Monday, November 3, 2008

Children Learn What They Live by Dorothy Law Nolte Ph.D.

Children Learn What They Live

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.
--Dorothy Law Nolte Ph.D.

I first remember reading this quote (I'm not sure the author quite meant it as a poem) on the attic stairs in our white house in Michigan. Rationally, I'm not certain that it was actually there -- it's more likely that I saw it on a poster in some classroom I was in -- but I do remember thinking about it there. It's odd that I have such a sense of place with this poem, and not with so many others. If it was in Michigan, that means I was less than ten years old. It really made an impression on me for some reason. I really believe that the world our children grow up in makes a difference in how they grow up, which is why this election and the Prop 8 campaign have been so important to me.

With all the election stuff, it's been a few weeks since I wrote about what Elizabeth is doing. After a particularly bad hour or two spent arguing in somebody's comment thread, I was physically ill for a hours, and have been getting flashes of intrusive thoughts accompanied by nausea for days, so I've declared that subject off limits for discussion (though I'm still willing to do things like hang fliers on doorknobs and call to remind supporters to vote). At any rate, that gives me permission to blog about the baby, so here we go.

She has been ahead of schedule (according to What to Expect in the First Year) on all of her gross motor skills, but she has only been on schedule or even slightly behind on communication, and that had me slightly worried (only very slightly, since I know that there is a wide range of normal, and she's been working so hard at locomotion). For example, she hasn't seemed to pay any attention at all to the baby signs I've been using, which some babies start at eight months, and she hasn't been imitating sounds or gestures like sticking out a tongue. When we went to the doctor for her nine month checkup, and she couldn't do some of the things the doctor asked about, like clapping her hands or feeding herself with a spoon, I realized, too, that I simply haven't been practicing some things with her.

It made me really happy therefore to see her start waving hello to people and things this month. I've been waving her hand when strangers or friends come to smile at her (and get a winning smile in return most times), and now she doesn't wait for me to do it for her. She waves at all sorts of other things too -- her reflection in the mirror, the kitties we see on our walks, and even the chorister at church (who she thought was just waving at her).

She has also started saying Mama. She realized that this sound is one that Mama really likes, and she's using it more and more often. At this point, I don't think she uses the word to label me specifically so much as, "Oh look, there's something I really really want!" She uses it when I walk in or out of a room and she wants to be picked up, but she also uses it when she sees something cool like my hair clips or phone, and they're out of reach. That said, I can deal with being the really cool thing that she wants most often.

One extremely cute thing that I have unfortunately not been able to catch on camera is Elizabeth's little trill. She's discovered a way of making a little trilling gurgling noise, and has added it to her vocal repertoire as an accentuating noise when she's very happy, very upset, or very tired. It's the same sort of sound as you get when you rrrrroll yourrrr Rrrrrr's for a long time, but it's made in the back of her throat rather than with the tip of her tongue.

She seems very focused on sound lately. She has two toy xylophone pianos that she hasn't been very interested in playing herself, but liked to hear me play. When putting her toys away the other day, I put the tiger piano on the upper shelf to keep her from dumping out the box of hats behind it when she pulls up on the shelf to stand. The next time she did it, the piano was at the perfect level to bang on while standing. She tried it, and was very impressed with herself. She'd hit a key, hear the note, smile, and look expectantly at me. I showered on praise appropriately, and she did it over and over, thrilled with having figured it out.

One of her favorite noise games is to take a ball from the big house toy and knock it against something to make a noise. She tries it on walls, boxes, bookcases, a ball in her other hand, etc. One of the cutest things she does is to knock it on the side of the bowl on her play table like she's cracking an egg. Then she'll put the ball in the bowl and roll it with her fingers to make another noise until it pops out of the bowl and goes rolling across the floor. Then she'll go find it and try again.

She's also gotten more elaborate in her play with the Strawberry Shortcake Jewelry Music Box. At first, she just liked to watch me open it to make the music play and the little figure dance. Then she learned to open it herself when I shut it again. Now, she takes full control, opening and shutting -- seeing just how far it has to go to make the music stop and start. She also imitates what I say for the game: "Ooooh! There's the pretty girl dancing. Isn't she pretty?" She can't say any of the words but Ooooh! but she gets the pitch and tone of voice just right. Finally, rather than just taking the valentines and little doll out to try to eat them, now she turns them over in her hands, looks at them very carefully, then puts them back in the box!

It's only been in the last week or so that she has begin to figure out how to put things in to other things. She's really good at taking things out -- she takes the Fisher Price little people out of their bus, she takes the plastic shapes out of the sorting cube, she takes the rings off the stacking toy, and she takes the Valentines out of the music box. This week, though, she has started putting stuff back in -- so far it's just the puts the balls in the bowl and the valentines back into the music box, but she's so pleased with these accomplishments, that I'm sure further generalizations are on the way.

One old thing I haven't blogged about is her fondness for photos. All of her favorite books have photos rather than drawings, and most of them are about babies. The Baby Signs board books are really great, but she has one about colors, and another about dogs that really fascinate her far more than drawings do. Of course her favorite photos are of herself. I put one of the Queen Elizabeth pictures on my computer desktop, and whenever I close a program and show that background, she starts making happy noises. She loves to look at the Picasa slide show, and will watch as many videos of herself as I choose to show her -- even protesting when one stops and another doesn't start quickly enough. It's not just the movement, she is only selectively interested in YouTube videos for example, I think she really likes watching herself. When she's tired, sad or groggy just before or after a nap, it also calms her down to look at the month by month photo collage on her wall, and the charcoal portrait I had done of myself when I was in Leningrad.

While this book doesn't have photos, it's one of her favorites. I think she has realized that reading a book is a kind of game with rules that she's starting to figure out. She will sit very still while I read most books, and help me turn the pages. Sometimes she picks up a book and tries to open it herself, and is very pleased when I notice and read it to her. She has also figured out how to open the little hiding panels that are in some board books, and likes this added interactive part.

On the walking front, she is a positive expert now at pulling up, standing unsupported so that she can have both hands free for toys, and walking along edges. I've only ever seen her take one little step, and that was just to fix her balance while standing (10-20-08 if anybody's keeping track). I sometimes hold her hands and we walk together a long way, like from my bedroom down the hall to the office. We got her a Step Start Walk N Ride toy and she's figured out how to walk behind it as she pushes it ahead of her. It's a little tricky -- the first couple of times she pushed it forward too quickly and fell on her face (though she just got right back up and tried again, so it must not have hurt too much).

Peter was surprised at the way she often kneels and sits on her heels rather than sitting with her feet in front of her. I'm not sure if that's unusual, or if most babies do it, but it certainly seems to work well for her. In the last day or two she's begun to use this position to do a happy bounce when she's particularly pleased with herself. For instance yesterday at church, she got her friend Ari's rattle, and held it triumphantly above her head like a trophy and bounce bounce bounced so hard that she tipped over backwards and bumped her head (she was a little wired from lack of naps with the time change). I'm a little worried about her habit of taking Ari's toys. Elizabeth is three months older, and big for her age, and she simply knocks Ari down, and steals whatever it is that she has. I've resigned myself to the fact that the two of them share so much spit from sucking on each other's toys that they're destined to have all the same germs and colds , but I don't want Elizabeth to learn that she can get what she wants by bullying other kids.

Finally, I wanted to talk about what Elizabeth does while eating, since Heather reminded me by writing on her blog all about what Anna does. Elizabeth has always been pretty good at communicating hungry, though specific "words" have come and gone. There was rooting when I touched her mouth, a specific pitiful little cough, an urgent MMMMMMMMmmmm MMMmmmmmm with a pleading look, and a relieved nervous laugh as I open my shirt. She's often very patient while I'm doing something else, but at the first sign of a shift in activity, she'll demand to be fed right now.

She will feed herself cereal puffs and other bite sized bits I put in front of her, but she prefers to have me put things in her mouth for her and will often lean forward and slurp something out of my hand rather than taking it in her own (now that I've noticed this, I've been careful to make her do it herself most of the time). She absolutely refuses to hold her own bottle unless she's laying down though. She has noticed that when Mama holds it, stuff comes out, and when she holds it all the juice sits at the bottom and she gets nothing out. Rather than learn to tilt the bottle up, she has decided that the best course of action is to get her hands as far away from it as possible and cry till Mama holds it for her. The only time I give her bottles is in the car when she's too tired hungry and cranky to just watch the world go by, and at church, and neither place is appropriate for a power struggle over the issue, so I've just been giving in (I know I need to take the time to teach her at home, but it's hard to take the time to feed myself real food, let alone get out bottles and baby food and make a big mess when nursing is so much easier).

Speaking of nursing, she's getting much more willing to at least start nursing in places other than her bedroom. Of course, she gets distracted and will nurse only in fits and starts if at all, but it's better than it was before. When in her bedroom, she sits on my lap and watches impatiently while I get all those pesky layers of cloth out of the way, then leans forward, grabs a hunk of breast in her fist, and latches on without even waiting to get into a comfortable position. She is remarkably good at holding tight while I shift her to her side, position her feet, and grab a blanket or toy for her to hold while she nurses. Heather says Anna will rub a blanket between her fingers, but that's not Elizabeth's way. The only thing she likes to rub is a pinch of my skin. She does like to have a blanket, but she just grabs a handfull of it and pushes and pulls the cloth around while she eats. If she was holding a particularly fascinating toy while waiting, she'll keep hold of it and hold it in front of her face to keep looking at it while nursing. I think that, like me, she can focus on a mindless task better if she's doing something else with her hands and eyes. Sometimes, she gets so interested in whatever it is that she's playing with that she'll stop eating and put the other thing in her mouth for a moment to try it out, but then she'll realize that it's not nearly as nice as what she had in there before and go back to nursing.

When she's done, she's very clear about it. She'll physically push me away and sit herself up. If she's tired at this point, she'll lean even farther forward and grab onto her crib like she's trying to climb in. In these lucky moments, I'll put her in bed, give her one blanket to hold and snuggle with, cover her up with another, pop her favorite pacifier in her mouth (MAM brand), and pull one of the music box stuffed animals attached to the rail. Then I'll turn on the fan for some white noise so that my puttering around the house won't wake her, turn out the light (I have blackout curtains on the windows so it's nice and dark in there) and close the door. If I'm really lucky, she won't even make a peep as she drifts off to dreamland.


  1. Cara's kids all know/knew sign language since they were infants. Cara and Jacob used to sign for the deaf ward in their area. A couple of weeks ago, Cara was very ill, no voice whatsoever. So she remembered signing. Only the 2 littlest ones were home and Cara needed some water. She signed water. The littlest smiled and she knew he knew that she was signing but he did not remember what the sign was for. so he goes to get his next oldest bro. The scene repeats...and the results were the same. So Cara dragged herself off the couch and got her own water...determined to reactivate the signing.

  2. This is a wonderful post. I remember "Children Learn What They Live" from back when we first joined the church in 1967. Several friends had it hanging in their homes, and I think we got one also.

    You have no worries about Elizabeth and language. Babies do different things at different times, and can't learn everything at once. She obviously has been developing full speed ahead in many areas. She's even starting to sing! One day soon when she's a little less busy doing other things, she will suddenly have a few new words and then a few more. When that happens it might be fun to keep a piece of paper on the fridge so you can jot them down as they come. It will be good baby book fodder.

    Well, thanks for the post. It was SO fun catching up on everything.

    Love, Kathey