When my girls first started watching tv, it was a show I thought was cute… the first few times.
And then, the bright colors, loud sounds, obnoxious songs… I quickly became an un-fan. (Although watching them dance in delight during the Hot Dog Song stayed constant.)
I forget exactly when Daniel Tiger entered our lives – but it was such a breath of fresh air. I loved Daniel’s questioning nature, his imagination, his kind parents, his quirky and lovable friends. And of course, I loved how articulate he was. This, I thought, would be infinitely better for my twins to watch than zooming magical characters and tenuous, fantastical plot lines.
My instincts turned out to be right: a scientific study showed that watching this cuddly tiger explore his world helped preschoolers exhibit empathy, confidence, and awareness of others’ feelings. The kicker, the article quickly states, is that parents need to actively watch with their kids and relate the lessons both during the actual show-time and beyond.
So, I made a point to join my girls on the couch [or listen while I’m multi-tasking] and pay attention to what Daniel is up to in the Neighborhood of Make Believe.
I’ve since discovered that not only are these lessons fantastic for developing minds – they’re also pretty fantastic for me, as a mom.
6 Daniel Tiger Lessons that Have Made Me a Better Mom
(and if I’m honest, a better person)
“Use Your Words and Say How You Feel”
My husband and I are pretty non-confrontational people, so even when we can tell something is wrong with each other, we’ll put up little walls and say “I’m fine.” (I’m sure we’re not alone in this.) But one day a few months ago, my husband responded to my huffy and not-at-all-convincing “I’m fine” by singing the song. It made me laugh, and reminded me of the importance of expressing my feelings – no matter how silly. And just like in the Neighborhood of Make Believe, I did feel better after sharing how I felt.
“A Friend Just Wants to Play With You”
How true is this, mamas? Motherhood can be so isolating sometimes. We yearn for the days that we could quickly meet up for happy hour, easily plan a long girls weekend, or chat on the phone for hours, uninterrupted. Somewhere in the mix of pregnancy, newborn stage, nap schedules – all of that got harder. So days, weeks, months, and sure, sometimes years pass, and all of a sudden, it’s become a really big deal to meet up with our friends. We feel like it has to be the perfect weekend destination, the longest phone call, or the hottest new restaurant in town to make it count. But as Daniel reminds us – all of those things don’t really matter. It’s about the connection – not the wrappings.
“Take a Step Back and Ask for Help”
A victim to martyrdom? Guilty. I’ve realized though, that just because I could probably do it all, doesn’t mean I have to. Still, asking for help takes practice. (I find myself walking by food stockers at the grocery store multiple times before getting up the courage to ask where the pesto is, even though they are usually happy to help me.) But earlier this week at work, I realized I could teach myself how to do the Excel manipulations that were needed for a report – and stay late, spending even more time away from the girls – or I could ask a super talented data guru for help, acknowledge that I needed her expertise, and get the whole thing done way faster.
“It’s Okay to Feel Sad Sometimes”
This is just life. And it’s important to recognize that no matter how much we want to be happy constantly, it’s just not realistic. What I love about this song though is the line, “Little by little, you’ll feel better again…” It’s not a switch that goes on and off – sometimes it takes work or therapy to come around – but the light will come back.
“When Something Seems Bad, Turn it Around and Find Something Good”
Now, I admit that I don’t think I’d have it so easy if my twins’ birthday cake got smushed. I think I’d have way more tears than Dad Tiger had to deal with and even then, I don’t think they’d admit a smushed cake still tasted good. But… isn’t that the point? That in life, we are faced with bad, hard, sad moments – and it’s our choice of how we react to them. So, yes, maybe this is a little Pollyanna – but, researchers say the positive thinking builds skills, boosts health and improves work. Daniel seems to be right on about this one, too.
“You Can Choose to be Kind”
What a lovely sentiment this is. Just at its heart: “Let your love shine, You can choose to be kind.” At the end of the day, at the end of my life: this is the person I want to be, the life I want to have lived. A life of kindness. And this little ditty sums it up perfectly: it’s a choice I have, each and every day.
So – the next time you’re hearing “ugga mugga” for the umpteenth time, think about how these tiny little life lessons could help your kids – and you.