“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.” Oscar Wilde (via Cathy Hewitt @EasyParenting on Twitter)Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about? I’m wondering why it is that we fail to see the obvious sometimes. For instance when I encountered the Wilde quote this time, my first thought was not as before, a smug, “ Oh how true!” No, this time I thought, “How could it be otherwise?” For the truth is that long before children begin to judge their parents, they learn the process of judging from the parents.
Most of us are familiar with Dorothy Law Nolte’s poem “Children Learn What They Live.” We may even have hung a copy over the crib of our first born…may have read it many times with a child nestled safely snug in the arms of love, both enveloped in a protective cloak of innocence. At such a time who could imagine criticizing such a perfect being? Who would ever conceive of being hostile, inciting fear, ridiculing, shaming this precious gift of love resting so trustingly in her arms? Who might even for a moment believe that one day the child in his arms would feel insecurity, know unfairness, experience hostility, learn of jealousy? And who gives so much as a passing thought to the possibility that the confusion, despair, pain and heartache of abuse or neglect will ever befall this beloved child?
Not being naïve the parent knows these happen to children but believes surely this child, his child, will be the exception…this child, her child, will be protected, will learn only of acceptance, encouragement, praise, kindness, fairness, friendliness, and every good thing from this loving parent. Too soon the perfect child is being scolded, disciplined, criticized by even the most well intended parent. No one is perfect. Children do not always behave as parents wish. Parents are busy, tired, distracted at times.
Perhaps, as wide trusting baby eyes swell with tears from confusion and fear the parent sees the suffering and is moved. Perhaps the parent feels the child’s pain and responds with comforting words and actions. Perhaps she remembers that poem…vows to be more patient, tolerant, less demanding…whatever it takes to be the teacher of what she wants the child to learn.
Too soon the child learns to cry alone…maybe ignored, teased, shamed or humiliated for his feelings but in any case no longer believing the world is such a nice place to live after all. He has been judged. She has seen loving eyes disappear behind a veil of indifference, mistrust, or condemnation. When the parent fails, as every human must, children learn… Soon, we hope, they will learn to forgive us for that…
A Child is Waiting,
Take care...be aware,
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.
Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte