Children Learn What They Live Print

Children Learn What They Live is a popular inspirational poem written by Dorothy Law Nolte. It emphasizes the importance of positive role modeling and nurturing environments in shaping a child’s character and behavior. The poem has resonated with parents, educators, and caregivers worldwide, serving as a reminder of the profound impact adults have on children’s lives.

The poem, originally published in 1954, has been widely circulated and has become a source of comfort and guidance for many. It highlights the idea that children absorb and imitate the attitudes and behaviors of those around them, ultimately shaping their own values and worldview. It emphasizes the need for adults to model kindness, empathy, and respect, as these qualities significantly impact a child’s emotional development and overall well-being.

Here is the complete poem:

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 others.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

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The poem serves as a reminder that children are constantly observing and learning from their surroundings, including the words, actions, and attitudes of those around them. It highlights the importance of creating a nurturing and positive environment, where children can thrive and develop into confident, compassionate individuals.


Q: How can I apply the principles of “Children Learn What They Live” in my parenting?

A: The first step is to become aware of your own attitudes and behaviors. Reflect on how you interact with your child and the messages you are sending. Strive to model positive qualities such as kindness, patience, and respect. Create an environment that fosters open communication and encourages your child’s unique talents and interests.

Q: Can this poem be used in educational settings?

A: Yes, the principles outlined in the poem can be integrated into educational curricula. Teachers can use it as a tool to discuss character development, empathy, and the importance of positive relationships. They can also encourage students to reflect on their own behaviors and the impact they have on others.

Q: Is it possible to undo negative influences on a child?

A: While it may be challenging, it is possible to counteract negative influences. Consistent positive role modeling, open communication, and providing a supportive environment can help a child develop healthier attitudes and behaviors. It’s important to remember that change takes time and patience.

Q: Is there scientific evidence to support the ideas presented in the poem?

A: While the poem is not based on scientific research, it aligns with various theories in child development and psychology. Numerous studies have shown the significant impact of positive role modeling on children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development.

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Q: How can I use this poem as a source of inspiration in my daily life?

A: Keep the principles of the poem in mind as you navigate your interactions with children and others. Reflect on the messages you are sending and strive to create a positive and nurturing environment. Remember that small acts of kindness, encouragement, and understanding can have a lasting impact on a child’s life.