Children Learn What They Live: A Memorial
Dorothy Law Nolte may not be a household name, but for parents
across the nation her poem -- "Children Learn What They
Live" - has long been a child-rearing mantra. You may
even remember it pasted up on your own refrigerator or hanging
in your kitchen while you were growing up.
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
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
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.
Mrs. Nolte passed away from cancer on November 6, 2005, at
the age of 81. She wrote the poem on deadline for The Torrance
Herald newspaper in 1954, to fill her weekly family advice
column. Little did she know, the poem was photocopied and
circulated among families for years--often attributed to "Anonymous"
as the author source.
It wasn't until nearly 20 years later in 1972 that Mrs. Nolte
finally copyrighted her work. It was this year that a baby
nutrition company distributed millions of copies of the poem
to new parents, and Mrs. Nolte discovered here poem's great
"I simply wrote it and put it out there, where it has
apparently moved through the world on its own momentum,"
Mrs. Nolte is reported as saying.
A Poem That Touched Generations
Today, "Children Learn What They Live" has been
reprinted in 30 languages. It is a favorite of Crown Prince
Naruhito of Japan, who plans to raise his own family with
Dorothy Law Nolte
In 1998, Mrs. Nolte wrote a book based on the poem titled
Learn What They Live." This is the first time she
earned anything for the much-revered piece. Each chapter of
the book -- which has more than 3 million copies in print
worldwide and has been reprinted in 18 languages -- is devoted
to a line of the poem.
"The book gave her ownership of her own poem and philosophy,
and it gave her a platform," said co-author Rachel Harris.
Mrs. Nolte also wrote a similar book for teens, titled "Teenagers
Learn What They Live," in 2002.
Throughout her life Mrs. Nolte was involved with family work
and children. She was trained as a family counselor, held
parenting classes, founded a preschool and was a childbirth-education
instructor. She had two daughters, two sons, eight grandchildren,
six great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild of
Generations later, parents still praise Mrs. Nolte's
advice about raising children.
The poem that has touched so many lives around the world
was also cherished in Mrs. Nolte's own home.
"She did a wonderful job as a mother," her daughter
said. "She truly tried to live up to what the poem says."
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