The sayings we just can’t resist telling our kids

'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again' is inspired by a story about Robert the Bruce and a spider. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again' is inspired by a story about Robert the Bruce and a spider. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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IT IS a phrase only too familiar to youngsters slaving away at their studies – and now “practice makes perfect” has been revealed as the most influential saying.

The expression topped a poll of words of wisdom Britons pick up in childhood and continue to use well into their older years.

Other oft-repeated maxims include “the grass is always greener on the other side” and “good things come to those who wait”.

The poll was put together by children’s charity the NSPCC, which is launching a campaign to raise awareness of the importance pearls of wisdom can have in shaping a child’s life.

The survey of 2,000 people revealed that three-quarters of adults can recount a piece of advice given to them in their early years, while 80 per cent of over-60s regularly refer back to these nuggets.

Wordsmith Stephen Fry, chat show host Piers Morgan and The Apprentice anchor Lord Sugar – well known for his catchphrase ‘You’re fired!’ – are all backing the campaign.

The trio will join a host of celebrities who will this week be tweeting the pearls of wisdom that shaped their lives, using the hashtag childhoodwisdom. Of all the words of wisdom, “treat others how you’d like to be treated” (62 per cent) and “if at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again” (54 per cent) were among the most common.

A few old wives’ tales appeared on the list, with “eat your crusts, they’ll make your hair curly” (26 per cent) and “eating carrots will help you see in the dark” (30 per cent) sneaking in.

According to the research, parents are the biggest source of childhood wisdom (85 per cent), with grandparents (49 per cent) and teachers (28 per cent) also cited as sources of sage words.

The study found 81 per cent of mothers and 72 per cent of fathers are recounting pearls of wisdom to their own children.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right” (20 per cent) is the most commonly recited phrase by parents today, followed by 
“it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts” (17 per cent).

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “Abuse robs children of a happy childhood but it doesn’t have to be that way.

“We want to show how actions that all of us can take help ensure children’s experiences are positive and one way of doing this is to impart words of wisdom.

“We want to remind everyone that child abuse can be prevented with their help and are calling on people to spread the message by sharing words of wisdom from their own childhoods.”

When it comes to words of wisdom women appeared more likely to practice patience, with a quarter believing “good things come to those who wait”.