“I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you. I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you…” These were words Fred Rogers started singing back in 1968, every time he opened an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. And his audience member — mostly young children — longed to be his neighbors, too.
There was one key ingredient to being a good neighborhood in Mister Rogers’ book. Something that still holds true today. Kindness. Teaching children to embody kindness, well, that’s easy. Just look to the teachings of Mister Rogers.
Mister Rogers Lives On
Next month, the movie based on the true story of American’s best neighbor, Mister Rogers, will hit theaters across the country. The film, called A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, will star Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, the host of the children’s TV series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and will chronicle his time on the PBS hit show.
While Mister Rogers himself has long been off the air, his legacy lives on today through PBS’s spin-off series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. But in these days of social media — where young people are taught to focus on their looks and likes, and with influencers telling them what they should follow and buy — is it possible for kids to be the kind of good neighbors Mr. Rogers embodied?
For the folks at PBS, the answer is, “Yes!”
Teaching Your Child to Be a Good Neighbor
“It’s never too early for children to begin developing and practicing social-emotional skills, like playing well with peers, expressing their needs, paying attention and following directions,” says Lesli Rotenberg, chief programming executive and general manager, Children’s Media and Education with PBS, tells Parentology, “It’s one of the most important factors for kindergarten readiness.”
Research has shown children can begin identifying emotions as early as two-years-old. “At this age, they can begin to understand basic emotions such as happiness and sadness, so parents and caregivers can do things like point out how facial expressions, body language, and tone communicate feelings,” she says
This help kids better understand empathy, being in touch with the feelings and emotions of those around them. In turn, this knowledge teaches children how to respond in kind and caring ways.
Use Inclusive Language Around the Home
Children learn by example, so parents are setting the tone at home for how children interact with others, sometimes without even knowing it.
Rotenberg explains the importance of parents instilling a love of differences in children, something which will translate into inclusivity.
“Parents can do this by celebrating what makes us unique, sharing family stories and traditions, teaching your child the importance of empathy, and showing your child deserves role models.”
Don’t Forget Kindness
As for how parents can teach their children to be more inclusive, Rotenberg points back to Mister Rogers.
“I think Fred Rogers said it best: ‘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.’”
For 31 seasons, Mister Rogers’ message to television audiences was that kindness and compassion make all the difference.
Rotenberg says, “Reinforcing these social-emotional skills to help kids grow up to be good neighbors is something I think he would be proud of.”