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Who Should We Listen To?

Taking advice

by Helen Bryant (revised, originally published in 2011)

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 the one in the ‘Assembly’, Step 2.


  1. How many of us are better at giving advice than taking it? Most of us probably like to choose our own path even if, in the end, the advice that we were originally given turns out to be the best.

  2. Although we might not want to admit it, 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 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 told him that I wanted to be - guess what? - a teacher!

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

  3. 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 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 a lot of our angst might be reduced if only we listened to some of the guidance on offer rather than instantly rejecting it.

  4. Those of you in Year 7 will quite recently have had to consider various factors when choosing which secondary school to go to. For Year 9, your GCSE options are what you’ll be thinking about and for Year 11, it will be A levels. Those of you in the sixth form will be considering your university options, weighing up whether to have a gap year or choosing between the world of work and higher education.

  5. Everyone’s academic career is littered with the decisions that they’ve had to make. Being sure that we are receiving the right guidance as we make those decisions is really important. Let’s try to listen to advice that is given by people who care about us.

Time for reflection

Although it’s important to listen to the advice of people who genuinely want the best for us, we shouldn’t simply do what they say. We mustn’t be afraid to look at other options if we feel that the path we are being directed down is one that we are not entirely comfortable with.

Sometimes, the best outcomes of a situation lead to the road less travelled, but that means we need to be brave and take risks. This is a good thing and should be encouraged, but let’s make sure that we come to a balanced decision, taking on board the guidance given to us. Who knows what path we might take if we consider all the options carefully? Life is exciting!

Publication date: January 2021   (Vol.23 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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