Children Learn What They Live (1998)

by Dorothy Law Nolte (1924 - 2005)

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.

Excerpted from the book CHILDREN LEARN WHAT THEY LIVE
©1998 by Dorothy Law Nolte and Rachel Harris
The poem "Children Learn What They Live"
©Dorothy Law Nolte
Used by permission of Workman Publishing Co., New York
All Rights Reserved

You can also read the poem on Amazon.com


Chronology of the different versions of this poem:

The earliest version of this poem that I have a copy of was published on April 1, 1959 under the name of Dorothy Louise Law, in the Torrance Schools Board of Education newsletter. Both the obituary and publisher's review indicate an even earlier version was published in 1954 in the now defunct Torrance Herald when she was 30 years old. If anyone lives near the Torrance Public Library and can furnish me a copy, that would be most appreciated. I did a search of the records at the US Copyright Office and one entry shows an original registration date of 14 July 1972, with an effective registration date of 24 April 2001. A search at the Copyright renewal records database yields no entries regarding this poem so it appears to me that the 1954 version of the poem was not officially copyrighted, nor did it have its copyright renewed. As a consequence, according to this flowchart, it is my opinion that the original version of the poem is in the public domain. Many versions of the poem under differing titles have appeared anonymously around the world without her knowledge or consent. However, I am most moved and touched by this version, above all others, including the latest one above. Much of the original poem's poignancy is lost in more recent versions because the lines that appeared originally in capital letters are either missing, (ie. the word BUT), or are now not emphasized by capital letters (ie. WITH WHAT IS YOUR CHILD LIVING?):

Children Learn What They Live (1959)

If a child lives with criticism, 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 , 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 friendlienss(sic), he learns the world is a nice place in which to live . . .


WITH WHAT IS YOUR CHILD LIVING?

Dorothy L. Law

TORRANCE UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

2335 Plaza del Amo

Torrence, California

:

 


On March 23, 1969, a reader sent in an inquiry that was published in the Book Review Section of the New York Times, if anyone could identify the author of the poem. On Sunday, April 27th, 1969, the poem was identified by a number of readers to have been authored by Dorothy Law Nolte and this adaptation appeared in the Book Review section on page 47:

Children Learn What They Live (1969)

BY DOROTHY LAW NOLTE

If a child lives with criticism,
He learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
He learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule,
He learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame,
He learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance,
He learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement,
He learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise,
He learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness,
He learns justice.
If a child lives with security,
He learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval,
He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
He learns to find love in the world.

Originally, I had attributed this version to a person named Kristone, but I later discovered that Kristone was a manufacturer of inspirational cards and gifts, a company founded in 1977. I do not know who authored this adaptation.


In the October 1972 issue of Reader's Digest the following version appeared, which also appeared in the Reader's Digest Treasury of Modern Quotations, (1975), (NY: Reader's Digest Press), which seems to be an adaptation of the 1969 version:

BY RONALD RUSSELL

Lessons From Life (1971)

A CHILD that lives with ridicule learns to be timid
A CHILD that lives with criticism learns to condemn
A CHILD that lives with distrust learns to be deceitful
A CHILD that lives with antagonism learns to be hostile
A CHILD that lives with affection learns to love
A CHILD that lives with encouragement learns confidence
A CHILD that lives with truth learns justice
A CHILD that lives with praise learns to appreciate
A CHILD that lives with sharing learns to be considerate
A CHILD that lives with knowledge learns wisdom
A CHILD that lives with patience learns to be tolerant
A CHILD that lives with happiness will find love and beauty

Copyright 1971 © AA Sales, Inc. Reprints at one time could be ordered from Reader's Digest.


Children Learn What They Live (1972)

I am not sure of the exact form of the 1972 version. One would have to check the original 14 July 1972 copyright registration papers.


Children Learn What They Live (1990)

In RQ, a journal published by the American Library Association, the 1969 version of the poem appeared in the Summer 1990 issue on page 490, in a regularly featured section entitled "The Exchange" written by Charles Anderson. He suggested in his column that "If this were written today, the gender-specific terms might be revised. The thought would be equally clear if it were phrased, 'If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.'"


It appears Charles Anderson's suggestion was taken, and a complete gender neutral version appears for the first time in print in 1993 in the first edition of "Chicken Soup for the Soul," by Jack Canfield, and Mark V. Hansen, Health Communications:Deerfield Beach, FL. In this version, 'Child' is replaced with 'children', 'he' is replaced with 'they', and additional lines have been inserted. However, what bothers me the most is why the author would allow the word 'BUT' to be deleted, and have the last line be in lower case lettering:

Children Learn What They Live (1993)

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 be shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn what envy is.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.
If children live with encouragement, they learn to be confident.
If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to find love in the world.
If children live with recognition, they learn to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn to be generous.
If children live with honesty and fairness, they learn what truth and justice are.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those around them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn that the world is a nice place in which to live.
If children live with serenity, they learn to have peace of mind.
With what are your children living?

© Dorothy L. Nolte, All rights reserved.

This book was #1 on the NY Times bestseller list and sold 30 million copies in the first 5 years! It was translated into at least 29 languages. You can also subscribe to Chicken Soup Home Delivery and get their inspirational stories e-mailed to you each day. Here are some more stories from their books.

Also check out Jack Canfield's and Mark Hansen's version of "Starfish."


Teenagers Learn What They Live (2002)

by Dorothy Law Nolte. Illustrated by Rachel Harris, published by Workman Publishing Co., New York.

The first line of this version by Nolte is:

"If teenagers live with pressure, they learn to be stressed"

You can find the complete poem on Amazon.com.


One problem I have with Nolte's version, is that I consider shame and guilt to be quite different, and not to be confused with each other. See my webpage on the Difference Between Shame and Guilt. Another problem is that the poem also mentions both praise and encouragement as positives, but this may not be entirely true regarding praise. See my webpage: Praise versus Encouragement. which also discusses how shame, guilt, and praise are used by domination systems to control people. So here is my version of the poem, inspired by Nolte's 1959 version, and my exposure to the key principles of nonviolent communication,:as developed by Marshall Rosenberg:

Children Learn What They Live (2005)

by Duen Hsi Yen

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to feel discouraged
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to feel angry
If a child lives with violence, he learns to feel afraid
If a child lives with dishonesty, he learns to feel suspicious
If a child lives with judgement, he learns to feel guilty
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to feel ashamed
If a child lives with disorder, he learns to feel confused
If a child lives with disappointment, he learns to feel helpless
If a child lives with silence, he learns to feel lonely

BUT

If a child lives with protection, he learns to feel safe
If a child lives with honesty, he learns to feel trustful
If a child lives with peace, he learns to feel calm
If a child lives with sharing, he learns to feel thankful
If a child lives with understanding, he learns to feel encouraged
If a child lives with laughter, he learns to feel happy
If a child lives with creativity, he learns to feel inspired
If a child lives with choice, he learns to feel free
If a child lives with community, he learns to feel supported
If a child lives with accomplishment, he learns to feel confident
If a child lives with meaning, he learns to feel fulfilled
If a child lives with love, he learns to feel tender

WITH WHAT IS YOUR CHILD LIVING?

This poem could also be written in nonsexist form by substituting "child" with "children," and "he" with "they." Unfortunately, there is no single word in the English language that conveys the concept of "he" and "she" together. However, in Chinese, a single word does exists: "ta." Isn't that amazing!


Search US Copyright Office for books by Nolte, Dorothy.


Last updated 16 February 2006


Copyright © 1999-2006 by Duen Hsi Yen, All rights reserved.

E-mail: yen@noogenesis.com

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