children learn what they live

From the Christian Parenting Corner

The Wisdom of Dorothy Nolte

Do you have a copy of the parenting poem on your refrigerator?

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 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.

Other variations include:

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with jealousy, he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns to justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.

Just who was Dorothy Nolte?

The author of this well known poem was unknown for many decades. Yet when she finally stepped forward, it became known that she was an Angelino born in the year 1924. In the 1950s she entered the field of family counseling. Surviving a divorce, a remarriage, and living as part of a blended family, Mrs. Nolte knew what she was talking about. In November of 2005 the world famous family counselor, childrearing lecturer, and grand dame of refrigerator poetry died, leaving a legacy that has affected millions, will continue to affect millions, and will be remembered for many more generations to come. There is perhaps no other poem that has ever had such a worldwide following among Christians, non-Christians, agnostics, and men and women of different cultures and nationalities across the globe. Neither age differences nor language barriers have caused anyone to disprove any of her tenets. The odds are good that there will never be a challenge to her poem.

How do you apply Mrs. Nolte’s wisdom?

Of course, it is one thing to have this beautiful poem hanging on your refrigerator door, but it is quite another to actually abide by its tenets. It is already obvious that none of these tenets can be disproved as being wrong, outdated, or simply inapplicable. Yet does your day stack up?

For example, are you rushing about, small children in tow, and with impatience and frustration order them hither and thither? Are your kids afraid of your scowl because they know it is the precursor to your losing your temper? Maybe you start so many different projects during a day – all of which rightfully should be begun and finished by themselves – only to suddenly take on the persona of a drill sergeant in an effort to keep all the balls which you threw into the air from falling to the ground.

Yet in doing so, are you criticizing your child’s failure to comply immediately? Are you being unfair by expecting that your toddler be showing the kind of maturity that becomes a first grader? Are you failing to praise her efforts to please you with a pretty picture when you are just trying to get out of the house? Is your child living without acceptance of his child-ness and without the security of being able to act his age? Is your fast paced lifestyle detrimental to your tolerance for a toddler’s idiosyncrasies and does jealousy of you – after all, if she were old enough to drive, she could just go to the playground whenever she wanted – mar her daydreams?

All of the above are traps so easily fallen into by adults across the globe, and many of them doubtlessly have the little poem Mrs. Nolte penned so long ago stuck to the refrigerator. Perhaps it is not enough to simply read poems such as these or display them on fridges. Instead, it may be worthwhile to attempt to live out each of the tenets each and every day. Start slow – pick one and go after it. Find that which in any given day may cause your child to feel treated unfairly and eradicate it. If you are not sure if your child feels treated unfairly, just ask! S/he will tell you.

Sylvia Cochran

Sylvia is a writer, born and raised in Germany. Having been exposed to a variety of religions and traditions due to travel and study, Sylvia has been a student of the Bible for more than ten years and has for the last four years taught in small groups about Biblical principles, practical Christianity, Christian parenting, as well as the spiritual use of money.

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