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Appeal to Familial Wisdom

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"Well, my dad always says 'you catch more fists from backseating than from keeping your mouth shut'."
"My momma always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."
Forrest Gump in an example of his catchphrase

Most societies place a certain moral value on respecting and listening to one's elders, especially one's parents. Mother knows best, after all! So, very often, when characters find themselves in difficult situations, they will think back to the advice their mother or father (or grandparent, or aunt/uncle) once gave them, and pass it along to their companions.

This can be accomplished with the Stock Phrase "Mama said ..." or "Like my daddy always told me ...", or through a Meaningful Echo of something we've heard the relative say, now adopted by the child. Another common variation is for a character to share a cure or food recipe or secret technique they say has been passed down from their family.

This is a milder sub-trope of Appeal to Authority, as there is something about saying a bit of advice came from your parent that lends it more weight than if it were just something you'd heard—regardless of whether it's actually good advice.

Often the advice is a piece of Proverbial Wisdom. May devolve into Hurricane of Aphorisms or Quote-to-Quote Combat.

In fiction, this stock phrase has long been a Dead Horse Trope, lending itself more to parody than to straight examples, but it is still quite common as a lyric trope, especially in pop and blues.

Sister Trope to You Know Who Said That?. The original giver of the advice may have been a Good Parent who earned their child's respect or a Knight Templar Parent who drilled some maxim into the child's head; as such it may be an application of the commandment to Honor Thy Parent. Taking the forbears' wisdom to the level of religion is Ancestor Veneration. May overlap with Deceased Parents Are the Best, but the adviser is not necessarily dead, just off-screen or status unknown. Sometimes part of Let Me Tell You a Story. Compare Quoting Myself.


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    Comic Books 
  • Mortal Kombat X: In issue #5, Cassie Cage is locked in a death match against Frost, who dominates her. After Frost's Evil Gloating, Cassie begins her Heroic Second Wind by saying, "Hate to disappoint you, Elsa, but like my 'rich daddy' says, 'You can't fake a comeback'!"

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Animation 
  • Lady and the Tramp has a Running Gag where Trusty will go, "As my grandpappy Ol' Reliable used to say . . . Don't recollect if I ever mentioned Ol' Reliable before ... " The answer is always yes, and Trusty drops the subject. By the end, he finally gets a chance to say what Ol' Reliable used to say, only to forget what exactly he used to say.
  • Tangled: Mother Gothel appeals to this trope in her Villain Song, "Mother Knows Best," trying to convince Rapunzel of her own naivety and Gothel's superior experience.
    Don't forget it; you'll regret it . . .
    Mother knows best!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Forrest Gump: This is something of his catchphrase, helping to establish his characterization as a Manchild.
    Forrest: Mama always said there's an awful lot you can tell about a person by their shoes. Where they're going, where they've been. I've worn lots of shoes. I bet if I think about it real hard, I could remember my first pair of shoes. Mama said they'd take me anywhere. She said they was my magic shoes.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): When another character expresses dismay that his research has turned up bupkis, Ilene Chen tries to lift his spirits by saying "myth is our compass". She explains it's a saying which her mother taught her because she believed that understanding the ancient myths of dragons and monsters — which were influenced by ancient civilizations' encounters with the Kaiju — are key to finding coexistence with the monsters and restoring mankind's connection to nature.
  • The Great White Hype:
    • Mitchell Kane interviews Marvin Shaabazz and Hassan El Ruk'n, and this confused exchange of parental advice emerges:
      Shaabazz: Like my Daddy say, you out there, James, the poodle, pussy whatever your name is, Roper, if you a man be a man! Step up. Fight me. You ain't fought nobody.
      Mitchell: Your Daddy said . . . what?
      Hassan: Just like my father have told me, when the green grass starts growing, you know, on the other side, somebody gotta cut the lawn.
      Mitchell: You know, my father said once that when you laugh the whole world laughs with you, cry and I'll give you something to cry about, you little bastard! That's what he said.
    • After Sultan, with a little help from his phalanx of armed bodyguards with laser sights on their guns, defuses a hostile situation:
      Bambi: My Daddy always says don't whip your shit out if you ain't ready to use it.
      Sol: Shut up!
      Julio: Bitch!
  • Lucy in the Sky: Lucy is very close with her Nana and respects her judgement perhaps more than anyone else's. During her interview in the second scene of the film, she refers twice to advice her Nana would have given her as a means of deflecting personal questions.
  • Maverick: Bret Maverick repeatedly quotes things that "my old pappy always used to say". Played for laughs in the final scene when his old pappy visits and complains that he never said most of the things that Bret claims he said.
    Bret's Father: I never said that once. You've misquoted me all your life. I'm sick of it.
    Bret: The things you said were always so dumb I had to improve on them.
  • Moonraker. A Bond Girl tells James Bond that her mother gave her a list of things not to do on her first date. When the inevitable seduction takes place shortly after, Bond asks about the list and she jokes that she never learned to read.
  • Pitch Perfect: Aubry quotes her father a few times, implying he's a strict taskmaster. "Like my dad says, 'If you're not here to win, get the hell out of Kuwait.'"
  • Racing Stripes: An old farm dog lifts his head from napping to see the protagonist, a zebra, training to become a racehorse, and remarks:
    It's like my momma always said: "You can put yer boots in the oven, but that don't make 'em biscuits."
  • Rim of the World: Alex invokes some advice from his tragically dead father to excuse his actions to the group:
    Alex: Sometimes you do the right thing and it doesn't work out. Doesn't mean it wasn't worth doing.
    Dariush: Who the hell told you that?
    Alex: My dad. [beat] Never knew what it meant until right now.
  • Rudy:
    Pete: Well, you know what my dad always said, "Having dreams is what makes life tolerable."
  • Soldier:
    Church: My daddy always said, "When you want to insert a nail into a piece of wood, don't do anything fancy or glamorous. Just take the damn hammer and hit the son of a bitch until it's in."
    Colonel Mekum: And what the hell does that crap mean in English, Captain?
  • In The Waterboy, Bobby's mother gives him lots of advice, but it's all intended to keep him under her thumb. Mostly by saying everything she doesn't like is "the debbil!"
    Bobby: (discussing emotions in a college class) Mama says alligators are ornery because they got all them teeth and no toothbrush.

  • Subverted for laughs in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
    Arthur: You know, it's at times like this, when I'm trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young.
    Ford: Why, what did she tell you?
    Arthur: I don't know, I didn't listen!
  • Subverted in Hooligans by William Diehl. The protagonist reflects how his mother would always say what "Your father used to say". It was only as a teenager he realised that his father would have had to have talked constantly, 24 hours a day, for the entire two years they were married, before he was killed in action during World War 2. He admits this makes little difference as by then his long-dead father had become the font of all wisdom.
    I figured at twenty-two my father was wiser than Homer, Socrates, Newton and Ben Franklin rolled up into one. Funny thing is, I still do.
  • In The Three Musketeers, d'Artagnan tells an innkeeper about a family balm healing any wound in 24 hours.
  • In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the group of heroes is questioning old sailors on what lies beyond the edges of their maps. One, who turns out to have been correct, insists that one must only sail far enough to reach Aslan's country, "but when questioned ... could only say that he had heard it from his father."
  • In the first Warrior Cats book, when entering ShadowClan's territory, Graypaw is nervous and comments that his mother warned him about ShadowClan's scent many times. Firepaw, who was raised as a house cat, replies that his mother taught him no such thing.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: Gunn says his uncle Theo told him "Never buy a dull plow and never get in the middle of a religious war." Cordelia asked if he really has an uncle Theo, and Gunn admits he doesn't.
  • Barney Miller: Yemana will often quote his father, who gave a great philosophical quote. Unfortunately, they tend to get mangled in the translation from the original Japanese. From episode "Dog Days", when the detectives find out Barney and his wife have separated:
    Yemana: Hey Barney, my grandfather had something to say about marriage.
    Barney: I don't doubt that.
    Yemana: Marriage is like a horse with a broken leg. You can shoot it, but that don't fix the leg.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: Sally will come up with old sayings "like my Aunt Gladys always says..." which are seldom helpful. Usually Lampshaded.
    Sally: My Aunt Agnes used to have a saying that went, uh, "If your heart is where the sky is bluest, then the sound of winter's twilight will be your friend."
    Buddy: Your aunt said that?
    Sally: Yeah . . . and every time I think of it, I want to cry.
    Buddy: Why?
    Sally: Because I think my Aunt Agnes is a nut.
  • Farscape
    • Subverted in "Green Eyed Monster" when they're carrying out another of their Crazy Enough to Work plans to deal with the eponymous Monster of the Week.
      Rygel: Mother always said I'd die from incompetence! I finally know what she meant!
    • A meta version is in the DVD commentary when a scriptwriter admits that a lot of John Crichton's pearls of wisdom were actually this trope.
  • Friday Night Lights:
    • Buddy delivers some to Coach Taylor during their conversation in the laundromat in Season 2:
      Buddy: Just don't sweat the small stuff. That's what my dad used to say.
    • Coach Taylor offers some himself when Jason Street is agonizing over a mistake:
      Coach Taylor: My dad used to say, "It always gets bad before it gets better."
  • Kamen Rider Kabuto: Tendou frequently quotes sayings from his grandmother, after stating "Grandmother said this...". Many of them have to do with food or cooking. Eventually, it's subverted when Tendou says something wise and Kagami asks him if those were his grandmother's words. Tendou answers no- they're his words.
  • Bret Maverick and his brothers in Maverick are always quoting things their pappy said. Their cousin Beau Maverick quotes his Uncle Beau.
  • Mimpi Metropolitan: Whenever he gives out a moral argument, Bambang always precedes it by claiming that it was his father's saying.
  • The Newsroom: When Will comes to apologize to Shelly Wexler:
    Shelly: Well, you know what my mother would say?
    Will: I absolutely do not.
    Shelly: She'd say, "Who're you really mad at?"
  • SAS: Rogue Heroes. Subverted when Paddy Mayne starts to give this trope, only to decide: "You don't deserve my father's wisdom."
  • On an episode of Wild Wild West, Arty keeps citing his Great-Aunt Maude. Once Jim replies "Speaking of your Great-Aunt Maude, how is she?", and Arty suddenly realizes this 'Jim' is an imposter, because the real Jim knows she's just a figure of speech, or maybe dead.

  • Beyoncé: Subverted in "Pretty Hurts." The first verse begins with an account of advice Beyonce's mother gave to her (as a metonym for broader cultural wisdom) which is shown by the ensuing message of the song to have been sadly misguided.
    Mama said, "You're a pretty girl
    What's in your head, it doesn't matter
    Brush your hair, fix your teeth
    What you wear is all that matters"
  • All of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" is framed as the singer paraphrasing what "My mama told me when I was young".
    "There's nothing wrong with loving who you are,"
    She said, "'Cause He made you perfect, babe
    So hold your head up girl and you'll go far,
    Listen to me when I say" ...
  • In Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass", she remembers:
    Yeah, my mama she told me, "Don't worry about your size"
    She said, "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night"
  • The narrator of Michael Jackson's song "Billie Jean" mentions the advice from his mother, that he seemingly did not heed.
    And mother always told me
    be careful who you love
    and be careful what you do
    'cause the lie becomes the truth.
  • Part of the refrain in Panic! at the Disco's "High Hopes" is him remembering how his "Mama said" to never give up on his dreams.
  • Most of "Mama Said" by The Shirelles, possibly the Trope Codifier.
    Mama said there'll be days like this
    There'll be days like this, mama said
  • Tom Waits's "Bottom of the World" begins with some of the singer's father's advice and his response to it:
    My daddy told me, lookin' back
    The best friend you'll have is a railroad track
    So when I was 13 I said, I'm rollin' my own
    And I'm leavin' Missouri and I'm never comin' home
  • "Mama Used To Say" by Junior, in which the parental advice is a downplayed version of Growing Up Sucks:
    Mama used to say, take your time young man
    Mama used to say, don't you rush to get old
    Mama used to say, take it in your stride
    Mama used to say, live your life
  • "7 Years" by Lukas Graham uses this to begin its first two verses.
    Once I was seven years old, my mama told me
    "Go make yourself some friends or you'll be lonely"
  • "You Can't Hurry Love" by The Supremes (and later Phil Collins) has the singer musing that his mother told him love wasn't easy and couldn't be rushed, but he's running out of patience.
  • "Like Ships Need the Sea" by Emily Hearn is a double example; it starts with the singer contradicting her mother's words that she didn't need a man to be her best; she's pretty sure that the guy she's in love with is necessary. She later recalls her grandfather saying that Men Don't Cry, but she realized it wasn't true when she saw her boyfriend (and eventual husband) cry.
  • "Ricky" by Denzel Curry shares the life advice Denzel got growing up:
    My daddy said "Trust no man but your brothers
    And never leave your day one's in the gutter"
    My daddy said "Treat young girls like your mother"
    My momma said "Trust no hoe, use a rubber"
  • Eminem, a survivor of child abuse who had a very bad relationship with his mother, occasionally parodies this in his songs:
    It's like my mother always told me:
    "Rana rana rana rana rana rana rana rana rana and codeine and
    Goddamn it, you little motherfucker
    If you ain't got nothin' nice to say, then don't say nothin'!"

  • Hadestown: Persephone twice brings up harsh but practical advice her mother gave her—it carries even more weight than normal since her mother is a literal goddess.
    Persephone: But let me tell you something that my mama said to me:
    You take what you can get, and you make the most of it

    Video Games 
  • Starcraft II Legacy Of The Void: At one point during the Korhal missions, Hierarch Artanis and Commander Raynor are discussing the invasion of Amon's forces to Dominion territories. At one point, Raynor says, "My mother used to say 'when it rains, it floods.'"
  • One of Sturges' random lines in Fallout 4:
    Sturges:My old man taught me that duct tape could fix anything. Don't think he was talking about bullet holes.
  • Parodied in Monster Prom. In one potential scene in multiplayer mode, Damien, the Ax-Crazy prince of Hell, can come to a player for romantic advice during one of their rounds if he’s started crushing on another, telling them that his parents have always told him that “when you love someone... shoot them and see what happens”.
    Damien: ...However, Principle Giant Spider, my therapist, and the rule of law all seem to agree that shooting someone to see if they’re "the one" is not very "legal".


    Web Original 
  • RWBY: When Jaune and Ruby are both brand-new to Beacon Academy, they're both nervous and team up together to try and navigate their new surroundings. Regarding the fact they don't know anyone at this school yet, Jaune tries to cheer them both up by quoting his mother's advice about handling new situations.
    Jaune: My mom always says "strangers are just friends you haven't met yet".
  • A Scotsman in Egypt: Hew Mar is always remembering things his father told him. Unfortunately, his father was an abusive asshole, and so much of it consists of remembering the insults used on him.
  • My Momma Told Me is a podcast about conspiracy theories in the black community, and every week the guest tell the hosts Langston Kerman and David Gborie a theoyr they've been told preceded with an audio sting of the podcast title. The name is a somewhat Artifact Title, but often the guest do mention that they literlaly have heard it from their mother.

    Western Animation 
  • The Real Ghostbusters: In "Slimer, Come Home", Egon, out looking for the runaway Slimer, accidentally convinces a gang leader to leave him alone by describing what he's looking for (a ghost) in Technobabble. When the gang asks why he didn't let them jump the lone, slender geek, the gang leader answers that his father told him never to harass anyone weirder than he is.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars "The Gungan General": Hondo tells a fellow pirate "Now, as my sweet mother always said, 'Son, if one hostage is good two are better.'" while discussing their current scheme.
  • The Magic School Bus: Ms. Frizzle has a seemingly endless series of female relatives from whom she quotes oddly specific aphorisms. For example, in the rainforest episode:
    "As my cousin Bea used to say, 'Pollen's gotta travel for its secrets to unravel.'"
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Rock Bottom", Spongebob remembers his grandfather giving him an oddly-specific piece of advice after his latest failure to catch a bus out of the eponymous Rock Bottom, a remote town at the bottom of a deep-sea trench.
    Spongebob: I guess Grandpa Squarepants was right. Never run for a bus. (imitating his grandfather) Especially one that's going up at a 90-degree angle!
  • A recurring thing with Beshte in The Lion Guard a number of episodes have a “Well, my dad always says…” line from him. “Live long enough and you’ll see everything” shows up a few times.
  • The Adventures of Sam & Max: Freelance Police: In one episode Sam quips "It's like my grandma always used to say, 'Idle hands are the devil's monkey bars.'" When we meet Sam's Grandma Ruth in "Christmas, Bloody Christmas", she actually says "Idle hands end up in the machinery."
  • Spoofed in The Simpsons, when Bart was witness to a crime while skipping school, and he asked Marge for hypothetical advice as to what should be done in such a situation. Marge told him about what his uncle used to say:
    Marge: Well, Bart, your uncle Arthur used to have a saying, "Shoot 'em all and let God sort 'em out". Unfortunately, one day he put his theory into practice. It took 75 federal marshals to bring him down. Now let's never speak of him again.
  • The Patrick Star Show: Parodied in "Stair Wars", when Patrick and GrandPat are arguing over who gets to go up the stairs first.
    Patrick: I'm sorry, GrandPat, but Dad always told me...
    [Patrick imagines Cecil in a thought bubble]
    Cecil: Son, the best advice I could ever give you is: never back down from a stair-off.
    GrandPat: I told you that! That's my advice!