12/14 A child learns

Waves 2

I first read Dorothy Nolte’s poem in the 1970s. I can’t say it better than this.

(For those who speak the language of gender, please note that she later changed the wording to make it gender neutral – ‘child’ to ‘children’. I have kept to the original because that’s how I first learnt it but I acknowledge the difference).

Children (male and female) Learn What They Live

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 shame,

he learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with encouragement,

he learns to be confident.

If a child lives with tolerance,

he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with praise,

he learns to be appreciated.

If a child lives with acceptance,

he learns to love.

If a child lives with approval,

he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with recognition,

he learns that it is good to have a goal.

If a child lives with sharing,

he learns about generosity.

If a child lives with honesty and fairness,

he learns what truth and justice are.

If a child lives with security,

he learns that the world is a nice place in which to live.

If you live with serenity,

your child will live with peace of mind.

With what is your child living?

Dorothy Law Nolte


Do I have to spell it out?

If children live with suspicion, fear, grief, mean-spiritedness and vindictiveness, what are they learning?

If children live with understanding, respect and trust, what are they learning?

The world is full of the former. They get all the headlines.

The world is also full of the latter. But you have to work harder to see it.


Although it can be read as a single post, the above is part of a series that illustrates one of the author’s current interests, taken from a locker full of interests, at a major waypoint in his life. The series sets out as a comment on retirement before focusing around language. He wonders whether he himself has the language to cope as he steps out into the wider world popularly known as ‘retirement’ – an irreversible step into a world that he has previously only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye, a world in which he thinks the word ‘retirement’ to be a misnomer. He has used the medium of the blog to paint the picture. The irony is that, whereas writing about it does allow him to reflect, sitting alone at a computer actually distances him from the face-to-face interaction he is describing.

Wave on shore -Teignmouth 2006