Quotations about   children

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Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life-sized.

Margaret Atwood (b. 1939) Canadian writer, literary critic, environmental activist
Cat’s Eye, ch. 22 (1988)
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I believe that censorship grows out of fear, and because fear is contagious, some parents are easily swayed. Book banning satisfies their need to feel in control of their children’s lives. This fear is often disguised as moral outrage. They want to believe that if their children don’t read about it, their children won’t know about it. And if they don’t know about it, it won’t happen.

Judy Blume (b. 1938) American writer
“Judy Blume Talks about Censorship”
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Added on 25-Mar-21 | Last updated 25-Mar-21
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Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear. The fear that children’s values will change because they are exposed to other values isn’t valid if there is communication between parent and child.

Judy Blume (b. 1938) American writer
“Blume Speaks Out on Speaking Out,” Interview with Barbara Karlin, Los Angeles Times (18 Oct 1981)
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Fine, Haemon.
That’s how you ought to feel within your heart,
subordinate to your father’s will in every way.
That’s what a man prays for: to produce good sons —
a household full of them, dutiful and attentive,
so they can pay his enemy back with interest
and match the respect their father shows his friend.
But the man who rears a brood of useless children,
what has he brought into the world, I ask you?
Nothing but trouble for himself, and mockery
from his enemies laughing in his face.

[οὕτω γάρ, ὦ παῖ, χρὴ διὰ στέρνων ἔχειν,
γνώμης πατρῴας πάντ᾽ ὄπισθεν ἑστάναι.
τούτου γὰρ οὕνεκ᾽ ἄνδρες εὔχονται γονὰς
κατηκόους φύσαντες ἐν δόμοις ἔχειν,
ὡς καὶ τὸν ἐχθρὸν ἀνταμύνωνται κακοῖς
καὶ τὸν φίλον τιμῶσιν ἐξ ἴσου πατρί.
ὅστις δ᾽ ἀνωφέλητα φιτύει τέκνα,
τί τόνδ᾽ ἂν εἴποις ἄλλο πλὴν αὑτῷ πόνους
φῦσαι, πολὺν δὲ τοῖσιν ἐχθροῖσιν γέλων]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 639 ff (Act 3) [Creon] (441 BC) [tr. Fagles (1982), l. 712ff]
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Original Greek. Alt. trans.:

Well spoken: so right-minded sons should feel,
In all deferring to a father's will.
For 'tis the hope of parents they may rear
A brood of sons submissive, keen to avenge
Their father's wrongs, and count his friends their own.
But who begets unprofitable sons,
He verily breeds trouble for himself,
And for his foes much laughter.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

That, O my son! should be thy constant mind,
In all to bend thee to thy father's will.
Therefore men pray to have around their hearths
Obedient offspring, to requite their foes
With harm, and honour whom their father loves;
But he whose issue proves unprofitable,
Begets what else but sorrow to himself
And store of laughter to his enemies?
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

Yes, my son, this is the spirit you should maintain in your heart -- to stand behind your father's will in all things. It is for this that men pray: to sire and raise in their homes children who are obedient, that they may requite their father's enemy with evil and honor his friend, just as their father does. But the man who begets unhelpful children -- what would you say that he has sown except miseries for himself and abundant exultation for his enemies?
[tr. Jebb (1891), l. 640ff]

Yea, this, my son, should be thy heart's fixed law, -- in all things to obey thy father's will. 'Tis for this that men pray to see dutiful children grow up around them in their homes, -- that such may requite their father's foe with evil, and honour, as their father doth, his friend. But he who begets unprofitable children -- what shall we say that he hath sown, but troubles for himself, and much triumph for his foes?
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

Good. That is the way to behave: subordinate
Everything else, my son, to your father’s will
This is what a man prays for, that he may get
Sons attentive and dutiful in his house,
Each one hating his father’s enemies,
Honoring his father’s friends. But if his sons
Fail him, if they turn out unprofitably,
What has he fathered but trouble for himself
And amusement for the malicious?
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), l. 503ff]

Rightly said.
Your father’s will should have your heart’s first place.
Only for this do fathers pray for sons
Obedient, loyal, ready to strike down
Their father’s foes, and love their father’s friends.
To be the father of unprofitable sons
Is to be the father of sorrows, a laughingstock
To all one’s enemies.
[tr. Watling (1947), l. 540ff]

And that’s how it should always be, my son! Everything should give way to a father’s wish because that’s why a father hopes to have many children: so that they can inflict upon his enemies whatever hard punishment they can and treat his friends with the same honour as he does. Whereas the father who brings to the world worthless children, well, how would that be different to having brought about the birth of innumerable pains and cause for his enemies to ridicule him?
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

Indeed, my son,
that’s how your heart should always be resolved,
to stand behind your father’s judgment
on every issue. That’s what men pray for --
obedient children growing up at home
who will pay back their father’s enemies,
evil to them for evil done to him,
while honouring his friends as much as he does.
A man who fathers useless children --
what can one say of him except he’s bred
troubles for himself, and much to laugh at
for those who fight against him?
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 724ff]

There's a good boy. So should you hold at heart
and stand behind your father all the way.
It is for this men pray they may beget
households of dutiful obedient sons,
who share alike in punishing enemies,
and give due honor to their father's friends.
Whoever breeds a child that will not help
what has he sown but trouble for himself,
and for his enemies laughter full and free?
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

Yes, you should always be disposed this way in your breast, boy,
to assume your post behind your father’s judgments
in all things. For this reason, men pray to beget
and have sons in their households who listen,
that they may both repay an enemy with evils
and honor the philos equally with the father.
Whoever produces useless children,
what could you say about him except that he begets
hardship for himself and great mockery for his enemies.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]
Added on 17-Dec-20 | Last updated 21-Dec-20
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No matter how old a mother is, she watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement.

Florida Scott-Maxwell (1883-1979) American-British playwright, author, psychologist
The Measure of My Days (1968)
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Life has a tendency to obfuscate and bewilder,

Such as fating us to spend the first part of our lives being embarrassed by our parents and the last part being embarrassed by our childer.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“What I Know About Life,” New Yorker (15 Jan 1949)
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Reprinted in Versus (1949)
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FIRST …
Let the rockets flash and the cannon thunder,
This child is a marvel, a matchless wonder.
A staggering child, a child astounding,
Dazzling, diaperless, dumbfounding,
Stupendous, miraculous, unsurpassed,
A child to stagger and flabbergast,
Bright as a button, sharp as a thorn,
And the only perfect one ever born.

SECOND
Arrived this evening at half-past nine.
Everybody is doing fine.
Is it a boy, or quite the reverse?
You can call in the morning and ask the nurse.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“First Child … Second Child,” Versus (1949)
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Oh, progeny playing by itself
Is a lonely little elf,
But progeny in roistering batches
Would drive St. Francis from here to Natchez.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“Children’s Party,” Many Long Years Ago (1945)
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Our children give us the opportunity to become the parents we always wished we’d had.

Louise Hart (contemp.) American educator, psychologist, author, speaker
The Winning Family, ch. 1, epigraph (1987)
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Depend upon it, as long as the church is living so much like the world, we cannot expect our children to be brought into the fold.

Dwight Lyman "D. L." Moody (1837-1899) American evangelist and publisher
God’s Good News, “Where Art Thou?” [Gen. 3:9] (1897)
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Schoolmasters and parents exist to be grown out of.

John Wolfenden (1906-1985) British educator, author
In Sunday Times (London) (13 Jul 1958)
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Rupert had never forgiven his mother for continuing to have children once she had achieved the heights of human creation by giving birth to Rupert.

Kerry Greenwood (b. 1954) Australian author and lawyer
Death at Victoria Dock, ch. 8 (1992)
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It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn’t.

Barbara Kingsolver (b. 1955) American novelist, essayist, poet
Animal Dreams (1990)
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Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ch. 17 (1969)
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Your responsibility as a parent is not as great as you might imagine. You need not supply the world with the next conqueror of disease or a major movie star. If your child simply grows up to be someone who does not use the word “collectible” as a noun, you can consider yourself an unqualified success.

Fran Lebowitz (b. 1950) American journalist
Social Studies, “Parental Guidance” (1981)
Added on 22-May-17 | Last updated 22-May-17
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When one hears the argument that marriage should be indissoluble for the sake of children, one cannot help wondering whether the protagonist is really such a firm friend of childhood.

Suzanne La Follette (1893-1983) American journalist, author, feminist
(Attributed)
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The most influential of all educational factors is the conversation in a child’s home.

William Temple (1881-1944) English Anglican archbishop, teacher, preacher
The Hope of a New World (1940)
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And perhaps, after all, it is better that the lad should break his neck than that you should break his spirit.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Scottish essayist, novelist, poet
The Amateur Emigrant (1880)
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Listen to the MUSTN’Ts, child,
Listen to the DON’Ts
Listen to the SHOULDN’Ts
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’Ts
Listen to the NEVER HAVEs
Then listen close to me —
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

Shel Silverstein (1930-1999) American poet, singer-songwriter, cartoonist, children's author
“Listen To The Mustn’ts,” Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974)
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I am always for getting a boy forward in his learning; for that is a sure good. I would let him at first read any English book which happens to engage his attention; because you have done a great deal when you have brought him to have entertainment from a book. He’ll get better books afterwards.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson “16 April 1779” (1791)
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If you bungle raising your children I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-1994) First Lady of the United States (1961-1963), book editor, celebrity
Interview with Sander Vanocur, NBC News (1 Oct 1960)
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I never hear parents exclaim impatiently, “Children, you must not make so much noise,” that I do not think how soon the time may come when those parents would give all the world, could they hear once more the ringing laughter which once so disturbed them.

Abbott Eliot "A. E." Kittredge (1834-1912) American clergyman and Presbyterian leader
(Attributed)

Quoted in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
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Of all the pestilences dire,
Including famine, flood, and fire;
By Satan and his imps rehearsed,
The neighbors’ children are the worst.

Stoddard King (1889-1933) American author and songwriter
“Philosophy for Parents”
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We must take note that the games of children are not games in their eyes; and we must regard these as their most serious actions.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays, Book 1, ch. 22 (1580-88)
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Children will imitate their fathers in their vices, seldom in their repentance.

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) British Baptist preacher, author [Charles Haddon (C.H.) Spurgeon]
Spurgeon’s Sermons, 3rd Series, Sermon 21, “Manasseh” (1883)
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A torn jacket is soon mended; but hard words bruise the heart of a child.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Table-Talk,” Drift-wood (1857)
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The proper time to influence the character of a child is about a hundred years before he is born.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
More Lay Thoughts of a Dean (1931)
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Don’t take up a man’s time talking about the smartness of your children; he wants to talk to you about the smartness of his children.

Edgar Watson "Ed" Howe (1853-1937) American journalist and author [E. W. Howe]
Country Town Sayings (1911)
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Delusions are often functional. A mother’s opinions about her children’s beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam, keep her from drowning them at birth.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Time Enough for Love (1973)
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Wherever there is authority, there is a natural inclination to disobedience.

haliburton-natural-inclination-to-disobedience-wist_info-quote

Thomas Chandler Haliburton (1796-1865) Canadian politician, judge, humorist
Sam Slick’s Wise Saws and Modern Instances (1853)
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You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.

Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) Lebanese-American poet, writer, painter [Gibran Khalil Gibran]
“On Children,” The Prophet (1923)
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There is not so much Comfort in the having of Children as there is Sorrow in parting with them.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #4932 (1732)
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If thou desire to see thy child virtuous, let him not see his father’s vices: thou canst not rebuke that in them, that they behold practiced in thee; till reason be ripe, examples direct more than precepts: such as thy behaviour is before thy children’s faces, such commonly is theirs behind their parents’ backs.

quarles-behind-their-parents-backs-wist_info-quote

Francis Quarles (1592-1644) English poet
Enchyridion, Century 3, cap. 18
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The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children.

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) American lawyer
(Attributed)
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Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children in school? We teach them that two and two make four and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. And look at your body — what a wonder it is! Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the ways you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work — we must all work — to make the world worthy of its children.

Pablo Casals (1876-1973) Spanish cellist, conductor, composer
In Joys and Sorrows: Reflections‎ by Pablo Casals as told to Albert E. Kahn (1970)
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The first duty towards children is to make them happy. If you have not made them happy, you have wronged them. No other good they may get can make up for that.

Charles Buxton (1823-1871) English brewer, philanthropist, writer, politician
Notes of Thought (1873)
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Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.

Brown - reflect the kind of care they get - wist_info quote

H. Jackson "Jack" Brown, Jr. (b. 1940) American writer
Life’s Instructions for Wisdom, Success, and Happiness (2001)
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In America there are two classes of travel — first class, and with children. Traveling with children corresponds roughly to traveling third class in Bulgaria.

Robert Benchley (1889-1945) American humorist
Pluck and Luck (1925)
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Has it ever occurred to you … that parents are nothing but overgrown kids until their children drag them into adulthood? Usually kicking and screaming?

King - kicking and screaming - wist_info quote

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
Christine, Part 1, ch. 3 (1983)
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There isn’t a child who hasn’t gone out into the brave new world who eventually doesn’t return to the old homestead carrying a bundle of dirty clothes.

Art Buchwald (1925-2007) American humorist, columnist
Syndicated column (11 Sep 1983)
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A child miseducated is a child lost.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
State of the Union address (11 Jan 1962)

This quotation is usually attributed to Kennedy's 1963 State of the Union Address, but it does not show up in the formal text or the video recording.

It actually appears to be from his 1962 State of the Union address; while it does appear in the formal text or the audio recording, it does show up in a copy in Vital Speeches and Documents of the Day, Vol. 2 (1961). There are other small textual changes to the speech in that version, which makes me think that it is a press release copy which was delivered in a slightly different form (without the quotation) before Congress; this would explain why the reference became so popular, but is not found in the official version of the text.
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Notoriously insensitive to subtle shifts in mood, children will persist in discussing the color of a recently sighted cement mixer long after one’s interest in the topic has waned.

Fran Lebowitz (b. 1950) American journalist
Metropolitan Life (1978)
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The rules are only barriers to keep children from falling.

[Ces règles ne sont que des barrières pour empêcher les enfants de tomber.]

Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) Swiss-French writer, woman of letters, critic, salonist [Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, Madame de Staël, Madame Necker]
Germany [De l’Allemagne], Part 4, ch. 9 (1813)
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And why does this same God tell me how to raise my children when he had to drown his?

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Some Mistakes of Moses, Sec. 18 “Dampness” (1879)
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Little boys may be an intolerable nuisance; but when they are not there we regret them, we find ourselves homesick for their very intolerableness.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
Beyond the Mexique Bay (1934)
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I am fond of children (except boys).

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) English writer and mathematician [pseud. of Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson]
Letter to Kathleen Eschwege (24 Oct 1879)
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Don’t take up a man’s time talking about the smartness of your children; he wants to talk to you about the smartness of his children.

Edgar Watson "Ed" Howe (1853-1937) American journalist and author [E. W. Howe]
Country Town Sayings (1911)
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What you fear to believe, your children will believe.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays, #340 (2001)
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Children are different — mentally, physically, spiritually, quantitatively, qualitatively; and furthermore, they’re all a little bit nuts.

Jean Kerr (1922-2003) American author and playwright [b. Bridget Jean Collins]
“Children Really are Not People,” Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, The Saturday Evening Post (27 Jul 1957)
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The real menace in dealing with a five-year-old is that in no time at all you begin to sound like a five-year-old.

Jean Kerr (1922-2003) American author and playwright [b. Bridget Jean Collins]
Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, “How to Get the Best of Your Children” (1957)
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Teachers need our active support and encouragement. They are doing one of the most necessary and exacting jobs in the land. They are developing our most precious national resource: our children, our future citizens.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Centennial Celebration Banquet, National Education Association (4 Apr 1957)
Added on 9-Jul-15 | Last updated 9-Jul-15
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Girls … were allowed to play in the house … and boys were sent outdoors. … Boys ran around in the yard with toy guns going kksshh-kksshh, fighting wars for made-up reasons and arguing about who was dead, while girls stayed inside and played with dolls, creating complex family groups and learning how to solve problems through negotiation and roleplaying. Which gender is better equipped, on the whole, to live an adult life, would you guess?

Garrison Keillor (b. 1942) American entertainer, author
The Book of Guys (1993)
Added on 15-Jan-15 | Last updated 15-Jan-15
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I think there’s a lot of people out there who say we must not have horror in any form, we must not say scary things to children because it will make them evil and disturbed. … That offends me deeply, because the world is a scary and horrifying place, and everyone’s going to get old and die, if they’re that lucky. To set children up to think that everything is sunshine and roses is doing them a great disservice. Children need horror because there are things they don’t understand. It helps them to codify it if it is mythologized, if it’s put into the context of a story, whether the story has a happy ending or not. If it scares them and shows them a little bit of the dark side of the world that is there and always will be, it’s helping them out when they have to face it as adults.

Joss Whedon (b. 1964) American screenwriter, author, producer [Joseph Hill Whedon]
Interview with Michael Silverberg (NPR)
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Added on 8-Jan-15 | Last updated 8-Jan-15
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Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted.

Garrison Keillor (b. 1942) American entertainer, author
Leaving Home? (1987)
Added on 23-Oct-14 | Last updated 23-Oct-14
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Selective ignorance, a cornerstone of child rearing. You don’t put kids under surveillance: it might frighten you. Parents should sit tall in the saddle and look upon their troops with a noble and benevolent and extremely nearsighted gaze.

Garrison Keillor (b. 1942) American entertainer, author
Leaving Home? (1987)
Added on 16-Oct-14 | Last updated 16-Oct-14
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