Mr. Rogers Is Not Just for Children: Lessons in Parenting

Young happy mother and her daughter relaxing on sofa in the living room and watching TV.

Mr. Rogers Is Not Just for Children: Lessons in Parenting

Every day when I was little, my parents recorded Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on a VHS tape so I could watch the episode after school. Today, my son loves watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Turns out, Mr. Rogers is still speaking to me, and I believe he has been speaking to all of us all along.

Sure, I learn as much about parenting from watching Daniel Tiger as my son learns about being a child. That was surprising to me. But even more than that, Mr. Rogers instructs me how to be a person – a person who parents and loves people and wants to live meaningfully.

The following quotations ring in my ears these days. I want to continue soaking up the profound magic and lessons in parenting Mr. Rogers gave us and share his words with you, too.

1. “You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you, just the way you are.”

You are the only you, and you are remarkable. You are enough. So often we judge ourselves.

We define ourselves by one part of our identity. A mom who works outside or inside the home. Or a mom who juggles multiple children or one. A mom who parents independently or with a partner. Or we define ourselves by what we do. I got the laundry done today, so I’m a good mom. I have time to pick up napkins, but not to make cupcakes, so I’m a bad mom. Or we define ourselves by the actions of other people. My child was so polite. I’m a good mom. My child forgot her homework. I’m a bad mom.

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Mr. Rogers reminds us to suspend judgment and remember that we are humans, just like our children. Your presence alone makes each day special to your family. And Mr. Rogers likes you.

2. “Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”

To love is an action, and I can’t think of any action a human being does perfectly every time. Abby Wombach didn’t score every goal she shot. Celine Dion hasn’t hit every note. Jennifer Aniston doesn’t always choose box office hits. Mr. Rogers reminds us that the best we can do is set our intention, prepare, welcome what each moment brings, learn as we go, and repeat. That is the reality of love.

3. “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

They say it takes a village, referring to the needs of the children. Mamas need the village, too. When women share their honest, sometimes less than sexy, sometimes totally triumphant experiences with each other, all mamas benefit. Everyone feels less alone, and that makes for a healthy village.

4. “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”

Ignoring or hiding our struggles is like putting a cat in a bag. (With air holes. Because even in a metaphor we want to keep all cats safe!) Imagine it. That cat will claw its way out eventually, and it will be MAD.

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Acknowledging the hard stuff we feel or think or do, while scary, actually makes it easier to manage. And the sooner we acknowledge our struggles, the sooner we can deal with them, and the less intense they will become. All that’s to say, please ask for help when you need it. Maybe you journal. Maybe your partner or best friend listens really well. Perhaps you’d like an objective ear, and a therapist could provide that. Somehow, find a way to mention and manage what’s really going on.

You care best for others when you care well for yourself!

About the Author /

Elizabeth Hentschel, Ph.D. is a psychologist and founder of The Parenting Well. She specializes in working with individuals who are parents or parents-to-be. Elizabeth lives in Houston with her husband, two sons, and two puppies.

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