Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.
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 in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
This beautiful poem was written by Dorothy Law Nolte and was a poem I grew up knowing. It actually hung in my home. Although it is not taken from Scripture, one can certainly see many points that align themselves with GOD's word.
The author was a lady who wrote a column in the 1950's. Her column was due and she had a deadline to meet. So, at her kitchen table she decided to write something meaningful to her. She penned out 19 truths of parenting that could impact a child's life. Parents started using the poem to raise their children. A prince in Japan was using it to raise his princess daughter and said it was life changing. A baby food company was using it to sell its food. It was a hit! Then, later in 1972, Mrs. Nolte published the poem itself and it became even more popular.
Mrs. Nolte went on to write a book called Children Learn What They Live and later a book for parents of teens called Teens Learn What They Live (both available on the Focus on the Family website). The first book has 19 chapters that correspond to the nineteen points in the poem. This poem and the ideas were so transformative that Mrs. Nolte became a famous family counselor and speaker.
When one looks at the poem in its entirety one might feel one of two ways. One could feel encouraged, "Wow, this gives me some direction! I want my child to learn to be generous, so I will give her opportunities to share." Or one may feel overwhelmed, "Wow! No wonder my kids fight, our home is hostile!" Or perhaps, "It certainly is a tall order to get all this right!"
Let me encourage us as moms to see this poem as a great way to take a little bit of wisdom and make it go a long way. If there is some criticism in your home and you see where it can lead, then pray and work to stop just this one area. Claim a Scripture for it. Also, look for an area of character development you want to see in your child or home. If you want to see security, seek the LORD in this. Pray it over your children, with your spouse if you are married, and even with your children. Find Scripture that claims security in Christ.
Post this poem as a reminder of the power of both the positive and negative in our children's lives. Remember GOD wants us to succeed as Moms. He wants us to come to Him with our needs.
"We can say this, because through Christ
we feel sure before GOD.
I do not mean that we are able to say that we can do this work ourselves.
It is GOD who makes us able to do all that we can do."
II Corinthians 3 4&5
We do not parent in isolation, but with an Almighty Father. We do not have to be the perfect Moms when we look to the Perfect Father and remember that we too are His daughters!
Dear Father, Help us remember that our children do learn what they live. Help us let You guide their lives as we parent them in Your ways.