Lessons from the Neighborhood

Lessons from the Neighborhood, by Mister Rogers

If you are a parent today, chances are you grew up with Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I watched those episodes with my son and we would quote to each other, “Correct as usual, King Friday.” I recently saw a documentary in the theater called, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” It was all about Fred Rogers’ life, his deep life-long caring for children that went beyond the neighborhood that we saw on television. His programs addressed issues for children that were too complicated and too emotional for parents to mention: things like divorce, death, disabilities, bullies, segregation, racism, and discrimination. He even had a special program that talked about the attacks on 9/11 in words and descriptions that children could understand. His lessons started 50 years ago but are still fresh and meaningful to children and to parents today

I thought in honor of his legacy I would republish a few of his quotes that are important for parents to remember, in good times and in bad ones.

  • When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’*  Scary news can be overwhelming to children and we try to protect them from too much negative information, but sometimes we cannot. Remembering this helps give children focus away from the bad and toward the positive.
  • Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. Having so much scheduled, being so very busy and on the go leaves little time for the work of childhood – play. Make sure as a parent you leave unstructured time for this serious learning.
  • You can’t really love someone else unless you really love yourself first.  Everyone deserves love – from others and yourself. If you are not taking care of yourself (loving yourself), it is easy to get overwhelmed, and then not be the best parent you can be. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.
  • Compassion is your most valuable [parenting] tool. Listening with kindness and empathy gives your children the message that they are important. They will learn to be compassionate by imitating you.
  • Your child is perfect, just the way they are. Acceptance is vital to child’s sense of selfworth and self-esteem. To love is a verb: “to love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” Finally, I will leave you with Fred Rogers’ thoughts on success – something we all want for our children as parents. “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. Third way is to be kind.”

*Quotes are from The World According to Mister Rogers – Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers. 2003 Family Communications, Inc.


Dr. Susan Carter is a play therapist and child and family psychologist in Kalamazoo, MI.