Honoring Those Who Protected Our Children’s Future
“Children Learn What They Live”: A Memorial


As we memorialize and honor the men and women on Memorial Day who protected our nation for our children’s future, there is also the name of a woman and her work well worth adding to the list.

Dorothy Law Nolte may not be a household name, but for parents across the nation her poem — “Children Learn What They Live” – has long been a child-rearing mantra. You may even remember it pasted up on your own refrigerator or hanging in your kitchen while you were growing up.

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

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.

The battle and battle grounds have moved into our cities and daily lives. We all need our children to be loved, live with peace and encouragement.

Please forward this article to loved ones.

Mrs. Nolte passed away from cancer on November 6, 2005, at the age of 81. She wrote the poem on deadline for The Torrance Herald newspaper in 1954, to fill her weekly family advice column. Little did she know, the poem was photocopied and circulated among families for years–often attributed to “Anonymous” as the author source.

It wasn’t until nearly 20 years later in 1972 that Mrs. Nolte finally copyrighted her work. It was this year that a baby nutrition company distributed millions of copies of the poem to new parents, and Mrs. Nolte discovered here poem’s great appeal.

“I simply wrote it and put it out there, where it has apparently moved through the world on its own momentum,” Mrs. Nolte is reported as saying.

A Poem That Touched Generations

Today, “Children Learn What They Live” has been reprinted in 30 languages. It is a favorite of Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan, who plans to raise his own family with its advice.

Dorothy Law Nolte

In 1998, Mrs. Nolte wrote a book based on the poem titled “Children Learn What They Live.” This is the first time she earned anything for the much-revered piece. Each chapter of the book — which has more than 3 million copies in print worldwide and has been reprinted in 18 languages — is devoted to a line of the poem.

“The book gave her ownership of her own poem and philosophy, and it gave her a platform,” said co-author Rachel Harris.

Mrs. Nolte also wrote a similar book for teens, titled “Teenagers Learn What They Live,” in 2002.

Throughout her life Mrs. Nolte was involved with family work and children. She was trained as a family counselor, held parenting classes, founded a preschool and was a childbirth-education instructor. She had two daughters, two sons, eight grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild of her own.

Generations later, parents still praise Mrs. Nolte’s advice about raising children.

The poem that has touched so many lives around the world was also cherished in Mrs. Nolte’s own home.

“She did a wonderful job as a mother,” her daughter said. “She truly tried to live up to what the poem says.”

    1. Thucydides: “The secret of Happiness is Freedom, and the secret of Freedom, Courage.”
    2. John F. Kennedy: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
    3. Robin Hayes: “Memorial Day this year is especially important as we are reminded almost daily of the great sacrifices that the men and women of the Armed Services make to defend our way of life.”
    4. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: “Heroism is latent in every human soul. However humble or unknown, they (the veterans) have renounced what are accounted pleasures and cheerfully undertaken all self-denials; privations, toils, dangers, sufferings, sicknesses, mutilations, life-long hurts and losses, death itself ? For some great good, dimly seen but dearly held.”
    5. Martin Luther: “Peace is more important than all justice; and peace was not made for the sake of justice, but justice for the sake of peace.”
    6. John Lennon: “When we say ‘War is over if you want it,’ we mean that if everyone demanded peace instead of another TV set, we’d have peace.”
    7. Socrates: “The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.”
    8. Ronald Reagan: “If we love our country, we should also love our countrymen.”
    9. George Washington: “Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”
    10. George William Curtis: “A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers and woods, it is a principle and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.”
    11. Artistotle: “You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.”
    12. John F. Kennedy: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
    13. Christopher Reeve: “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strenght to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
    14. Winston Churchill: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
    15. Benjamin Franklin: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
God Bless the Men and Women Who Dedicated Their Lives to Our Children’s Freedom

Now it is up to us to secure our children’s future by the environment we provide to enrich their lives!

  1. Abraham Lincoln: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
  2. Harriet Tubman: “I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.”
  3. Plato: “Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty.”
  4. Debi Mazer: “A hero is somebody who is selfless, who is generous in spirit, who just tries to give back as much as possible and help people. A hero to me is someone who saves people and who really deeply cares.”
  5. Ricky Martin: “Heroes represent the best of ourselves, respecting that we are human beings. A hero can be anyone from Gandhi to your classroom teacher, anyone who can show courage when faced with a problem. A hero is someone who is willing to help others in his or her best capacity.”
  6. Mahatma Gandhi: “To deprive a man of his natural liberty and to deny to him the ordinary amenities of life is worse then starving the body; it is starvation of the soul, the dweller in the body.”
  7. Dwight D. Eisenhower: “There is nothing wrong with America that the faith, love of freedom, intelligence, and energy of her citizens can not cure.”
  8. Bob Marley: “Better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life.”
  9. Thomas Bailey Aldrich: “With the tears a Land hath shed. Their graves should ever be green.”
  10. Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “And each man stand with his face in the light of his own drawn sword. Ready to do what a hero can.”
  11. Thomas William Parsons: “On thy grave the rain shall fall from the eyes of a mighty nation!”
  12. Daniel Webster: “Although no sculptured marble should rise to their memory, nor engraved stone bear record of their deeds, yet will their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored.”
  13. Arthur Ashe: “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
  14. Henry Ward Beecher: “Are they dead that yet speak louder than we can speak, and a more universal language? Are they dead that yet act? Are they dead that yet move upon society and inspire the people with nobler motives and more heroic patriotism?”
  15. Novalis: “A hero is one who knows how to hang on one minute longer.”
  16. Calvin Coolidge: “Heroism is not only in the man, but in the occasion.”
  17. Carol Lynn Pearson: “Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves.”
  18. Dorothy Law Nolte: “Children Learn What They Live”



San Fracisco Chronicle

The Indianapolis Star