The Holy Grail of Parenting
You know those people that feel a tad bit guilty when their child watches tv? We don’t. Not even the tiniest bit. Wanna know our trick? We may have both
strongly gently guided our children into LOVING the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood show. I’d like to say that I have a bit of experience with children from my years of teaching and this is by far the best show on my radar. If you and your toddler haven’t watched Daniel Tiger yet, you need to drop everything and watch it right now! Sadly it isn’t on Netflix yet sooooo I have just about every single episode recorded on our PVR (much to my husband’s horror)! Some perks from the show include: parenting strategies for parents, kid-friendly emotional control tips that ACTUALLY work, moral lessons, lessons about community, family lessons, lessons about routine and life events and a boat load of songs to get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. In fact, the music and catchy sayings (ugga mugga, grrr-iffic, tigey-tastic etc.) make the show so loved by kids. Amy and I both tend to put a semi-strict limit on how much technology our kids get in a day. On average, both of our kids watch one show so we make sure that show is worth it!
So one may ask why we called Daniel Tiger the Holy Grail of Parenting? Basically it boils down to all of the adults in the show being the epitome of what we should be striving towards as parents. They are #parentgoals. They are the super heroes of the parenting world. Catch my drift? They display exceptional patience, empathy and redirection while still setting expectations and consequences. The show gets bonus points for helping teach kids about sharing, how to handle and deal with angry/silly/sad/scared feelings, potty training, night time fears, separation fears, daily routine, learning patience, dealing with a new sibling in many different ways and so on. There are SO many lessons for kids and parents to learn.
Yes, yes we know that we are suggesting that you use a cartoon to help build some positive parenting strategies but in fact, this show is based off of “extensive input from a wide range of early learning specialists, formative research with children and the benefit of more than 40 years of the work of Fred Rogers”. Science also backs our statement up. This study found that children who watched 10 specific episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood over a two-week period and talked about the show with their parents displayed higher levels of empathy, self-confidence, and emotional awareness than children who watched a nature show instead. It all adds up to an amazingly powerful tool for kids and parents (and teachers)! Trust us, we wouldn’t use the term “Holy Grail” lightly.
Real Life in our Homes
Like most three year olds, Mister Easton tends to have a little bit of a temper when he is tired. In the midst of a massive tantrum, the song “When I’m so mad I want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four! 1,2,3,4” will ACTUALLY break through the tantrum fog. It is terrific! I will usually have to sing it a couple times for him to where he is able to listen and communicate with me again. Once he is at that stage we are able to talk about a better way to deal with his angry/sad emotions and he is much more responsive. The tantrum is diffused just like that!
Another big plus to watching Daniel Tiger is that it cues ME to focus on emotional intelligence. I remember just a couple months ago, being so surprised that Easton could communicate that he was sad/angry/happy/excited/bored/anxious etc. and also explain why! Lately, he has been doing the whole “Mommy, you hurt my feelings when you ____”. Jaw drop. A three year old! Am I the only one that thinks this is bonkers? When I was teaching, there were numerous 8 year olds that still had troubles communicating and/or perceiving emotions (like mini Sheldons from Big Bang Theory to give you a visual). So now that my child has the emotional intelligence of a superstar, we have to talk about feelings and emotions all day while my husband jokingly mutters “Damn Daniel Tiger” under his breath.
Everyday I use Daniel Tiger as a learning tool (as well as a way for me to have quiet time to get lunch ready). The day home kiddos love the songs from the show and they tend to sing them throughout the day. Then one day, it dawned on me: Mom Tiger is basically super mom and I need to use more music as a way to reinforce and model great behaviour. So I jumped in feet first at lunch time and haven’t looked back. On this particular day, one of my lovely kiddos was becoming impatient with me and wanted their meal before all of the other children. Instead of reacting to the behaviour, I sang! Shut the front door, because I am a terrible singer (maybe that is why it worked). I sang “be patient, be patient, wait your turn. I’m patient, I’m patient, I wait my turn”. The lovely kiddo stopped and repeated the song, it was as if we were on the set of Daniel Tiger. Now I know you may be mocking me in your head, trust me, I still cringe sometimes when I use songs as a behaviour tool. However, I think the reason it was so effective was because it was different. I don’t use songs as a tool very often, the song was catchy and easy to repeat, and it also had a clear message. Months later, this child will still sing this song as a reminder to be patient without me prompting.
We swear that every time we catch bits and pieces of the show, we learn a new parenting strategy to add to our mental bank or are reminded how to keep our own cool in stressful situations aka every day with a toddler…
Top Parenting Lessons and Strategies From the Show
Empathy and Understanding
Try to put yourself in these tiny humans’ little shoes. This seemingly little problem to us is a big problem for them. Imagine you are doing something you LOVE and then all of a sudden some bossy lady comes in and tells you to clean up all of your fun toys right away because guess what else!? It’s bed time! I know what I would do… I find that there are a lot of adults that expect their child to have more regulation and emotional control than even they have. If you find yourself losing your patience and getting grumpy because you’re tired or hangry….imagine what this feels like for a 2 year old that does not have the same brain function/development and not nearly the same emotional control as you do. Obviously, we still need to be stern with our expectations but understanding and acknowledging where they are coming from and letting them know that we empathize with their big feelings will go a long ways.
Tiger Mom and Tiger Dad are the best at staying calm and diffusing situations without breaking a sweat. These little kiddos are learning hundreds of things EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. and sometimes all of the talking and questions may tend to drive us a little nuts! Patience is key. These little humans are experimenting and testing boundaries because, for the most part, they don’t know any better. They are learning. Take each upset and crazy moment and try to view it as a teaching and training opportunity. Personally, when I am having troubles being patient, I know that I need to try to take a break and fill my own cup back up so that I am able to be patient again.
Responding not Reacting
Oh my. This is so important. Sometimes toddlers are not very nice. They do things and we think “Who is this child?!?” You feel like you have to nip it in the bud or you are just so exhausted from continuously repeating so you react quickly. Then all of a sudden this little moment turns into a big battle and everyone, including yourself, is emotional. What I have had to do lately is tell myself “This is just a small season of life. He is letting me know that he needs help dealing with this emotion. He is not going to do this forever.” For example, Easton tends to be a little whiny especially when he is getting tired. We ask him to talk in a big boy voice. We tell him we will only listen when he talks with a big boy voice. AND THEN he decides to whine again for the millionth time. I lose my cool with him. Now… does he stop whining? NO! I reacted instead of responded making this little moment into a meltdown. He is sad. I’m sad and feeling regretful. Mom Tiger definitely doesn’t growl very often and for good reasons…we all know it never actually helps.
This is also a big one that I’ve seen a fair bit while watching the show. For the most part, Daniel Tiger parents’ don’t tend to ask again and again when they want a certain behaviour. Little Daniel Tiger tends to be a pretty good listener so they get off easy on that end but this strategy does make me think about how my Hubby and I originally agreed on a parenting method early on in pregnancy. We decided that if our child wasn’t listening, we would try our best to ask one more time while explaining a realistic and logical consequence and then follow through if they do not listen again. We also don’t do the ultimate countdown for Easton other than “let’s see if you can get your snow pants on before I get to 5” positive counting. The theory is to teach them how to listen the first time and not the third time or tenth time etc. You read that right…first time! I know, these are lofty dreams but a mom can only hope!
Here is an example of how this would happen “Could you please be gentle with your toys on the table?” Your child ignores you. Make sure to get eye contact. “Please be gentle with your toys on the table or I will need to take them away from you” Child bangs again. This is where you take toys. “I can see that you are very sad that your toys were taken away. You can have these toys back when I think you are ready to try again. I have seen you be very gentle with your toys so I know that you can do it!” (Don’t you all love reading this type of dialogue-it sounds so monotone but try to make it a bit more upbeat when you’re trying it out with your toddler). Your child is probably crying but you have asked, you explained the consequence and now you have to follow through while retaining your patience and your empathy. Oh parenting is so hard sometimes!
So obviously my husband and I are not perfect. We strive to do this but we fail all the time! Sometimes, it is just so inconvenient to discipline. Sometimes, you are truly trying to avoid a meltdown. Sometimes you are distracted and things get a little crazy. Sometimes, you are so exhausted that you just give in and try to choose your battles. Honestly though, we love this discipline method and when we are both using it consistently, we notice a huge difference in our parenting as well as Easton’s daily behaviour.
It Takes a Village
For most of us parenting is a lot more up, down and zig-zagged compared to a make-believe cartoon. Some days we have our stuff together and we are rockstar parents. Some days we start the day off tired and it is an uphill battle from there. It does always help to know that we are in this together and we are all just trying to raise our kids the best way we know how. It truly takes a village to raise a child. Nowadays there are SO many different parenting strategies being shared and this type of parenting may not be for everyone BUT I feel so strongly about positive parenting that I had to share my trick. It is a game-changer and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I find that it works and it works well. Make sure to comment with your Holy Grail of parenting strategies! I want to hear all these amazing ideas!