man!

The qualities and traits your child displays today, he is more likely to carry the same to his adulthood. If your son is not discouraged from his stealing habit in his childhood then it is most likely that he would steal even when he grows up. The parents understood at last and thanked the teacher for the advice. Under his parents’ and teacher’s guidance, Manjunath gave up stealing and became a good boy.


A well-written example is the best way to understand the true meaning of a proverb. Examples could better let you understand by transposing the proverb in real-life conversations. I have given below a couple of examples for you to better understand the meaning of the proverb ‘child is father of the man’.

“Also as a child, Peter would always go for a bike ride whenever he had time, something that he is fond of even today! It is true that child is father of the man.”

“It is well known that Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, was truthful, obedient, and disciplined when he was a small child. He displayed these qualities as an adult also. Indeed, child is father of the man.”

“While in school, Ronil used to ask too many questions to his teachers. Now he is a grown man, successful in whatever he is doing, but his bosses complain that he asks too many questions. Some wise person had rightly said that child is father of the man.”

“All the great batsmen of the world – Sir John Bradman, Sachin Tendulkar, and etc. had developed their affinity for the game, since their childhood and never gave up their love for it. A perfect example of child is father of the man.”

“As a small kid, Vikas was always considerate towards the poor and needy. No wonder that he has grown up to join an NGO working for poor and hungry. Absolutely, child is father of the man.”


The origin of the phrase is traced back to the poem “My heart leaps up”, written by an English poet, William Wordsworth. The poem, also popular by the name ‘the Rainbow’ was coined by Wordsworth in 1802.

The poem is given below for your reference:

My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky:

“So was it when my life began;

So is it now I am a man;

So be it when I shall grow old,

Or let me die!

The child is father of the man;

And I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety.”

In the poem, Wordsworth had said that that had his liking as a child; stayed with him as an adult. He liked rainbow as a child; something that he loved even as an adult.

Later in 2011, ‘Child is father of the man’ is the title of an English song written by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks for the American rock band ‘The Beach Boys’. It was part of an unfinished album titled ‘Smile’.


The proverb ‘child is father of the man’ is very important for it conveys the very basic principles of life that adulthood is nothing but a projection of childhood. It tells us that the beginning of fruitful and successful adulthood is made during childhood itself. That is, we must educate our children well, give them love and compassion, be considerate towards their needs, instill good moral values in them, etc. because when they grow up, they inherit the same good qualities.

A child who has plenty of love, care, and affection, will indeed grow up as a loving and caring adult. Many loving and caring adults will make a deep impact on the society, that too for all the good reasons. The phrase teaches the children to instill good qualities as a child because they would inherit the same qualities when they grow up. The importance of the phrase, therefore, lies in how you perceive it and also implement it in your life.