Children Learn What They Live, or Why Recovery?

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte


If children live with criticism,
They learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility,
They learn to fight.
If children live with ridicule,
They learn to be shy.
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 to be patient.
If children live with praise,
They learn to appreciate.
If children live with acceptance,
They learn to love.
If children live with approval,
They learn to like themselves.
If children live with honesty,
They learn truthfulness.
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.

Copyright © 1972/1975 by Dorothy Law Nolte


I grew up in a home of conflicts. Some days my mother was fantastic, loving, cheery, and helpful. But other days she was somebody else. She forgot conversations and reacted with rage and deep anger. Yelling could be heard frequently. My mother was not always a "bad" mother, but the inconsistency was there.

I learned to be a mostly "poor" mother. I learned to blame others first, not to apologize later. I learned to accuse irrationally. I learned to yell. I learned how to criticize. A lot.

And then I had children. Although I'd sworn I would never become my mother, I often saw myself doing the same things my mother had done to me. It terrified me. My first step in fixing these broken habits was to add apologies. When I yelled, I'd cry and beg my children for forgiveness. But I knew all too well what it felt like to be screamed at, and I realized that after the fact apologies were worthless to my children.

One of the biggest motivating factors for personal recovery is to be a better mother to my children than my own mother was to me. I want to parent out of love, with encouragement and support, not out of fear or inconsistency.

Although children learn what they live, I believe in the ability to change personally. I'm never going to be a perfect parent, but I don't have to make the same mistakes my mother made. I can make my very own!

Father, each day remind me of what it is like to be a child of God. Guide me as I raise my children, in patience, in grace, in love, in forgiveness, in kindness, in beauty and in purity. Make me the kind of parent that I would have wanted myself. In Jesus' name and with Your help, Amen.

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