COLUMN: Children learn what they live

Published 8:10 pm Monday, August 1, 2022

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By Chris Quilpa

Child-rearing and parenting are a big responsibility for parents and guardians. Although the two are synonymous, they play an important part in the lives of children who are the future next generation.

Child-rearing is the work of taking care of and raising, nurturing and training children until they are old enough to take care of themselves. It is the process whereby parents teach their children the rules of the society in which they live, so that they are prepared for an autonomous life. 

In psychology, child-rearing is a pattern of raising children that is specific to a particular society, subculture, family or a period in cultural history. Practices of child-rearing vary from place to place or from country to country, especially in such areas as methods of discipline, expression of affection, and degree of permissiveness.

Child-rearing in the Philippines, where I was born and raised, is different from here in the United States. Extended family members and relatives share responsibilities in the rearing or raising of young children. At an early age, children take on responsibility, doing household chores, like washing dishes, cleaning their room. helping in cooking, doing errands like buying something in a “sari-sari” store (convenient store in the community). Older children are expected to help in house chores and look after their younger siblings. Moreover, Filipino parents love to carry their children in their arms and they also co-sleep, especially when they’re babies. Filipino mothers breastfeed their babies and they extend breastfeeding, too.  

Parenting is the process of raising children and providing them with protection and care to ensure their healthy development into adulthood. There are different types, styles or ways of parenting, depending on where you live or reside, such as permissive, authoritative, neglectful or authoritarian (used in child psychology based on the work of Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist and Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin, Stanford researchers.)

How many of you are familiar or have heard of the statement “Children learn what they live?” Did you know that the statement was actually the title of a now classic and universally loved poem in 1954, written by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D., an American writer and family counselor, lifelong teacher and lecturer on family life education. 

I was fortunate to have purchased and read her book, “Children Learn What They Live:(Parenting to Inspire Values) with Rachel Harris, Ph.D., a psychotherapist, her co-author and fellow teaching associates for over two decades.  

How I wished to have read her book when I was still a student, teacher and before I became a father to my two children Andrew and Christine! Anyway, it’s not too late to learn and acquire knowledge, even if you think you’re done with school. Education is from womb to tomb, they say. It’s true. For as long as you’re alive and you’re able and capable to learn every day, you’re well enough to know what’s going on around your world. 

With what I have read and learned, as always, I try my best to share it with all who desire to learn. After all, sharing is giving, caring and loving. 

With apology to Dorothy Law Nolte, here’s the 1954 classic poem, “Children Learn What They Live”:

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn./ If children learn 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 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.

Lots of truism and values to learn from the Dorothy Law Nolte classic. She did great in presenting and weaving her thoughts with all the conditions and situations she had laid out in her poem.

We, parents, teachers and educators, can learn from and apply what the poem clearly wishes to convey. Good parenting, good family values, good education, good guide to family. Hers is truly an inspiration worth knowing to heart.

There are lots of issues in the poem that relate to good living, good education, and good human relationships, especially child-rearing and parenting.

May we be inspired and put into action all the virtues and values that the Dorothy Law Nolte classic advocates and adheres to. Our society will be much better and civil, and our world a safer, more inclusive, peaceful place for all humankind!

Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk and Chesapeake. Email him at