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This Dad Discovered An Amazing Parenting Cheat Code Thanks To Mr. Rogers

“It’s like magic.”

This dad began to embody the demeanor and mannerisms of legendary kids show host, Mr. Fred Rogers, a...
@wholeparent / TikTok, Fotos International/Archive Photos/Getty Images

One dad on TikTok wanted to put some science to the test after reading an interesting study about screen time and kids. Parenting educator Jon Fogel (@wholeparent) noted in his now-viral TikTok that when he began to embody the demeanor and mannerisms of legendary kids show host Mr. Fred Rogers, he noticed that his kids were calmer and more well-mannered, just as the study suggested.

“I recently came across this study about the effects of TV on kids, and specifically the effects of Mr. Rogers on kids, and how kids who watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, for whatever reason, seemed to be more patient, more calm, just more, like, emotionally attuned,” he began.

He noted that his kids are waking up around 5:30 a.m. every morning and “bouncing off the walls.” He wanted to try a new tactic to see if he could create a calmer morning atmosphere.

“I am just going to act. I’m going to pretend to be Mr. Rogers. I’m going to speak like Mr. Rogers, like super slow-paced ... I’m just going to be Mr. Rogers in the morning and see what happens to my kids,” he said.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a slow-paced, calming, and educational PBS program. Hosted by Fred Rogers during the show’s run from 1968 to 2001, the preschool program was a cultural phenomenon that took a different approach to child education with calming voices and real-life glimpses into careers, other countries, and everyday people.

According to Fogel, channeling national treasure Fred Rogers worked like a charm.

“I kid you not. My kids were usually bouncing off the walls in the morning. They were, like, usually tearing up the house and, like, going crazy. They were just, like, sitting with me, calmly and patiently playing Lego. And all it took was me just acting like Mr. Rogers. I was just, like, calm and slow and just asking questions,” he explained.

“These children were just sitting around in a circle, attentively attuned to my every word. It’s like magic,” he said after doing an impression of Mr. Roger’s calming and serene voice.

After Fogel’s video went viral, several users agreed that they just don’t make kid’s television like they used to, praising Mister Rogers for being such a standout kids’ show. Others pointed out that Fred Rogers’ rules for talking to kids should be implemented by all parents.

“Maybe Mr rogers doesn’t move slow, the world has just been speeding up around him too much,” one user said.

“The impact being calm and respectful toward tiny humans is amazing. They’re spongy mirrors. They absorb our energy and reflect it back at us,” another noted.

“Calm and slow, open and non-judgmental, you invite them to share their thoughts with you, they’re happy that you’re listening and paying attention to them,” another said.

Fogel tells Scary Mommy that he’s gotten his kids to sit down and watch actual episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and it’s been a hit! When watching the program, he and his wife noticed a difference.

“We’ve tried out Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on both my older 7-year-old and my younger 2- and 3-year-old. It definitely holds the younger kids’ attention much better than my 7-year-old, but he’s also been conditioned to watch faster-paced shows. It’s amazing, though, especially with my 2-year-old, how ‘locked-in’ he gets.

“Kids absolutely get conditioned to the pace of media they watch. Cocomelon and other ‘fast cut’ shows, condition kids to expect that level of pace. Similarly, if you limit your kid’s exposure to shows like ‘the neighborhood,’ they’ll become conditioned to that pace,” he says.

Since instilling the new “parenting cheat code,” Fogel still brings his Fred Rogers impression out every now and then.

“I actually utilize this ‘hack’ regularly. I use this not only in my own parenting but in working with kids who aren’t my kids. It works incredibly well in many circumstances due to children’s tendency to engage unconsciously in ‘limbic resonance’ or ‘mood matching,’” he explains.

Mood matching is basically when you’re a hot mess, your kid is going to be a hot mess and vice versa.

Fogel continues, “The other aspect is that most of our communication with kids at ‘adult speeds’ tends to outpace their cognitive development. When we slow down to ‘mind-numbing’ Fred Rogers speeds, the result is that we actually communicate at a pace that can hold their attention rather than overwhelming them.”

Fogel wants parents to know that an experiment like this really just shows how much kids mirror the important adults in their lives. They observe our energy and then, usually, they match it — for better or for worse.

“As I talk about a lot in my upcoming parenting book, observational learning is one of, if not the main, way kids learn. If we approach kids slowly and deliberately, validating their inner world with compassion, empathy, and curiosity, then they will mirror that back to us,” he says.

“If we instead approach them at the breakneck pace of our modern world, they will mirror that. It’s no wonder kids today seem to have an obsession with screens and being constantly stimulated and entertained... so are most adults.”