This is a wonderful, insightful post from our friends at Kindness.org. who graciously let us repost their original content. Enjoy.
My daughter was watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood without blinking. Perhaps at the exact same time, your daughter or son was watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood too.
To say that the PBS children’s show is a toddler phenomenon is an understatement. Our children are obsessed.
At this particular moment when my daughter was transfixed, staring at the screen in her saggy diaper, her curls matted from sleep, with her binky close at hand, Daniel Tiger took out a piece of paper and wrote a kind note to someone he loved.
She turned to me in utter shock. “Mommy! Mommy! I want to write one!” she exclaimed, in her little raspy voice with its mix of funny syllables. She wanted to do that thing that Daniel was doing. She wanted to be kind.
“Should we pick someone special? Who is special to you? Who is kind?” I asked.
She looked out the window. I opened my mouth to explain, but before I could give her my best handed-down, adult description of kindness, she surprised me by answering, “Miranda is very special to me. She is very loving to me.” What we think they do not understand, they understand.
We wrote the note together, and she was so proud. Something turned on in that moment for her, making it a stand-out moment in her life. A moment of change.
To say that Miranda, our regular sitter, was also touched by the note is an understatement. These are the most profound moments of all our lives—when someone is kind to us, and we feel acutely loved.
The Kindness Ambassador
Mr. Rogers was a singular ambassador of the art of kindness, and to know that my daughter is also touched by his legacy is exhilarating. Daniel Tiger was first known to us as a puppet on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. He is said to be the avatar of Fred Rogers. All of the puppets were considered avatars, but Daniel Tiger was closest to Fred Rogers’ full self. His ever-kind soul.
My own childhood landscape was so affected by Mr. Rogers. I remember waiting for the sound of the red trolley to take me to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. The sensory memory is palpable; audible. I can still feel its magic.
A Red Trolley Leading to a Kinder World
When I watched my daughter write a kind note just like Daniel Tiger, I was struck that kindness is a practice. And that the true teaching of Fred Rogers was to keep going with kindness, as he reminded us over and over by modeling it on his program.
We must be reminded about how to do it, and why. If we can make kindness part of the conversation with our children, we will knit it into the fabric of who they are, while reminding ourselves about how it lives in us as parents. What is kindness? What is it now? How do we do it? How can we choose kindness?
Kindness is a theme that continues throughout all of our lives. Allowing our children to have multiple, nuanced definitions about what kindness means to them is a strong foundation for how they can positively think about the world.
When Daniel Tiger inspired Harley to pick a special person to share kindness with, he helped her practice the courage kindness requires. Thank you, Daniel Tiger.
Kindness is both the making of a happier world and its reflection. A red trolley that takes us not to a neighborhood of make-believe, but to a kinder reality.
-The NwP Team
Photo: “Daniel Striped Tiger” as seen in a display of artifacts from “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” (2006), by Greg Dunlap via Wikimedia Commons