Mom's Day (discussion)

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English Corner--TEFL Discussion Guide

Sister-pages:   Home Up Success (discussion) Mom's Day (discussion) Motivation (discussion)

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Topic: Mothers (a great topic for Mother's Day)

Prepared by Michael Krigline, MA (2007)

 Teachers/discussion leaders: see "How to use these discussion guides" on the index page (click "up").



Notes: a quote is something in quotation marks (“ ”) to show that it is exactly what someone wrote or said. The smile (which looks like this on this page: :) ) shows that a quote is funny (at least to Americans).

General quotes:

:) “If your parents never had children, chances are you won’t, either.” Dick Cavett, US comedian

“Sooner or later we all quote our mothers.” Bern Williams

.1. A.What did your mother like to say often? Did she have a favorite saying or 成语?

“Never marry a man who hates his mother, because he'll end up hating you.”  Jill Bennett

“Don’t call me an icon. I’m just a mother trying to help.” British Princess of Wales Diana (1961 - 1997) (icon = someone famous who is admired by many people and is thought to represent an important idea)

.1. B. These quotes tell us that our mothers have a big impact on our lives, even long after we have grown up. Princess Diana called herself “just a mother,” which shows that even famous mothers sometimes don’t realize how important their role is. Tonight we will look at many more quotes, which will help us discuss motherhood. Feel free to ask if you need help understanding some of these quotes. I’m sure someone in this group can help translate if necessary.


.2. What is a mother?

:)Children aren’t happy with nothing to ignore,/ And that's what parents were created for.” Ogden Nash (1902 - 1971) US poet & humorist

:) “God could not be everywhere, and so he made mothers! --Jewish proverb

“A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” Dorothy C. Fisher (1879 - 1958)

.2. A. Tell us one way that your mother helped you to “stand up” or become independent.

“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” Washington Irving (meaning: When bad things happen, or when good times turn to bad times, or when friends leave us because of some trouble, a mother is our truest friend—she sticks by us and her words help the trouble go away so that peace can return.)

.2. B. According to these quotes, a mother is your truest friend, someone who teaches children to stand on their own, someone who can “always be there for you,” and someone most of us ignore. Which quote do you agree with or disagree with the most?

.2. C. American TV personality Oprah Winfrey said, “Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.” If “biology” (i.e., the ability to give a child birth) alone doesn’t make someone a mother, what does?

.2. D. What do you like or dislike about this next quote, and can you explain what the author means? “The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” Rajneesh


.3. Is motherhood a difficult job?

“Sometimes the laughter in mothering is the recognition of the ironies and absurdities (荒谬). Sometime, though, it’s just pure, unthinking delight.” Barbara Schapiro (meaning: both crazy and joyful situations can make mothers laugh)

 “Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs... since the payment is pure love.” Mildred B. Vermont

:) “My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.” Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

.3. A. Did your mother “have trouble with you”? Did she see this as a challenge or a problem?

“At work, you think of the children you have left at home. At home, you think of the work you’ve left unfinished. Such a struggle is unleashed within yourself. Your heart is rent.”  Golda Meir (former Israeli President) (meaning: a mother has two jobs that tear her apart, and she is always being pulled by either her work “job” or her family “job”)

“The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.” Ellen Goodman (1941 - )

.3. B. What are some of your mother’s “fears” for you? What are her “hopes” for you?

.3. C. Do you think motherhood is a difficult job? Why or why not?


.4. Does  our relationship to our mother change over time?

:) “A man loves his sweetheart the most, his wife the best, but his mother the longest.”  Irish Proverb

:) “When a woman is twenty, a child deforms her; when she is thirty, he preserves her; and when forty, he makes her young again.”  Leon Blum

“A mother never realizes that her children are no longer children.” Holbrook Jackson (1874 - 1948) English journalist, editor, author

.4. A. Does our relationship to our mother change over time? Is that good, bad, or something in between? Explain your answer.

.4. B. William Dean Howells (1837-1920 US, author) said, “A man never sees all that his mother has been to him until it's too late to let her know he sees it.” What have you learned about your mother in the last two or three years? Have you let your mother know what you have learned? Why or why not? If you could say one thing to your mother right now, what would it be?


.5. How to be a good parent:

“The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children.” Elain Heffner (2003)

“Children need more models than critics. A pint of example is worth a gallon of advice.” unknown (meaning: a child’s ears hear mothers complain and give advice, but a child’s eyes learn by watching how their mothers live)

.5. A. What is the difference between what our mothers tell us (to our ears) and what they teach us (show to our eyes)? Which is more important and why?

“This is part of the essence of motherhood, watching your kid grow into her own person and not being able to do anything about it. Otherwise children would be nothing more than pets.” Heather Armstrong, Dooce, 11-15-2005 (meaning: you want your pet to always obey you and be near you; mothers watch children become independent)

.5. B. Pearl Buck (who grew up in China; 1892 - 1973) said, “Some are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers, but it is love just the same.” Is your mother the kissing kind, the scolding kind, or something else? Which is best?

.5. C. Jill Churchill said, “The most important thing she had learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” What are some of the “million ways” to be a good mother?


.6. On the impact mothers have on their children:

“A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.” Chinese proverb

“The mother's heart is the child's schoolroom.” Henry Ward Beecher

Poem: “You may have tangible wealth untold;/Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold./Richer than I you can never be -/I had a mother who read to me.” Strickland Gillilan (meaning: you may have a lot of money but you can’t be richer than me because I have something even more valuable—a mother who taught me to read)

“All that I am or hope to be I owe to my angel mother. I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” US President Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865; He was born in a log cabin in Kentucky and raised in poverty by his father and step-mother.)

.6. A. One of these quotes said that the greatest thing his mother did was to read to him. Why do you think he said this?

.6. B. What would you say has been your mother’s greatest impact on you? How has she influenced you the most?


.7. What characteristics do mothers have (good and bad)?

“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.” Honore' de Balzac

:) “A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.”  Tenneva Jordan (generosity)

“Few misfortunes can befall a boy which brings worse consequences than to have a really affectionate mother.”  W. Somerset Maugham

:)A smart mother makes often a better diagnosis than a poor doctor.” Dr. August Bier (1861 - 1949) German surgeon (nurse)

“A mother understands what a child does not say.”  Jewish Proverb (perceptive)

“Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible.”  Marion C. Garretty

“The success of love is in the loving; it is not in the result of loving. Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta (meaning: love is not about results, love is about doing good things for others no matter what the result is)

“Love, to be real, must cost, it must hurt, it must empty us of self.” Mother Teresa (selfless)

.7. A. Say these characteristics after me: forgiving, generous, affectionate, perceptive, loving, selfless. These quotes say mothers are all of these things, plus medical experts. Which of these characteristics does your mother have—give us an example if you can.

.7. B. Are there other characteristics that your mother (or a mother you know) has? Explain.


.8. How has “women’s liberation” helped mothers/women?

:) “The best thing that could happen to motherhood already has. Fewer women are going into it.”  Victoria Billings (meaning: it is a good thing that some women are choosing not to become mothers now that they have other career choices)

“Many men still regard women mainly for their beauty and entertainment value (singers, dancers, models, movie stars, etc.), but today's liberated women at least don’t have to walk on bound feet and share their homes with multiple wives. Maybe our daughters will finally achieve the equality that our mothers could only dream about.” Anonymous

“Women do not have to sacrifice personhood if they are mothers. They do not have to sacrifice motherhood in order to be persons. Liberation was meant to expand women's opportunities, not to limit them. The self-esteem that has been found in new pursuits can also be found in mothering.”  Elaine Heffner (meaning: liberated women have many opportunities to find jobs that make them feel valuable, among which are motherhood)

.8. A. How is motherhood different today than it was in your grandmother’s time? Are the changes good or bad? If there have not been enough changes made, what still needs to change?

.8. B. Let’s define mothering as being a full-time mother instead of also finding a paying job. Do you think modern women should still be allowed to make mothering their only career, or should all adult women have outside jobs? Explain your answer.


.9. On the important role mothers play in society:

“Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.” Walt Disney

“Let France have good mothers, and she will have good sons.”  French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte

“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.” First US President, George Washington

.9. A. How important do you think a mothers role is in society? (take a vote: not very important, important, very important). Why?

.9. B. Which is more important to shaping us as children, our schools or our parents?

.9. C. The world has many criminals. Do you think this is because they had inadequate (不充足) parents, inadequate education, weak minds, poorly chosen friends, an inadequate cultural environment, or something else?

.9. D. John Erskine said, “Woman in the home has not yet lost her dignity, in spite of Mother’s Day, with its offensive implication that our love needs an annual nudging.” (meaning: we don’t need a special day that pushes us to love our mothers)  Obviously, he didn’t think that having Mothers’ Day was a good idea. Do you agree or disagree, and why?

.9. E. What should society do to strengthen the role of mothers and the value of motherhood?


Sources include:

Note: A quote's original source is not always known, and authenticity has not been verified.

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Prepared by Michael Krigline, 2012 ( As far as I am concerned, people are allowed to print/copy it for personal or classroom use.

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