On Children

Author

Gibran, Kahlil

Genre

Poetry

Overview

A writer of fiction, poetry, and essays, Kahil Gibran immigrated to the United States from Lebanon as a young man in the late nineteenth century. Based out of New York City, Gibran was a prolific writer in both English and Arabic. The book that made him famous in the English-speaking world was 1923’s The Prophet, in which “On Children” appears.

“On Children” exemplifies Gibran's common spiritual or mystical approaches to  problems of human life and interaction. In the poem, a mother asks an unknown speaker – possibly a prophet, possibly an elder, but the identity is never revealed – to speak of children. Questions raised by the poem center on: What responsibility do we have for children? When teaching or raising children, what exactly are we trying to give them? How much influence or control do we have over younger generations?

Full Text*

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Source

First published in Gibran's 1923 book, The Prophet

Type

Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.

Themes

Leadership and Responsibility

Big Questions

What is my responsibility to the people I lead?

Publication

Taking Action

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. What does the speaker mean when he tells the mother that her children "are with you yet they belong not to you"? To whom do the children belong?
  2. Why should we seek to be like our children, "but seek not to make them like" us, according to the speaker?
  3. Why are parents described as bows? Children as arrows? Who is the archer?
  4. What are parents most responsible for in the lives of their children?
  5. The speaker says, the souls of children "dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you/cannot visit, not even in your dreams"? If we cannot know the future, how can we prepare children for what is to come?
  6. What is the speaker trying to teach the mother? Do you agree with the speaker's stance? Why or why not?
  7. What does it mean to "house the bodies" but not the "souls" of those we are responsible for?
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