What I Learned From Mr. Rogers About Children and Gratitude
I recently went to see the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? the story of Mr. Rogers. I was brought to tears multiple times during the movie. Those tears, and the messages of Mr. Rogers, left me with some reflections about my own journey as a parent and my clinical work as a child and family therapist in Washington, DC.
- Children have complex internal emotional worlds that need to be respected in the same ways we respect adult emotions. Mr. Rogers understood that intuitively and gave children language and stories to help them make sense of those emotions. He used his puppets to help children understand their natural feelings of fear, anger, frustration and sadness. The way he honored the emotional worlds of children is something I strive to do in my work and parenting.
- Being you is enough to be loved is a tenet of Mr Rogers’ philosophy about children. In the movie he said “Love is the foundation of everything, and you deserve to love, be loved, and love yourself for exactly who you are”. What great advice for both children and adults! We are often pulled to push children to be something that they are not, this push can prevent them from loving themselves and often makes them feel unlovable.
- Find time for gratitude, just one minute or 10 seconds can do the trick. In a few of Mr. Rogers’ commencement speeches, he asked the audience to take one minute to imagine all the people in their lives that helped them get to graduation. He would hold the audience for a minute of gratitudinal silence and it had a profound effect. In the movie, people would try this minute of gratitude. You could see the involuntary reflection of love and peace in their faces when they pictured the supportive people in their lives. What if families did this gratitude exercise once a week? Let’s take 30 seconds to think of everyone who helped us this week to have fun, do homework, eat good food or to feel loved.
When we got home from the movie, we played a few of Mr. Rogers’ best songs. Here are the lyrics to the song my son liked the best. He asked us to play it repeatedly and a week later he started to spontaneously sing the lyrics with a huge smile on his face. I have to imagine he feels the meaning behind those words and it gives him a feeling that his emotional world is respected, that he deserves to love and be loved, and that it fills him with gratitude. I know it does for me. Try it for yourself at home.
It’s you I like,
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair–
But it’s you I like
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you–
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys–
They’re just beside you.
But it’s you I like–
Every part of you,
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself,
It’s you, it’s you I like.