1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar


Good Poetry? Maybe! Great Advice? Definitely

November 01, 2013  |  Falmouth Enterprise

By Dr. Michael Bihari

Several weeks ago while on vacation, my wife and I stopped for lunch at a cafe in a museum. Most of the tables were taken up by a large family and friends who had gathered for a baby naming ceremony.

To help celebrate, the parents distributed a copy of the poem Children Learn What They Live that was written more than forty years ago by Dorothy Law Nolte. I had not seen a copy of the poem in decades. It continues to be popular, appearing on family-oriented websites and as part of religious ceremonies. 

When the poem was first published many thought it was cloying and overly sentimental. Perhaps. But its message is spot-on, especially in this age of ubiquitous mobile devices that often interfere with interpersonal communication.

The poem’s content also is consistent with the message in many of the parenting articles published in this column and available on the Falmouth Prevention Partnership website. 

Shakespeare it’s not, but great parenting advice it is! 

Children Learn What They Live

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.

Current Advice from Pediatric Experts 

The following list is an outline of parenting advice from KidsHealth.org, one of the health-information sites recommended by the Partnership. Not too much different from the poem:

  • Nurture your child’s self-esteem
  • Catch kids being good
  • Set limits and be consistent with your discipline
  • Make time for your kids
  • Be a good role model
  • Make communication a priority
  • Be flexible and willing to adjust your parenting style
  • Show that your love is unconditional
  • Know your own needs and limitations as a parent 


Two of our highly recommended health-related websites have excellent articles about parenting teens:

  • A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Teen Years
  • Parenting Skills: Tips for Raising Teens


Join Us on Facebook!