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The child is father of the man

刊登日期: 2019.06.14
作者: Grace Tse  

Some psychology researchers are interested in whether one’s personality in childhood can shape their adulthood or not. For example, a cheerful child will become an adult with good social skills. You might have heard of a Chinese proverb that what goes on in a three-year-old child determines how he or she turns out as an adult. A similar proverb in English is “the child is father of (or “ to”) the man” (三歲定八十). 

This expression originally came from a poem entitled “My Heart Leaps Up” (also known as “The Rainbow”) written by a major British Romantic (浪漫主義)poet, William Wordsworth, in 1807. 

My heart leaps up when I behold 

A rainbow in the sky: 

So was it when my life began; 

So is it now I am a man; 

So be it when I shall grow old, 

Or let me die! 

The Child is father of the Man; 

And I could wish my days to be 

Bound each to each by natural piety. 

The poet has felt joyful when seeing the beauty of nature (symbolised by the rainbow) since childhood. By saying “the child is father of the man”, he hopes that the pure joy of youth will continue into adulthood. 

Nowadays, the expression has taken up another meaning. Since adults’ personality traits are formed when they are children, it is important to educate children with good attitudes and a positive value system

Today is Father’s Day in Hong Kong. Have a lovely time with your Dad, who nurtures you with love and support. 

Social skills 
Personality traits 
Value system 


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