Teaching kids right from wrong, or how to use life lessons in practical, everyday life situations, is important and can often be hard. That is where proverbs can help!
What is a proverb? Proverbs are short, clever sayings that offer advice or life lessons. They help teach you about good and bad behavior.
Often, we use these without even knowing it, because we were most likely taught them as we were growing up. If you want to use these as a teaching tool for your children, here are some essential proverbs for children.
Essential Proverbs for Children
“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”
This proverb teaches us that it’s not good to be jealous of other people because it may seem like they have better things (or “greener grass”), but appearances can be deceiving and others may be jealous of what you have.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
This is one of those proverbs that makes no sense, until you really break it down. If you have cake, you are supposed to eat it, right? But if you eat your cake, you won’t have it, anymore. This means that you cannot have cake and eat it, too. Basically, this proverbs teaches that you can’t have it both ways.
“Honesty is the best policy.”
This one is simple- tell the truth! Lying gets complicated, because you can get caught or forget your lies, which leads to getting caught. It’s best to just be honest.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
This proverb for children means that things are not always what they seem. You cannot judge people by the way they look or how they dress. You need to know the person, not their outward appearance, before you can make judgments about them.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
This proverb for children teaches that if someone insults you or hurts you, getting revenge will only cause a back-and-forth, so you will keep getting hurt. It isn’t right to seek revenge, especially if you don’t want to keep getting harmed.
“Strike while the iron is hot.”
This saying comes from blacksmiths and it teaches that the best time to do something is while the moment is right. Iron is best melded by blacksmiths when it is hot, so the best way to forge a situation to go your way is to strike at the precise right moment. Take action, don’t wait!
“It takes two to tango.”
The Tango is a dance that takes two people to perform, so if it takes two to tango, you are saying that you cannot fight unless you have someone fighting with you. Sometimes, two people are to blame for a situation, and this proverb for children teaches them that sometimes they must realize their part in that situation and take responsibility for it.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
This phrase is used when someone wants to improve a way of doing something that has been done for a long time and still works well. Why would you change a process that works?
“Many hands make light work.“
This is a proverb for children that teaches them that if they help out, the work goes faster. Carrying a heavy object with other people makes that object less heavy. Doing chores with mom and dad makes the chores go faster. It teaches the importance of teamwork and helping others.
“You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”
Sometimes, you have to break a few rules to get things done. While we do want to teach our children that they should follow rules, it is important to teach them that there are rules that aren’t fair and need to be broken in order to make life better. Just as you can’t get omelets without cracking the eggs, you can’t get a delicious reward without breaking the rules.
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
When you are a visitor somewhere, act like everyone else and follow their customs. This is polite and keeps you out of trouble. This came from when Rome was a huge tourist destination and would have many cultures in the capital city, at once, so people behaved as Romans in order to keep conflict at bay.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
More Roman proverbs for children include this gem, which stresses the importance of patience and hard work. Rome was a great city that took many years to be completed, and because of that, it has withstood the test of time. If you want your kids to take their time and do something right, this is a proverb that works well!
“Practice makes perfect.”
This proverb is pretty straight forward- it means that you have to practice a craft to be good at it.
“A penny saved is a penny earned.”
This proverb means that if you save your money, it is the same as making money. When you don’t spend it, you have more of it.
“Beggars can’t be choosers.”
This is one of those proverbs for children that may be harder to teach, because children are given everything for free, but as they get older they need to know that if they are given a gift, they should be grateful for it. If they are given a green balloon, they should not throw a fit because they didn’t get a red balloon. You can’t be picky because you’re not paying for it!
“It’s no use crying over spilled milk.”
Milk is easy to get, and while kids may have to clean the milk or get in trouble for spilling it, they need to know there’s no use shedding tears over it. It’s not irreplaceable! Plus, crying won’t fix the issue of it being spilled, so just clean it and move on.
“My hands are tied.”
This proverb means you can’t do something you would like to do or something others want you to do. For example, say your kids want to stay home from school, but they have a very important test that day and they can’t make it up if they miss it. You would use this phrase to tell them that it is out of your hands and they have to go to school.
“Birds of a feather flock together.”
People like to spend time with others who are like them, so this is a proverb for children that teaches them that if they want to make friends, they should choose someone like them to befriend.
“Actions speak louder than words.”
People can tell you that they will do something, but you should see them actually doing the thing they say before judging. This goes along with “talk is cheap.” Meaning, anyone can talk about doing good deeds, but actually doing them is what is truly hard. This is a proverb for children that teaches them to do more than talk about something- they should actually do the things they say they will do.
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
This is an important proverb for children. It teaches them that if they need help, they need to speak up. If they have siblings, the one who cries the most will get the most attention. If they need attention, now, they need to say so!
“Curiosity killed the cat.”
This proverb is often used to stop someone from asking too many questions, so it is often used on children because they are curious and ask lots of questions. Cats are naturally curious, so they often end up in trouble by getting stuck in trees and such. However, there is a second part to this proverb that is important to remember- “But satisfaction brought it back.” The myth that cats have nine lives is seen here with the cat coming back to life in the proverb, but this part has an actual meaning- once a child’s curiosity is satisfied, they will come back for more.
“Every cloud has a silver lining.”
When your child is feeling down about a bad situation or some bad luck, tell them this. It means that out of every storm (or bad round of luck, dark spot in life) there is something beautiful and good to be found. So, they may not have been asked to the dance, but they could end up having a better time doing something else. You just have to look for the good in every situation.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
This proverb for children is said to encourage them when they want to give up. Facing problems is life, but if it feels like too much, reminding kids that they have willpower and inner strength can help them get through the tough times.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
This proverb for children teaches them that they should do everything possible to keep bad things from happening. Buckle your seatbelt- it takes a second, and can save your life. Tie your shoes properly. It may stop you for a minute, but it can save you from tripping and being hurt. Brush your teeth, it can help you from getting a toothache. Take precautions in life and you won’t be sorry about not doing so later.
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
This proverb teaches us that nothing is free or easy, and when it seems something may be, there is always a hidden cost we should look for to protect ourselves.
“The pen is mightier than the sword.”
When children are little, they often get mad and hit when things don’t go their way. This proverb can teach them that convincing people with words, ideas, and feelings is more effective than trying to force them with fighting or violence.
“Always put your best foot forward.”
Always start anything you do with a good attitude, focus, and energy. This helps give people a good impression of you, and it keeps you motivated. Having a positive attitude— or your “best foot”—is the best way to make friends, make a good impression on people, and have a better outlook on life.
“Don’t make a mountain out of an anthill.”
Many times, children get very upset over small problems. As they get older, it gets easier for them to control their emotions, but in the meantime, you can help them with this proverb for children. It reminds them to think about how important their problem really is so they don’t get upset over small things, especially because being upset can make problems worse. So, remaining calm is a better solution to correcting problems.
“Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
Your kids most likely ask you for new toys, new gadgets, candy, and trips like you are able to just go outside and pick money off a tree. Unfortunately, money doesn’t grow like leaves on a tree and you must actually work for it. This proverb for children can help them learn that you don’t have infinite amounts of money available to you- and they won’t, either!
“First things first.”
This is an important proverb for children that teaches then they should not skip over the more difficult or less enjoyable tasks in life so that they can get to the easier, more fun ones. They have to do things in the right order in order to be successful. Study for a test, then go to a party. Eat a healthy dinner, then have a snack. It may not be what’s fun, but it’s what’s right.
“The cat is out of the bag.”
This proverb means that a secret has been told and it cannot be untold. It comes from the Middle Ages, when people would buy a pig at market, but instead of a pig, the butcher would put cat in the bag. Letting the cat out revealed the seller’s lie, and they often lost business and could not recover from the “cat being let out.”
“No man is an island.”
Islands survive without other land around, but people can’t live completely independently. Everyone needs help and other people, at some time. This is a good proverb for children that teaches them to be kind and helpful, and to ask for help when they need it.
“You can’t always get what you want.”
This proverb for children teaches them that if they don’t get what they want, they shouldn’t cry. In life you often won’t get everything you want.
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
Be thankful for what you have, and what you toss away could be something that others want. This proverb teaches children gratefulness.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
What one person finds ugly, another will find beautiful. We are all different and all have different tastes and styles and teaching kids that is important and valuable. It teaches them self-love and to embrace their individuality.
Bible Proverbs for Children
For many children, their first brush with proverbs is through religion. If you are religious and want to teach your children about the Bible, there are some good, timely lessons to be learned in Proverbs. Here are some great Bible proverbs for children.
“Proverbs 15:1 – A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
This proverb teaches children to be gentle and speak with kind words. Words can be used for peace or harm, and we have the power to choose which.
“Proverbs 25:28 – Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.“
Teaching our children self-control is hard. It gets easier as they get older, but you want to start laying the foundation for this trait early, and this Proverb helps with that.
“Proverbs 16:18 – Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
Pride is often at the root of all things bad. Being prideful can lead you to make bad choices, but if you can humble yourself, you can make better choices in life.
“Proverbs 31:9 – Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.“
You should always stick up for the weak and needy, and you should teach your children to do the same. This Proverb orders followers of Christ to use their voice to help those in need.
“Proverbs 13:11 – Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, but the one who gathers by labor increases it.”
Basically- work hard and do what is right, and you will have wealth in both money and spirit. This teaches children a few things- be honest, be good, and work hard. It also shows that money is not all that makes you wealthy. Spiritual wealth is also important.
“Proverbs 2:4–5 — …if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.“
You must search for wisdom and make it a priority in order to have it. This teaches children to work for an education and wisdom in life, instead of just hoping they become wise.
“Proverbs 10:12 — Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”
Don’t hold grudges- go in love and life will be better. It is easy to let yourself dwell on bad things when they happen, but it’s better for you if you move on and forgive.
“Proverbs 18:2 — A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
Children need to learn they are not always right, but being wrong isn’t bad. They just need to learn from others and take time to listen and learn.
Proverbs 26:11 — Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.
This one seems a little gross, but it has some wisdom. Mistakes are inevitable, but when they happen, we must learn from them, or we are doomed to repeat them.
“Proverbs 28:1 — The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”
This teaches children to be bold and don’t give in to fear. Life can be scary, but those who face it with a brave heart are right and will go farther in life.
“Proverbs 30:17 — The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures.”
This is a Proverb for children all parents will want them to learn- respect your parents! Children should honor their parents in both words and your actions and do as they say.
“Proverbs 8:11 — For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.“
Being wise is better than being rich. You can lose money, but you cannot lose wisdom.
“Proverbs 12:25 — Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”
This proverb for children teaches them that they can help ease a person’s anxiety or stress by being kind. Teaching children to always be kind is a great lesson to impart.
“Proverbs 17:22 — A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
This proverb reminds children to try to see the good in life. Being stressed and depressed can eventually lead to physical ailments and once you get in the habit of being depressed, it is harder to get out of that negative thinking. Being happy and cheerful is a better disposition that makes life easier.
“Proverbs 17:17— A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
This reminds children to choose their friends wisely, so they always have someone who is in their corner when they need a friend.
Are there more proverbs for children available? Yes! There are hundreds of proverbs for children that can help you teach your children life lessons.
Can I change these proverbs for simpler wording? Yes! These proverbs can be worded differently for different ages and to fit more modern times. It really depends on how you are trying to relate the proverb to your child or children.
Do other religions have proverbs? Yes! Almost all cultures and religions have their own proverbs that suit their own values and morals.
Will proverbs for children help me with teaching my child? The best way to teach your child these life lessons is to model proper behavior for your child or children. Proverbs for children just help you teach your child new ideas. The rest is up to you!
Can these proverbs help me, an adult? Yes! These proverbs can help adults remember important life lessons, too!
Proverbs for children can help you teach them life-long lessons they will always remember. Many of the proverbs listed have survived hundreds of years because they are sound advice that we can still use today. When you need help teaching your kids new ideas, turn to some old ideas- Proverbs! Whether you get them from the Bible, old wives’ tales, or something unique to your culture, proverbs for children are useful tools for teaching your children hard and important lessons in life.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare