May 27, 2018

Kids in the Canyon: Apples and Trees


Kids in the Canyon: Apples and Trees

There is a well-known saying that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” and as parents and educators, we often reflect on the implications of this saying.

From an educator’s perspective, we often reflect on this when we are getting to know our students, creating a classroom culture and fostering the feeling of community within our classroom.

The desire to create a positive learning environment motivates teachers to help our students learn to function as a cohesive group, working together, learning and playing together. Our students, however, do not always come to us with equal backgrounds or prior learning experiences. They have not all learned the same behavior standards, and so, there is a period of the blending of all of our students into a group of individuals forming the class as a whole entity.

Often we are faced with challenges working with our students and we turn to their first teachers, their parents, for a greater understanding. We find that during these meetings, or through parent-teacher conferences, we gain insight into how our children spent their early learning years and how they spend their time at home and in doing so, we learn about the whole child.

As parents, we also have a learning curve when parenting, as each child is unique, and siblings can be very different from each other. We spend time getting to know our babies, toddlers and young children, learning their nuances, instilling our family beliefs, and teaching them to navigate the world. As our children grow, they are a reflection of not only our teachings, but of the subtle messages they pick up while watching the adults around them.

In the 1970’s the poem, “Children Learn What They Live” (Dorothy Law Nolte), brought this concept to the forefront and parents and educators have been referring to it ever since.

The first part of the poem powerfully points out the negative influences children can live with and the consequences on the behavior of children.

Children who grow up with criticism, hostility, fear, pity, ridicule, jealousy and shame, reflect this back by growing into people who condemn, fight, are apprehensive, feel sorry for themselves, feel shy and guilty.

The second part of the poem offers hope and a positive alternative. We can raise our children with encouragement, tolerance, praise, acceptance, approval, recognition, sharing, honesty, fairness, kindness, security and friendliness.

When we provide these positive models, we raise children who learn confidence, patience, appreciation, to love, who like themselves, that it is good to have a goal, generosity, truthfulness, justice, to respect others, to have faith in those around them and that the world is a nice place to live.

As parents and educators, we are the role models for our children and students and our children inherit the qualities we possess. Reflecting on this encourages us to ask, “what are we projecting and how are we raising our children? What characteristics do we emulate that our children and students acquire?”

It is not enough for us to blindly go about our lives, entrenched in routines and patterns that perhaps we inherited from our own parents and teachers, without at least pondering the ramifications of passing these qualities on to the next generation.

As parents, we have the most control over our children and at the earliest age. When our children are young, they believe that everything we say and do is the right thing, or at the least, “the way it is.” It is only later, as they reach the challenging teen years, that they go out into the bigger world and see other choices; when children realize there are alternatives.

As parents we are impacted by our own histories of how and where we were raised and of the cultural norms of our time.

We might have to learn to look beyond that upbringing and rethink some of the ideas we are planting in our children in order to offer opportunities for different consequences.

As educators, we might have been trained in a certain way of teaching or have experienced as students, an educational career that impacted our vision of who we are as teachers. Sometimes it is difficult to let go of this prior experience and to admit that it might not be in the best interest of our students.

The most challenging part of raising and educating children is becoming aware of the subliminal messages we send to children.

That is, looking within to discover the motivation behind our message and taking time to understand the huge impact our messages, intentional and unintentional, can have on children.

Apples don’t fall far from the tree and knowing that, we can be more conscious of our role and our impact in the lives of our children.

For questions or comments, please send e-mail at, with “Ask Amy” in the subject line. I would love both feedback and questions.