Kahlil Gibran – On Children

Kahlil Gibran’s poem, On Children, from his collection, The Prophet, has sold millions of copies since its first publication in 1923, making Gibran the third best-selling poet of all time. Quoted and discussed extensively, On Children, responds to social norms that encourage parents to shape their children to their own will, rather than seeing them as they are – with their own dreams, capacities, aptitudes, sensibilities and interests. The poem has been cited to liberate children, parents, and the whole family from preconceived notions of ‘how to be in the world.’

We present this influential poem – along with a social worker’s reflection and musical interpretation by internationally renowned ensemble, Sweet Honey in the Rock – in order to stimulate thought and discussion about parent and child expectations, parenting styles, children’s gratitude, and how to approach conflict and problems in respectful and effective ways.

Gibran’s On Children serves as a bedrock of our “Let’s Get Through This” program which seeks to enhance self-reliance and increase mutual understanding among youth and their parents. Visit our growing Arts galleries to see more poems, paintings, and other artistic creations about family.

On Children
by Kahlil Gibran, 1923

Khalil Gibran,
Khalil Gibran, “Path to Paradise.” Collection of the Gibran Khalil Gibran Museum, the Gibran National Committee.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

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.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Your Children Are Not Your Children in The Huffington Post.

May Benatar, Ph.D., L.C.S.W. specializes in adult development, parenting and the treatment of the long-term effects of psychological trauma. She wrote this moving and personal column in response to Kahlil Gibran’s poem. The notion that

You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

can be challenging for any parent, yet she finds wisdom there. (column posted: 1/30/15. updated: 3/31/15.)

Sweet Honey In The Rock – On Children

Sweet Honey in the Rock is a Grammy-winning all-woman, African-American a cappella ensemble with five-part harmonies. Their songs often reference spirituality and the struggle for social justice. Here, they sing Kahlil Gibran’s poem, put to music composed by former ensemble member, Ysaye M. Barnwell.

updated 4/10/21

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