The poem “Children Learn What They Live” by Dorothy Law Nolte is a timeless piece of wisdom that has inspired many parents and educators over the years. The poem expresses the idea that children’s behavior and attitudes are shaped by the environment they grow up in, and that positive parenting and teaching can foster healthy and happy development.
The poem was first published in 1955 as a newspaper column, and later expanded into a book with co-author Rachel Harris. The poem consists of 19 lines, each starting with “If children live with…” followed by a condition or an emotion, and ending with “…they learn to…” followed by a corresponding outcome. For example, the first line is “If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.” The poem alternates between negative and positive scenarios, showing the contrast between different ways of raising children.
The poem’s message is simple but powerful: children are influenced by what they see, hear, and feel around them. They learn from their parents, teachers, peers, and society how to behave, think, and feel about themselves and others. Therefore, it is important to provide children with a nurturing, supportive, and respectful environment that fosters their growth and well-being.
The poem also reminds us that children are not born with fixed traits or personalities, but rather they are constantly learning and adapting to their surroundings. They have the potential to become whatever they are exposed to, for better or for worse. As parents and educators, we have the responsibility and the opportunity to shape their future by creating a positive atmosphere that encourages them to learn what they need to thrive in life.