By Holly Richardson

holly richardson author pic

My mom once gave me a little plaque that read “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” I was offended and gave it to Goodwill. Sorry, Mom. 


You see, I didn’t want to “be responsible” for other people’s happiness and while there is a lot of truth in that, perhaps a better way to look at it is “I’m not responsible for other adults’ emotions.” Kids, though, learn from the adults in their lives, including how to feel, express and manage their emotions.

Have you ever walked into a room and could feel the tension? “So thick you could cut it with a knife”, goes the saying. There’s a reason for that. Call it a vibe, or a tone, or an ambiance or a mood – whatever you call it, kids can feel it. And mama influences it. No pressure.

There’s a poem from the 1970s that really captures this idea, and while Dr. Nolte’s poem can’t possibly contain all the nuances of our world today, it’s a decent baseline. 

Children Learn What They Live

by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D. © 1972

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.

Kids also learn from moms who apologize, who ask for forgiveness and who try, try again. Kids learn from moms who take care of their own mental, physical and emotional needs. Kids learn from moms who have goals, who have passions, who play and who learn.

Turns out, my mom was right. I have had a large influence on the tone of our home and so do you.

What will you teach your kids today?


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