CHILDREN LEARN WHAT THEY LIVE
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
Dorothy Law Nolte (1924-2005)
Dorothy Nolte wrote this poem in 1954 as part of her weekly column on creative family living for a local newspaper. At this time in the 1950s, and for many years later, parents raised their children by telling them what to do and what not to do. I grew up in the 1960s and 70s with this model of parenting, although I don’t regard my childhood as anything like ‘normal.’
Nolte recognised that parent’s greatest influence on their children is the example they set as role models in everyday life. She, herself became a role model for parents and the wisdom in her words continue to be inspirational today.
I’d like to see every parent be given a copy of this poem as a reminder of the responsibility that comes with the important role of parenting.
Actually, that is exactly what happened! The poem was widely circulated by readers of her newspaper column and was distributed to millions of new parents by a maker of baby formula.
She copyrighted it in 1972 and expanded it into a book in 1998.
What is your child learning?
Are you consciously modelling what you’d like your children to learn?
What did you learn from your childhood?
What would you like to have learnt?
I was personally touched by the message in this poem and I urge you to reflect on your own childhood and on your own parenting / grand-parenting, without judgement. I believe that parents do the best they can with the resources they have available to them, so please reflect but don’t judge yourself or beat yourself up if you think you can or could have done better.
Even though this poem was written almost 60 years ago, the message is just as relevant today. I think it is worth reading regularly and if you are a parent, I hope it gives you both inspiration and courage to be the best role model you possibly can for your children. If this message touches your heart, as it did mine, please share this message with others.
You can read more wisdom from Nolte and her co-author, Rachel Harris, as they expand on each of the learnings in her poem, in their book of the same title.
The late Dorothy Nolte, PhD was a lifelong teacher and lecturer on family life education and was friends with Rachel Harris, PhD (a psychotherapist with post-graduate training in family therapy) for more than 25 years.
‘This book can help you become the parent you have always wanted to be, and raise the kind of children you can always be proud of.’
From the foreword by Jack Canfield, co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.
Dorothy Law Nolte and Rachel Harris, ‘Children Learn What They Live’ Finch Publishing, Sydney, 1998