Children Will Listen

children will listen

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
So learn what to be
Careful before you say “Listen to me”
Children will listen

-“Children Will Listen,” from Stephen Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods

My 3yo son has an energy and force that is hard to contain.  He doesn’t sit still for much, and rarely seems to “tune in” to what I say to him.

Despite all this, we have somehow managed to establish a very sweet, quiet bedtime routine of reading books and singing songs; I usually do a medley of three or four apiece.

Though my son is often wiggling around or staring off while I read or sing, he is at least quiet.  And, apparently, he is also listening.

Last night he took one of his favorite books – The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – patted his pillow and asked me to lie down with him.  He then proceeded to read the book to me!  Well, not so much “read” as “tell” me the story as he associated what he remembered with each of the pictures.

My favorite parts?  Every time he said “But he was still hungry!”

Once he finished, he asked to start again, and we read through The Very Hungry Caterpillar another three or four times.  He was so pleased with myself, and I had to fight back tears.

Children may not obey, but children will listen.


  • Oh yes, they listen well. I’ve never been so chagrined as when I hear my own words from the mouth of my 6yo.

    I love Into the Woods! I sing those those songs to my kids all the time. I think you’ve inspired me to dig out my soundtrack 🙂

  • Anna

    That is one of my favorite musicals of all time, and my very favorite song from the musical. 😀 and it is so true – even when you don’t think you are getting through, they absorb more than we think they do. There are nights (LOTS of nights) that I wonder why we are struggling to read the scriptures as a family because it isn’t ever very reverent or quiet or peaceful or any of the things I would like to associate with scripture study. I wonder if the kids are hearing anything beyond my telling them to stop poking each other. But then, while grocery shopping (or playing in the backyard or where ever), hearing Jared act out/retelling scripture stories, I realize just how much they do hear what we are saying. And it makes it all worth it.

  • We loved that book too, Stacy! In fact, Eric Carle was a huge hit for all of his books!

  • I meant Stacey, I forgot the E. Oops!

  • Anonymous

    So true! My son is OBSESSED with that book at the moment, too. 🙂

  • Lovely post, sweetheart.

  • Such an important lesson Stacey. They listen to everything – good and bad. You brought back lovely memories of my children’s bedtime routines.

  • It’s true. I used to be very surprised at the things that my kids and other kids retained when I thought they weren’t listening at all. Must be careful! 🙂

  • Awww what a sweet boy! I would have felt the same way.

  • Mary@Everyday Baby Steps

    Thanks a lot, Stacey. You’ve got my PMS self tearing up! And wishing I had the soundtrack to Into the Woods. We’ll have to sing show tunes when we see each other next. Thanks for the reminder that children will, indeed, listen.