Daniel Tiger made me a better parent

Despite my earlier (pre-baby) insistence that screen time would be non-existent in my household, we’ve watched plenty of the ol’ tube. While don’t have cable or television service, we do have Amazon Prime hooked up to our Roku.

Roku realizes my childhood fantasy that I could have all my favorite show seasons on VHS and show them to my own kid per my own schedule and without them seeing any of the shows I deemed “stupid” (e.g. ‘Ren and Stimpy’) + no commercials. We’re living in a golden age. Also… was I an odd 4th grader for thinking like this?

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For the first year of my son’s, he has only watched Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. We use Daniel Tiger as our Echo Chamber. It provides a consistent, relatable way to help us communicate with our son through the Tumult of Two. Useful, educational, entertainment.

Emotional intelligence is one of the most useful skills in the modern workplace, and so this fit the bill perfectly.

Below is our favorite episodes–and you’ll hear us sing them in public.

It’s Almost Time to Stop

Season 3, Episode 8 “It’s time to go”

We use this song frequently–nearly daily, but at least every week. I occasionally have my son re-watch this episode just so it’s just not something mommy and appa say. It’s one of the few episodes purchased and downloaded onto a tablet for any road/plane trips.

In place of toys, we invested in memberships to science centers, zoos, children’s museums, and frequent our libraries–and while that’s been a great choice overall (nothing to cleanup), these places are full of well…toys and fun! As a result, this song is our most-sung.

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The Song 
Me: “It’s almost time to *STOP*–
Son: “No!”
Me: “…so choose one more thing to do”
Me: “What do you choose?”
Son [pause]: “I chooo….<train, excavator, ball…etc>!”
Me: “OK!!”
< Let him get to a stopping point, ~30 to 60 seconds>

Me: “That was fun, but now it’s done. It’s time to <go home, go to school, go inside.>”

While this song has not failed me yet, I’ll often preface it with a recount all the great fun we had and have to sing the last line again.

At his most stubborn it’s been a dedication of 5-7 minutes, but not having him throw a giant tantrum in public and come willingly in the end has been a worthwhile endeavor for both of us. I mentally dedicate 10 minutes to leaving into our time at a place.

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Update: I also use this in tandem with Dora the Explorer’s sing-song map locations “car ride, zoo, grocery store!” So when I ask him “where are we going?” and he’ll immediately tell me the next spot on our journey “‘grossy’ store!” (grocery). You’ll never be more excited to purchase produce in your life.

Clean up, Pick up, Put Away

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Season 3, Episode 2 “Clean Up Time”

This one is pretty self explanatory. My son sings it to himself, and initiates his own clean ups with this song. He’s sometimes told me to put away my shoes by singing this song at me and pointing to “mommy shoes.” I sometimes use this to push along leaving a location place with too many fun things by cleaning them up (books at the library, etc). I’ve seen him sing this at a friend and then tsk-tsk when his friend didn’t understand–eventually placing the toy in his friends hand at pointing at the box (his friend received a “good dob” and a hug when he completed said task).

The Song

Clean up, pick up, put away
Clean up everyday
Clean up, pick up, put away
Clean up everyday

Pick up your toys off the floor
And put them in your special drawer

cleanup

Stop, Think and Choose

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Season 2, Episode 5 “The Neighborhood Votes / The Class Votes”

“Stop, Think, and Choose” as an echo chamber with the techniques described in No Drama Discipline.

Basically, avoid Yes or No choices unless you are willing to hear “No” as the answer–and this is way easier said than done. You’ll realize how often you ask Yes/No questions while not actually wanting to ever hear “No” from the other person.

Kids hear “No” as an option because…well you provided it. As you are the example of clear communication, will you respect the choices and keep your word?

  • Leaving: “We are leaving. Do you want Crackers or Water? Stop, think, and choose.”
  • Bedtime: “Do you want to race me upstairs, or do you want me to carry you? Stop, think, and choose.”
  • Bedtime: “Do you want to take a shower first or read a book first? Stop, think, and choose.”

Basically, we HAVE to be okay with either of his choices and that means knowing the end goal up front. It gives my son some form of control without changing the overall end result. The reality is, he doesn’t have a choice–he has to go-to bed, we have to leave–but I can let him decide the order of events or snacks. He loves it.

My husband really struggles with this. He asks, “Do you want to go-to bed?” and… the completely cliché scene plays out. Our son–of course–says, “No!” My husband repeats the Yes/No question again, but now more angrily. My son doesn’t understand why now his dad is angry, and they both end up frustrated because, well, Person A is being disrespectful to Person B. Cut to my husband throwing a tantrum and physically hauling a small crying person into the bedroom. He then claims bedtime is too hard–and I claim he is smarter than a two-year-old. I believe in you and your linguistic prowess, dear husband.

choices

A better parent and partner

While we use quite a few other Daniel Tiger techniques, the Goodnight song (replacing “Daniel” with my son’s name), Quiet in the Library, Hoo hoo. Etc etc. those are the three we use *a lot*–daily or weekly.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood has helped both my husband and I become better communicators with each other and at work. While neither of us are emotionally un-intelligent, everyone has their unrefined points.

It’s helped us find a communication method with our son, and it has been mostly successful (…the “you gotta try new food” song proved a resounding failure…).

I’ve experienced precisely one toddler meltdown (so far) in public… and considering we frequent restaurants, airplanes, libraries, parks, and grocery stores with our opinionated toddler in tow we’ve had lots of opportunities to practice these principles and have theory flung back in our face in the form of reality. Thank you, for everything you do, Daniel Tiger.

UPDATE: Our kid is now SEVEN and I still get to claim precisely one public meltdown. Thank you, Daniel Tiger! I’ve flown this kid to India three times, walked through countless toy aisles, and left parties with friends. While we’ve abandoned the sing-song quality, the concepts are still there and going strong. My husband still struggles with ‘Yes/No’ but now I just say, “You gave ‘No’ as an option, try again in 10 minutes.” …he’s improving.

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