If you grew up in the '80s, like I did, we probably had the same lovable, beloved neighbor — Mr. Rogers. Beyond his world of make-believe and story-telling, he taught me that I was special just the way I was. Now that I'm an adult and a parent,myself, I love sharing episodes of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood with my kids. I've also found that so many Mr. Rogers' quotes are perfect for parenting.
From simple truth bombs about kindness, love, and helping others, to messages about being yourself and learning to forgive yourself when you don't win or aren't "perfect" all of the time, Fred Rogers was amazing at translating the best parts of the human experience into words children could understand. And the show wasn't just for kids, either, but for their parents, too. On Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, he took us on adventures, teaching us not only about the world around us but about the person inside each and every one of us. No matter where Trolley took us, Rogers never stopped reminding us that our feelings were important and part of what made us who we were — someone he liked, no matter what.
It's so important that we, as parents, learn to let go of unreachable goals, love ourselves, and understand that it's OK to make mistakes. It's also important that we recognize that our kids aren't perfect either, but their imperfections don't keep them from being special. Rogers also taught us that it's important to play pretend, and we should definitely give our kids permission to use their imaginations every single day. Above all else, we should teach our kids to be kind — to others, to the people in their neighborhood, and to the world.
For more words of wisdom from Fred Rogers about being a good neighbor that might just make you a better parent, too, read on:
"Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness."
In his book, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember, Rogers teaches us that it's OK to feel sad, mad, or lonely. Those feelings don't make us weak, but actually showcased our courage and strength. This was an important lesson for me as a kid, and even more important now that I'm responsible for teaching my kids how to express themselves.
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say, 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then, there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
It takes a village to raise a child, grow a community, and keep our world more good than bad. Rogers saw all of us as potential superheroes in this regard.
“The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self."
Rogers tells us to be honest, with each other, yes, but also with ourselves. Authenticity is so important in life, especially when you are a parent and your kids can tell if you are not being real.
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"
Mr. Rogers gave us a constant reminder to look for those who are always willing to help in times of trouble, renewing our faith in humanity when it feels at its lowest.
"I'm proud of you for the times you came in second, or third, or fourth, but what you did was the best you have ever done."
You don't have to be best to be good. An important message for our kids and us parents, too.
"To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”
"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood."
Take time to play, and make sure your kids get some play time each and every day. It is, after all, their "job," according to Rogers.
"Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else."
Things like your baby turning 1, or your preschooler starting Kindergarten, can make it seem like your kids grow impossibly fast. Rogers knew that each age and stage had the potential to bring a new beginning.
"In the external scheme of things, shining moments are as brief as the twinkling of an eye, yet such twinklings are what eternity is made of — moments when we human beings can say, 'I love you,' 'I'm proud of you,' 'I forgive you,' 'I'm grateful for you.' That's what eternity is made of: invisible imperishable good stuff."
Parenthood is full of moments like these, and every parent should find ways to tell their kids things like these at least once a day.
"Mutual caring relationships require kindness and patience, tolerance, optimism, joy in the other's achievements, confidence in oneself, and the ability to give without undue thought of gain."
In The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember, Rogers basically tells us how to be a good parent. Parenting requires kindness, patience, confidence, and joy. Some days you give more than you knew you had in you.
"You can't really love someone else unless you really love yourself first."
Rogers' message is simple: you deserve love. If you don't love yourself, and take care of yourself, it's easy to burn out, and to not be the best parent you can be.
"Whether we're a preschooler or a young teen, a graduating college senior or a retired person, we human beings all want to know that we're acceptable, that our being alive somehow makes a difference in the lives of others."
As a parent, we are our child's world. We matter.
“Pretending doesn't require expensive toys.”
In You Are Special: Words of Wisdom for All Ages from a Beloved Neighbor, Rogers tells us that the best adventure often occurs in the land of make-believe.
"There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind."
Always be kind. Always.
"Being able to resolve conflicts peacefully is one of the greatest strengths we can give our children."
Instead of intervening, or fighting our kids' battles, it might be better to give them the skills they need to.manage conflict on their own. Considering that most adults haven't mastered this skill, Rogers is probably right.
"You're much more than your job description or your age or your income or your output."
Mr. Rogers likes you just the way you are. No matter your race, abilities, gender, the clothes you wear, or the job you have.
"Some days, doing the best we can may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn't perfect on any front-and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else."
There's no such thing as a perfect parent, or a perfect child for that matter. It's time we get over the idea that perfection is somehow attainable and cut ourselves, and our kids, some slack.