Originally published on Motherly.
by Colleen Temple
I am not kidding when I say that when I’m in a rough situation, that cute familiar little tiger voice starts playing a situationally appropriate song in my head and guess what? Not only do I listen to it — I also start singing along with it.
These songs are catchy and honestly have been helpful for me in tricky parenting situations. But not just for me, also for my kiddos.
And despite the questionable things that go on in Daniel Tiger — like, why does Miss. Elaina force her friends to be so formal with her? And why doesn’t Daniel wear pants? — it still is a show we love watching together. Just like how I loved watching Mister Rogers with my family when I was a girl.
Plus, studies tell me I don’t have to feel as guilty for this screen time because Daniel and his friends will teach my kiddos empathy and compassion.
So, if you see me on the playground dealing with a child who doesn’t want to leave by softly singing to myself, “When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath... and count to four!” join in, will ya?
Here are a few other lessons I’d like to thank that cuddly little pantsless tiger for.
1. How to calm down
“Give a squeeze, nice and slow... take a deep breath, let it go.”
Sometimes, we just need a reminder to stop the madness around us and take a minute to breathe — to refocus and gather ourselves. Sometimes this means I need to walk into another room when my children are having a moment, so I can collect myself and keep my cool. When I remember to do this, it pretty much always works — for them and for me.
2. How to sit with sadness
“It’’s okay to feel sad sometimes. Little by little you’ll feel better again.”
To me, Teacher Harriet kills it on this one. Sadness is a big feeling that our kiddos are going to experience. (Which makes me need to sing this song to myself just picturing my children sad.)
And of course, my kids have seen me sad before too. We’re all humans, and we’re going to get that piece of bad news that guts us, we’re going to have our hearts broken, we’re going to come face-to-face with disappointment, but little by little, day by day—we’ll pick ourselves back up again.
3. How to communicate effectively
“Use your words... use your words!”
Okay, Daniel Tiger fan or not, what parent doesn’t say ,“Use your words, please” 300 times a day? I know I do. But when you sing it, guys... it’s even better.
I hope I’m teaching my children to talk to me and to communicate with the people around them with words — instead of say, their hands, like they can do with each other when they’re frustrated (there’s also a frustrated song to sing, natch.)
Honestly, sometimes they just need a little reminder to talk it out.
4. How to celebrate differences
“In some ways we are different, but in so many ways we are the same.”
Teacher Harriet, at it again. I love singing this with my girls because they (especially my 3.5 year old) are at the age where they’re starting to notice how some people look different from them, sound different, wear different clothes, etc.
And I, as the adult they look to, am always trying to convey that yes — not everyone is the same on the outside, that’s correct. But, we all are inherently good humans whose hearts are filled with love and kindness — and we should all be treated as such. And plus, being different is often what makes us so awesome.
5. How to embrace new experiences
“When we do something new, let’s talk about what we’ll do!”
Doing new things can still be scary for me. I’m shy and get nervous in situations I’ve never been in before or with people I don’t know well. So I’m reminded that duh — my children are going to feel this way sometimes, too, and that it’s always good to have a quick chat about something that is brand new to them before it happens. I mean — who doesn’t like a heads up? Mommy Tiger must, because she nailed this one. (#MomminHard.)
6. How to take care of your responsibilities
“Clothes on, eat breakfast, brush teeth, put on shoes and off to school!”
We have sung this song so. many. times in our house it’s unreal. I can seriously fill in for any character on Daniel Tiger if they need a stand in.
We’re often rushing around in the morning and this song has saved me from yelling or losing my cool many, many times. And somehow it actually gets my kiddo to get dressed and ready for the day. (It doesn’t always happen seamlessly, BUT, it definitely helps so I’ll count it as a win.)
7. How to clean up after yourself
“Clean up, pick up, put away, clean up every day!”
Scene from my house.
Me: “Okay, honey, it’s time to eat dinner so let’s clean up these blocks.”
Daughter: “No thanks.”
Me: “Please? I’d like some help and it would be great if you were my big helper.”
Daughter: “But you can do it, Mom.”
Me: “You know what Daniel Tiger always says — clean up, pick up, put away!”
Then she continues singing the song and starts putting the blocks away. These lyrics are like magic fairy dust, I’m telling you.
8. How to potty train
“When you have to go potty, STOP and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way.”
This episode was so helpful when we were potty training my daughter. She already liked Daniel Tiger, so she had a connection with him, and when she saw him trying out the potty — she wanted to, too. She’s been potty trained for a while now, but lately doesn’t want to be bothered with flushing or washing... so, we’ve resurrected the song and put it back in the ol’ rotation to assist with that.
9. How to share
“You can take a turn, and then I’ll get it back.”
This has been a popular one in our family, too. Sharing is so hard to teach and so hard to ask little ones to do, I often don’t even push it with them. I feel like little toddlers aren’t quite ready to fully understand the concept of sharing so I don’t like forcing them to.
However, once my daughter got to be a certain age and she and her cousin would fight over every toy they could lay their eyes on—I figured this could be a good one to become familiar with. I’ve heard her sing it to her cousin a few times — and it’s really, really cute. (Much cuter than hearing them argue.)
10. How to say sorry
“Saying ‘I’m sorry’ is the first step, then how can I help?”
I say sorry to my kids whenever I snap or do something that hurts their feelings. I think it’s important to show them I’m human and I’m going to make mistakes — but that I love them more than anything and want to make it right. So, I love that this little ditty isn’t just about saying ‘sorry,’ it’s about taking that next step and asking if that person is okay, or what you can do to help them feel better.
Often children are forced into saying ‘sorry’ to someone and don’t even fully understand why they’re saying it or maybe don’t feel ready to say if but they’re being told to—so they do it. This one is *hopefully* teaching them that it’s not just about apologizing, it’s about being okay with admitting you were wrong and asking what steps you can take to make it right.
Guys. I’m obviously a DT super fan, but can you blame me? The Tigers are doing something right and I’m just happy to be their protégé. I can’t wait until Baby Margaret can contribute to the parenting conversation — she’s going to do big things!
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