If a child lives with…

Today would have been Dorothy Louise Law Nolte’s 83rd birthday. A trained family counselor (who also founded a kindergarten, taught parenting and childbirth classes, and was a published writer), Law in the mid-1950s wrote a poem, “Children Learn What They Live,” as a submission for her family-matters column in California’s The Torrance Herald.

Now, more than 50 years later, her simple words still serve as something of a guidepost:

If a child lives with cricism, he learns to condemn…

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight…

If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive…

If a child lives with pity, he learns to feel sorry for himself…

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy…

If a child lives with jealousy, he learns to feel guilt…

But…

If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient…

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident…

If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative…

If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love…

If a child lives with honesty, he learns what truth is…

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice…

If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith in himself and those about him…

If a child lives with friendliness, he learns the world is a nice place in which to live.

With what is your child living?

The piece was translated into 35 languages. Nearly 20 years after she wrote it, Law discovered it was being distributed by a baby food manufacturer. She then copyrighted it, but allowed the company to continue to use her words for free.

In the late 1990s, the piece was published as a book, with each line in the poem serving as the subject of a chapter. In 2005, it became a bestseller when Crown Prince Naruhito likened the book to his guide for raising his daughter, Princess Aiko.

Although Dorothy Louise Law Nolte died in 2005, her sentiment, her wisdom in these simple words, can live on through the lessons and values we teach our children.

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9 Comments

Filed under Children, Family, Literature, Parenting, Someone else said, Writing

9 responses to “If a child lives with…

  1. Some of that I can get behind. Some of it I can’t.

    I wasn’t ridiculed. I also had nothing to fear. But I’m QUITE shy (though I wasn’t as a child) and apprehensive, though mine is called General Anxiety Disorder. Some of that “negative” stuff is personality. Yet some of the positive stuff is because of a nurturing home.

    Interesting.

  2. Gillian Green

    Hi Gretchen,

    So impressed by your writings. You have quite the literary talent. The way you describe your feelings about being a Mom are sincere. Maeve is lucky to have a Mom as verbally gifted as you.
    Please keep them coming.

    Hope my adopted daughter, Isobel Maria, will become friends with Maeve……bringing them together might be dynamite….

    Thanks for sharing/caring.
    Luv,
    Gillian

  3. Tom Stevens

    Thanks for the small detail about Mrs. Nolte and her publication. I have been looking for this poem for ages. It has helped me to overcome many hurdles. Thanks for spreading the word again!!

  4. Sally Salcido

    I learned of this poem when I was studying Early Childhood Develpment in college in the late 70’s. I am so glad you had this site. I have been looking for it.I had a copy long ago.I believe everyone should read it. It is basically a guide line. It helps to realize that children soak up everything you say and do to them. How are we going to raise them? Positively or negatively.I love this poem!

  5. Laura Summers

    When my kids were young, I always kept this special verse up on the wall in their room – I even turned it into an embroidered piece. It was my guide for raising all four of my children and it certainly has paid off. (I think the wall hanging passed on to my oldest daughter.) The Torrance Herald is from a city in California not too far from where I lived. I must have seen the verse when first published, because I had it for my first child born in 1959. Wish I could tell Ms. Nolte how much her words meant to me and my family.

  6. If a child lives with cricism, he learns to condemn…

    If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight…

    If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive…

    If a child lives with pity, he learns to feel sorry for himself…

    If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy…

    If a child lives with jealousy, he learns to feel guilt…

    But…

    If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient…

    If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident…

    If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative…

    If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love…

    If a child lives with honesty, he learns what truth is…

    If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice…

    If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith in himself and those about him…

    If a child lives with friendliness, he learns the world is a nice place in which to live.

    With what is your child living?

  7. I also had print of this on the wall when my son was 5 back in 1977 – Now that he is married with 3 children under 7 years old, I have sent him a copy as a reminder.

    Never was it more true to life. Thank you.

    Patsy x

  8. Carol Neilsen

    Lovely verse. I had this verse sent to me by a baby food company when I had babies, which was some 42 years ago. I want to pass it on to my children for a guide to bringing up their children. Children learn by example.
    This verse reinforces that.

  9. Pingback: Bullying: horrific, but not surprising | Helen Purves

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