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Simran Khurana

"Child Is the Father of Man"

By April 6, 2009

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In the famous poem, The Rainbow, William Wordsworth used the expression, "The child is father of the man." This expression means that all our positive and negative traits are established when we are young. Indeed, if you watch children at play, you will notice them demonstrate certain characteristics which remain with them forever.

It is necessary to groom children to adopt healthy attitudes and positive traits so that they grow up to be balanced individuals. Read these quotes about children to know how children are different from adults.


April 12, 2009 at 8:25 am
(1) Christopher says:

And there are other ways to look at this quote. Mine is; the more effort in both listening and responding to Children is what makes me a better person, a better Man.

“Martin Luther King did not begin his famous speech with, “I have a complaint…”

August 9, 2009 at 9:48 pm
(2) Rati Naren says:

There is another saying that children and saints behave similarly. A child is artless and as long as it remains unpolluted by so called ‘growing up’ , it will rejoice in the simple but true delights of life like a rainbow. The poet here wishes to remain the wondering child always and not grow into a cynical adult who cannot appreciate the ‘Rainbow’. Wordsworth, adored and saw God in Nature.

February 8, 2010 at 5:04 am
(3) Zeina d. says:

Frued had theorized three types (charecterstics) of personalities: (ID) , (EGO) and (SUPEREGO) and described the ID as the instinctual feature found in the newborn infant since birth as well as in the animals, this type is the original source of the EGO and SUPEREGO which are found in adults later on thats why the child is the father of man.

February 10, 2010 at 4:00 pm
(4) Geecovy says:

I see, and have long considered yet another interpretation and application of this famous quote. In their inherent wisdom of so many primal aspects of humanity (humane-ity), the child can and should be the father to the man – if and only if the man is wise and considerate enough to allow himself to be instructed, guided, or otherwise set back on a more righteous path – by the child (whether the child is another younger one, a man’s own inner child, or the inner child of another). (ala – “Everything we need to know, we learned in kinder-garten.”) Just as I have learned valuable things from children, I have assisted some of my mentors in life with understanding and envisioning things from perspectives they either failed to see, or were rendered unable/unwilling to continue to see once they “achieved” their “advanced” knowledge and status. Others may disagree, but I prefer to consider this interpretation just as valid and every bit as worthy in my life’s journey.

May 17, 2010 at 11:21 am
(5) Ivan says:

“The child is father of the man” can, of course, have different interpretations. The way some of us have come to interpret this mysterious and somewhat cryptic phrase is as an esoteric metaphor. The ‘child’, our own inner essence-individuality born of a more awakened Conscience, becomes the true ‘father’ of our lives. In other words, our fragile state of innocence and wonder is really our true nature.

July 19, 2010 at 8:34 am
(6) J.Rajaguru says:

Always, the child is very near to the God. It knows all the solutions for our problem. But it cannot pass it to us because it doesn’t know to speak. There is a proverb in Tamil, “there is no better teaching than father’s”. The child can solve the problems of his father. So it is said as child is the father of a man. When it grows up, the distance between the child and the God increases, and it forgets all the solutions.

October 1, 2010 at 1:28 pm
(7) Sparsha says:

Wordsworth was a romantic poet. He always believed that imagination was one of the major source of writing a poem. So, in a literal sense, we can compare the child with imagination and the father with poetry which directly relates that the imagination is the source of poetry.

October 5, 2010 at 5:07 am
(8) Ali says:

psychologists argue that personality of a person completes, albeit to a great extent, by the time (s)he turns eight, arguing that a child as he behaves, or is socialized in childhood will exhibit and behave in later ages. it is rightly said that ‘as the twig is bent so will the tree grow’.

April 8, 2011 at 11:28 am
(9) Lars says:

Brilliant post. I had a therapist tell me this many years ago and I came away from the session perplexed. For years I wondered if he meant something more spiritual, as in, your father’s soul ends up reincarnated in your offspring at some point… All I know is that when my father did pass, I felt somehow wiser and more inquisitive than before. Very interesting stuff..

July 22, 2011 at 8:14 am
(10) SAMAR1272 says:

i think there is no concept of child here.
actually it means

“future will be like ur present ”
u can aspect the fure of any body or thing on the basis of his present

June 11, 2012 at 4:33 am
(11) raghunath says:

it connotes present moulds history.

October 16, 2012 at 5:23 am
(12) Amit says:

this is a nice quote that in a way summarises our quandaries and consternation. All our lives most of us grow up picking on the deficiencies of our parents and as we grey, it dawns on us that they were the best they could.

So the child that behaved as a father once, is now grown up and his own child takes on the baton of the role of the father by pointing out the father’s deficiences.

November 12, 2012 at 11:14 am
(13) Andreas says:

Or simply: A child creates a father by being (first)born. Until then the father was just a man.

February 28, 2013 at 10:46 am

A child is a replica of purity and demonstrates the attributes of goodness and truthfulness which can act as a Guiding Light for an adult towards the path of righteousness.

The inherent good qualities of a child with all its purity encourages a Man to be like it (the child) if he is considerate enough to accept its qualities and follow them.

Thus a Child with all its pure qualities resides within a man as a guardian light. Hence a child can be referred as a Father to a Man.

May 3, 2013 at 7:40 pm
(15) Perry Vockrodt says:

Simple, as a child learns from his/her father, an enlightened parent learns from his/her children. Don’t over complicate things. Simplicate.

May 12, 2013 at 11:43 pm
(16) kerina says:

The poet william wordsworth presesnts a paradoxical line “child is the father of a man “.as we make a shallow observation ,we think that this maxim seems contradictory but as we make deeper analysis we find this maxim very relevant .human life begins wih childhood .manhood is the result of childhood .a person cannot be a better father of tomorrow without being a good child of today.in other word,present is the result of past and future will be the result of present and in this phrase child represent past ,man represents present and father represents future.

July 10, 2013 at 12:53 pm
(17) Leon says:

Let’s keep it simple:

Father > Son

Child > Man

Father comes before the son. Son comes from the father.

Child comes before the man. Man comes from the child.

Child (father) > Man (son)

August 19, 2013 at 10:28 am
(18) CC says:

I remember spending several fun and interesting hours debating this phrase in my high school Rhetoric class.

The closest we could all agree upon was “we are a product of our childhood experiences”. We decided it meant as a base to grow upon.

Later on I think this was morphed into a cop-out, as in “Society made me do it” – remember that?

Thanks for reminding me of a fun time.

October 6, 2013 at 9:12 am
(19) Saicharita says:

Saibaba in Saicharita explains how a child teaches man as the child . The little girl working at the disciple of Sai taught them that happiness is a state of mind.

November 19, 2013 at 2:09 pm
(20) Nishtha says:

Pleased to inform you, this quotation is not from “The Rainbow” but from ‘Immortality Ode’ by the same poet. Kindly note the same.

November 21, 2013 at 2:38 pm
(21) quotations says:

Hi Nishtha,

I have conferred with experts, and also validated my research with creditable online resources. I am quite certain that this quotation, “Child is the father of man” came from the poem “My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold” also commonly known as “The Rainbow.”

Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” has a reference to the words “child” and “father” but this specific quotation does not arise from this poem. I will cite an extract from “Ode” with reference to your question:

Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years’ darling of a pigmy size!
See, where ‘mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses,
With light upon him from his father’s eyes!

I can understand why this is confusing, but the reference of child being the father of man was made only in one poem and that is “My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold.”

Thanks for your avid interest!

December 25, 2013 at 12:56 am
(22) faiza says:


January 7, 2014 at 9:09 am

Child of present is genious no doubt .but this is the parent’s fault that they provide their children the latest form of technology in very early age

January 19, 2014 at 10:08 am
(24) Hari Prasad Chaudhary says:

the child grows up and becomes father. Manhood is outcome of the childhood.

February 27, 2014 at 4:52 am
(25) Enoch Okoli says:

Slight typo correction:

My understanding of this quotation for many years back is that it is the ‘child’ that will one day grow up to become a ‘father’ or ‘mother” and how a child is brought up(positively or negatively) will determine how he or she will live and function as an adult. For this reason I completely agree with Simran Khurana that: “It is necessary to groom children to adopt healthy attitudes and positive traits so that they grow up to be balanced individuals”
The interpretation of this quotation by Hari Prasad Chaudhary that: ” the child grows up and becomes father” and that “Manhood is outcome of the childhood.” is also similar to my view.
As an Urban planner, I know that a small town may one day grow into a big town and it is therefore prudent to consciously and proactively plan and guide development of the small town in anticipation of such a transformation to help ensure a more sustainable growth and improved quality of life. A stitch in Time saves Nine! and Prevention is better than Cure!

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