Children Should Be Seen And Not Heard

Meanings of “Children Should Be Seen And Not Heard”

The proverb “children should be seen and not heard” has its literal meanings. It means that the children should be present during grown ups talks or interfere in their conversation or take part in it. In other words, it means that the young should only hear and gain wisdom from the conversation of their adults when in a meeting or a gathering.

Origin of “Children Should Be Seen And Not Heard”

 The proverb “children should be seen and not heard” dates back to the 15th century when it appeared in Mirk’s Festial written by John Mirk and published as back as in 1450. In that book, it goes thus: “A mayde schuld be seen, but not her.” With the passage of time, the spellings have become standardized.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Ruthless Rhyme by Harry Graham

Father heard his children scream
So he threw them in the stream
Saying, as he drowned the third,
“Children should be seen, not heard!”

This stanza expresses diverse ideas through a short story of a father teaching the child a lesson for screaming. While the act is considered a violent behavior towards a child, the use of the phrase indicates that it was just a punishment for yelling.

Example #2

Childhood Expression by John Thorkild Ellison

(Little Children Should Be Seen Not Heard, Etc.)

You do not understand the shame
Attached to such a simple crime –
I always get the total blame
For what I’ve done, time after time.

Just to express myself is wrong,
Whether out loud or in a rhyme –
They will not tolerate my song,
They will not let me play their game.

This poem states the situation of a child that he is put to shame for speaking something wrong. Whenever a child speaks out loud or sings a song, he is put to silence by saying that it is a shame to speak out in front of the adult generation. The saying has been interpreted by the poet in this poem, showing its literal meanings.

Example #3

Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard by Woodpigeon

 I’d thought I’d wait one too late to ever lay, hear or see
And so is my faith, missed my time, passed right by, didn’t take
But you can’t say this isn’t mine, shooting blind in the way

But when you drop your plan, your heart and head, God knows day
An empty page,

Let’s separate our strong heart, heartbreak from heart, better wait
From where we start, I forgot didn’t want to end this way

These lines talk about the singer, who poses himself as a child here speaking to an adult saying what he thinks now and what he is going to do. The child wants the adult to separate himself from the child and sees the difference. Actually, the meanings of the phrase are discussed from the perspective of a child.

Example #4

Children Are To Be Seen and Not Heard by Judith A. Fisher

I spent part of the summer with my birth mother, whom I always called “my mother,” and the rest of the summer with her parents, who also lived on a little farm. They believed that children should be children with curiosity, inquisitiveness and carefree freedoms intact. They had a spring fed pond and lots of tree swings and chickens. The chickens belonged to grandma and she made spending money by selling the eggs.

This discusses the childhood in the passage where the writer was still a child. She recalls his grandparents want their children to be children, and that they do not want them to act like adults. Therefore, the saying has been interpreted in a literal sense.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “Grandpa Joe never allows little ones to join the money discussion because he believes that children should be seen and not heard.”

Example #2: “It’s a wise decision to remember that children should be seen and not heard. They must worry about their studies and play not about what neighbors do.”

Example #3: “Frustrated Molly yelled at little Jonah, ‘I have told them many times that children should be seen and not heard. Yet, you have shown that you do not want to pay attention to it.’”

Example #4: “When I entered his home, I saw the demonstration of children should be seen and not heard.”

Example #5: “All the children are sitting silently to show like the children should be seen and not heard.”