THE BLOG
02/20/2018 16:55 EST | Updated 03/12/2018 12:56 EDT

'Daniel Tiger's Neighbourhood' Is The Best Parenting Manual Out There

The show, based on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, has perfectly presented values and advice.

Twitter/danieltigertv

It was a last-ditch effort.

All the book reading, block building and "Sesame Street" screenings hadn't taken, and I needed something, anything, to calm my screaming toddler down. I flipped the channel, and onscreen popped a cartoon tiger named Daniel singing about sharing toys and giving them back.

It worked instantly. My kid sat down and I breathed a sigh of relief. And then I hummed along. And then I found myself singing the song to him two days later as he stole a toy from his cousin — and then gave it back.

I was hooked.

Twitter/danieltigertv

"Daniel Tiger's Neighbourhood," for the uninitiated, is a show that airs on CBC in Canada and PBS in the U.S., and can link its heritage directly to "Mister Rogers' Neighbourhood," the classic show that's celebrating its 50th anniversary this week.

Almost any North American kid from the 1960s to the '90s was familiar with Fred Rogers, his red cardigan and running shoes, and his comforting welcome into the world that emphasized, first and foremost, understanding it.

'Mister Rogers' was direct and honest and treated kids like people instead of infants.

"Mister Rogers" was direct and honest and treated kids like people instead of infants, which seems to be exactly why the Fred Rogers Company decided to create this animated version for the next generation, using Rogers' Daniel Striped Tiger as inspiration.

So it checks a lot of boxes, like imparting great lessons, presenting a fairly diverse cast, and showcasing characters that modern-day parents knew and loved as children. Why hello, King Friday.

Reuters Photographer / Reuters
Fred Rogers is shown in this undated publicity photograph with his character "King Friday."

(Though explaining the idea of a monarchy to a three-year-old was not the most productive parenting conversation I've ever had: "They just have all the power, buddy, and it's been that way forever.")

But probably the aspect that makes me evangelical about the show is less how much my kid (now kids) enjoy it, and more how much it's helped me become a better parent.

One of the first times my husband and I went out for the night, and my son was able to understand what was happening, he had a hard time letting us go. Where did I turn? "Grown-ups come back."

(In the U.S. and can't see the video above? Check it out on PBS' YouTube channel here.)

And potty training? "If you have to go potty, stop and go right away" prevented more accidents in my house than I choose to think about.

(In the U.S. and can't see the video above? Check it out on PBS' YouTube channel here.)

Is this simplistic? Oh yes. Juvenile? Maybe. But here's the thing. Parents today are busy. They don't necessarily have the time or inclination to read full-on manuals on coaxing their kids through the average but very important issues that crop up every day.

But do we have the time to sit down with our kids and watch a 15-minute episode teaching them to take a deep breath and count to four when they're mad? Definitely — and you can bet my kid threw that right back at me when I yelled at him to get his boots on faster the next morning. (He was right. And it served me right.)

Parents today are busy. They don't necessarily have the time or inclination to read full-on manuals for parenting their kids.

Somehow, while imparting lessons to preschoolers, Daniel Tiger manages to pinpoint the exact problems parents come up against constantly.

It feels like the exact idea Fred Rogers was hoping to impart when he changed his career path from Presbyterian minister to children's educator — specifically on TV — in the 1950s. He wanted to instill in people a sense of worth and agency and community.

And if that doesn't sound like an instruction manual for good parenting, or even just being a good human being, I can't imagine what is.

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