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What are we teaching the children?

As I’m preparing to teach in Mugeta, Tanzania where the official language is Kiswahili, I’m thinking a lot about words. Having grown into an international language, Kiswahili is ranked among the top ten international languages in the world. Many colleges and universities in Canada offer Kiswahili Courses.

You probably already know these Kiswahili words: “Simba” from The Lion King means “lion”. “Safari” means a “trip or travel”. “Jenga”, the name of a popular block game, means “build”. “Siri” means “secret”. The Kiswahili alphabet is similar to English except it doesn’t have a “q” and instead of “c”, it has “ch”.

In Tanzania, English is the main language of commerce, administration, and higher education. Children who graduate from the Mugeta Children’s School have the opportunity to be trilingual. If they come to primary school speaking one of over 120 dialects, when they graduate they will be fluent in their dialect as well as in Kiswahili and English.

But language is about more than words. How we use words affect our whole society, especially our children.

In 1954, the poem Dorothy Law Nolte wrote called, “Children Learn What They Live” stated this:

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn. If children live with hostility, they learn to fight. If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy. 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 to be patient. If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate. If children live with acceptance, they learn to love. If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves. If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness. If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and others. If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.”

In 1998, by expanding this universally loved poem, Nolte, with psychotherapist Rachel Harris, wrote a book called, “Children Learn What They Live: Parenting to Inspires Values”. It became a New York Times bestseller.

According to one write-up, it “helps parents raise children with a compassionate, steady hand, and to give them the support and confidence they need to thrive. It reveals how parenting by example—by showing, not just telling—instills positive, true values in children that they will carry with them throughout their lives. Addressing issues of security, self-worth, tolerance, honesty, fear, respect, fairness, patience, and more, this book of rare common sense will help a new generation of parents find their own parenting wisdom and draw out their child’s immense inner resources.”

In 2002, the two authors wrote, "Teenagers Learn What They Live: Parenting to Inspire Integrity and Independence."

Children grow up to become the leaders in our world. Let’s help them become who God created them to be: loving, joyful, committed to peaceful interactions, patient, kind, faithful, exhibiting goodness, gentle, self-controlled, able to offer forgiveness and receive it. Let’s help the children, and in doing so, help ourselves and each other. Amen.

Please Note:

This article appeared in the July 3, 2023 Edition of the Springwater News (

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