Children Learn What They Live . . . and Children Live What They Learn

Years ago at a motivational seminar I attended, I was introduced to a poem reflecting the truth of the above title. Upon my return home, Sandy discovered it amongst my take-home materials.  We both really like it and believe that it reflects a great truth about humanity and this thing we call life. Sandy ordered a copy of it, framed it, and it now hangs in the house. I have thought about it quite a bit over the years as I have seen different people, as adults, doing exactly what they grew up seeing their parents do . . . regardless if it was good or bad.  Either title works . . . and they each pretty much say the same.

Since being introduced to the truth of this poem, I have often seen this truth played out in serious ways:

. . . Adult children of alcoholic parents, themselves as adults become alcoholics, in spite of having hated the addiction in their parent(s) . . . and its impact on their family . . .

. . . Individuals abused as children, oftentimes themselves become child-abusers as adults . . .

. . . Kids who grew up with loving parents, themselves became happy, loving adults . . .

But, I have also seen it played out in less serious and even comical ways, too.  One such example, occurred just last week within my own family and resulted in a delightful dinner conversation.  Let me explain.

Courtney had flown in to be with us during Sandy’s hospitalization last week in San Antonio. While we were there, our friends, Steve and Cindy Roland, invited us to join them for dinner . . . with Steve announcing that he was hungry for steak.  He suggested The Barn Door, and he and I both chuckled saying that neither of us had eaten there in over 20 years.  It was still right there on Fredericksburg Road, and everything was just as I remembered it.  After we were seated and had each placed our orders for dinner, Courtney told us just such a story . . . relative to ordering in a steak house.

She said, “My parents rarely left us with a sitter when we were kids, and they just took us to dinner with them. As far back as I can remember, I ordered off of the adult menu just as did my parents.”  She went on to say, “When we were in a steakhouse, my Dad always ordered a Rib-eye . . . medium rare . . . while my mom would order a Filet . . . well done!  I just grew up ordering a Rib-eye . . . medium rare, just like my Dad!  Several years later, as an adult, I was having dinner with a co-worker and we were dining in a steakhouse.  My friend ordered a filet . . . medium rare . . . and, while pretty shocked over her order, I still ordered my usual . . . Rib-eye . . . medium rare.  As we ate dinner, my friend questioned why I had ordered the Rib-eye and commented that she had watched me trim the fat and marbling away?  She said that it seemed to her that when I was done with the knife . . . she and I pretty much ended up with the same cut of meat, but mine had cost several dollars more.”  Courtney said she explained to her friend, “When I was a kid, I observed my Dad always ordering a Rib-eye . . . medium rare . . . while my mom ordered a filet . . . well done.  Each of my parents would give me bite of their steak . . . I loved my Dad’s, but didn’t like my mom’s”.

She chuckled and said, “I was an adult, and a professional before I realized that it was not the cut of meat that I disliked . . . but was rather the degree to which it was cooked! I actually had no clue that a filet could be cooked in any manner, just as a Rib- eye could be.” 

She concluded with the declaration . . . “Now, I always order a filet . . . like my mom, but I order it prepared medium rare . . . like my dad!  My discovery . . . It is not the cut of the meat . . . it is how it is prepared!”

I was amazed as I heard my sweet daughter tell this tale.  It never occurred to me that was what happened . . . or why!  It just seems to me . . . that, “Children Learn what they Live . . .

And “Children Live what they Learn” . . . indeed . . . and they do so, regardless of the right or wrong of it all!

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.



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