Children learn what they live

Ann Swanson

A few weeks ago, I focused on the importance of dairy industry to our family. I told of all of the hard work that it took to produce the milk. I told of how my children learned to take on responsibility.

There is a well-known poem that says that children learn what they live. That is very true. I grew up in town, but still had responsibilities. My mother depended on me to help my grandmother around the house. Grandma was not as young as she used to be. She needed more help. When the ulcer on her leg flared, the need was especially great. At that time Grandma spent a great deal of time with her leg elevated so she could not fix meals. She could not clean either. That became my job.

I have always been particularly careful with my ankles. I knew what Grandma went through. She had a large open sore that she applied a green salve to. It took quite a while to heal. My mother pitched in to help as well often doing the laundry at night after she came home from work. With Grandma out of commission, we all had to work together.

On the farm, it was the same way. Everyone had to work together. I think Grandpa liked to milk when the children were around. He was an awful tease. I think the children enjoyed his good-natured teasing. My children were very close to their grandparents – because they worked together. After milking they went into grandma’s for a snack and a visit.

I worked outside of the home for years so I relied on the children to help me as well. My daughter and I did the cleaning on Saturday. I let her choose the rooms she wanted to clean and I took the rest. That system worked well for us.

I did a lot of cooking over the weekend so that we would have leftovers for the next week. I often made soup or a casserole. A roast was often Sunday dinner so that meant more leftovers. I became quite good at disguising leftovers. Sometimes my daughter baked something for dessert. That was her contribution to the cooking process.

Now my children have had the chance to train their children. Of course, it takes two parents to do a good job. The children have benefitted from both of their parents. They have learned from each of them. As I watch the grandchildren I am reminded of the days when my children were young. I loved every stage of development with the children. Now I watch with interest as they navigate the duties of parenthood and adulthood. I am ever so proud of both of them. They learned well. They have given their children a set of values that will serve them well.

I include the poem that I mentioned for you to peruse.

Children Learn What They Live

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.

If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.

If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.

If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.

Read these again. Just maybe this is what is wrong with our world. We are too quick to judge and criticize our children. They are young and have a lot to learn. If they make mistakes, they must suffer the consequences. As parents we hope those consequences are not too harsh.

Look at the children that you know. How many children have a stable nurturing atmosphere in which the parent leads and guides them? Many children seem to be raising themselves today. The parents are out doing other things. They do not really want to be the disciplinarians. They want to be the child’s friend or else they want nothing to do with the raising process.

RAISING CHILDREN IS A FULL TIME JOB! It takes a lot of sacrifice to keep the family together. It takes a lot of patience to be the parent that listens and is there for support. Your job never ends – even adult children need advice and the support of someone who has been there.

As a teacher I felt that I could only do what I could to make the school atmosphere as pleasant as possible. Ultimately each of my students went home. The best I could hope was that their parents carried the ball from there. Parents are their children’s first teachers. They need to step up to the plate and be the strong people that the children need to develop a sound work ethic, a faith in the Lord, and a feeling of self-worth.

Children are the ultimate blank canvas. They learn what they live. Make that the best that you can to develop self-reliant children who will follow the rules and create a successful life.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at