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Who Do You Listen To?

by Helen Bryant

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider what guides us through life. 

Preparation and materials

  • None required, but you may like to substitute your own story for that given in the ‘Assembly’, Step 2.
  • Have available the song ‘Father and son’ by Cat Stevens and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.


  1. How many of you are better at giving advice to others than taking advice from them?

    Most of us, I would imagine, like to plough our own furrow and choose our own path, even if, in the end, the advice we were originally given ends up being the best.

  2. If we had a pound for every time our parents were right, we'd probably be rich! For example, when I was 15, my dad said to me, ‘Have you thought about teaching?’ Denying that he was totally correct, as always, I doggedly pursued a law conversion course after my degree because I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. About halfway through my studies I rang my dad up in floods of tears saying that I didn't want to do it any more, I wanted to be, guess what, a religious studies teacher!

  3. He had been right, of course, because he had lived a good proportion of his life and made mistakes and experienced changes more than I had. I am grateful, however, that most of the time parents avoid saying the classic words ‘I told you so’, even if they did!

  4. So, why are we so bad at accepting guidance, even if it is in our best interests and for our own good? 

    The truth is probably that we like to maintain our independence and our own autonomy from people like our parents, especially as we are growing up. 

    It is important for us to be able to make our own mistakes and learn from them, but it strikes me that a lot of our angst and stress might be reduced if we only listened to some of the guidance on offer rather than instantly rejecting it.

  5. For those of you in Year 7, you will have been guided by a number of factors when choosing which secondary school to go to. Year 9, your GCSE options are what you'll be thinking about and, Year 11, it will be A levels. Those of you in the sixth form will be considering your university options or whether or not to have a gap year or choosing between the world of work and higher education. 

    Everyone’s academic career is littered with having to make decisions. Being sure that you are receiving the right guidance as you make those decisions is really important. Do try to listen to advice that is given to you, even though, in the end, the final decisions are yours to make. 

Time for reflection

Don't be afraid, however, to look at other options if you feel that the guidance or the possible path you are being sent down is one that you are not entirely comfortable with. Sometimes the best outcomes of a situation lead to the road less travelled, but that means you need to be brave and take risks. That is fine and should be encouraged, but make sure you come to a balanced decision, taking on board the guidance given to you as well. Who knows what path you might take if you consider all the options carefully.


‘Father and son’ by Cat Stevens

Publication date: March 2015   (Vol.17 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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