Daniel Tiger’s Leadership School

How many seconds would it take you to remember this Mr. Rogers Neighborhood theme song if blind folded? For young and old alike Mr. Roger’s neighborhood theme song instantaneously causes your inner child to merrily sing along to . The catchy melody, the gently crescendo of xylophones, the “it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” the rhythmic “ba-bum-bumm, ba-bum-bumm.” And now the song is stuck in your head. You’re welcome!

Today the same life lessons that Mister Rogers instilled in past generations, from 1968 to 2001 (over 890 episodes!), are being retold by Daniel Tiger; a lovable, kind and warm tiger who learns valuable life lessons. From sharing, to anger, to keeping oneself busy when bored, Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood is a valuable educator for children to learn how to handle life. Using fun songs and practical application, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood invites viewers to participate in the process. The life lessons are not new or novel concepts, but a return to the basics of human interaction with self and others.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a 20 minute, two-part, episode. Two stories and one life application song per episode. There are no deep, abstract or philosophically challenging lessons. Returning to the core of kindness is the goal for creating better neighbors and better neighborhoods. It is a wonder to see children grasp Daniel Tiger’s concepts in real life, but what happens when parents, who are often the teacher, become the student of Daniel Tiger?

Too often I find myself handing out prescriptions for my children to take in order to be more gentle, kind, thankful and loving while I miss the life lessons I should be reinforcing in my life. I believe that Daniel Tiger is a great educator for children and adults alike, as families navigate life together. What would be very interesting is how Daniel Tiger’s Leadership School might be presented in the business world.

Back to the Basics

Coach John Wooden led UCLA to 10 NCAA men’s basketball championships in 12 years. Each year he began the season the same as the last, beginning with the basics. The first practice of every season started with “how to correctly put on your socks and tie your shoes.” To the incoming Freshmen, this lesson was ridiculous and an insult, but the upper class-men didn’t fight the process. What they knew was if your socks or shoes become loose or undone while the game is being played, then the team is down a man and playing 4 on 5.

Here are a few lesson’s I’m learning from Daniel Tiger’s Leadership school that are taking me back to the basics. These are the “socks and shoes” lessons currently in life. The skills my children are learning are one’s that are immensely valuable still today for me as a man, husband, father, neighbor and employee. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, won’t you join me!

3 Life Lesson’s from Daniel Tiger’s Leadership School

Find a way to play together

Today’s social climate is tough. I feel pulled in many directions about how to handle engaging people. One tug is to stand up for what I believe no matter what. Another pull is toward kindness and compassion and listening. A third pull, that I believe we all feel and fear but rarely acknowledge, is to abandon one’s own convictions to be a part of a group. Whenever polar opposites are available as a choice, choose option C. In order to fully learn this part of being human I must become more empathetic towards others. This can only happen by laying down my arms and listening. It can be hard when my ego crops up and says, “YEAH BUT!”

If you truly want to be a part of healing the world you must learn to play well with others. This doesn’t mean allowing the pendulum of tolerance to swing so far one way you lose your convictions, but neither does it mean that your ideals are force-fed to others. Playing well together means fully accepting yourself and fully accepting someone else. We’re all broken, marred,  and scarred. We all need each other. So find a way to play together.

everyone’s job is important

Pride has an ugly way of making itself known in our relationships. My sweet daughter is a blossoming artist and is so full of creativity. Yet when her brother comes and draws alongside her a competition ensues. This competition wasn’t announced, and there are no judges or prizes available. The winner is self-declared with a tone of haughtiness and disdain, “My picture is better!” Via, we love you and you are wonder of a gift from God. This just isn’t a competition.

In a world where everyone’s job is important people don’t look down on blue-collar tradesmen. Do you know how panicked and frustrated you become at 2 a.m. when your furnace is broken and it’s -8*F outside? The moment I think that I’m more important or valuable or prized than another person is the moment that I’ve elevated myself to the role of a deity. I’m flawed enough to know I’m no “god on high.” Still, I find ways inside to see other’s errors but not my own. I proclaim, in my own broken way, “My picture is better!”

The truth is that we all need each other to do the job we have. Leading well requires that we show proper appreciation and support of all job types and all relationships we have. What an opportunity we have to grow in our worldview simply by having a diverse cross-section of relationships in the world.

Thank you day

My favorite part of raising children is teaching them manners. You know what I’m talking about. Please, Thank you, You’re welcome. These seemingly basic relationship skills are so easy to forget! I’m not sure it’s working or not, but my practice for instilling gratefulness is the “try again” method. It looks a little like this. My kid’s ask for juice – and if it’s a normal day a “Please” may or may not happen. I return with a glass of juice to accompany their “once-a-day” 20 minute show. The moment I set it down I give a moment for them to respond. If no “Thank you” happens, I pick up the juice and set it down in front of them again. Maybe I’m crazy – maybe forced gratitude isn’t gratitude – and maybe we’re all just trying our best and I’ll find a better way soon.

What is funny about my kid’s ability to forget to say “Thank you” after I have picked up and re-given the juice three or four times is that I fall into the same forgetfulness. Gratefulness has a short memory, or so they say. After 32 years of life, I still have to remind myself to say “Thank you” to my server for refilling my glass (even if they do it 30 times in a meal). I need to constantly check myself internally when my wife brings a meal to our table, to be sure I’m looking at her and thanking her verbally. I’m a bit on the overboard side when it comes to thankfulness. So much so that, when I was a kid, I would write out thank you notes Christmas night, to be sure they got into the mail as soon as possible. If I had been a bit more quirky, I would have shaken my gifts – wrote the thank you note a week before Christmas – and my distant relatives would have thought I had ESP.

We lead by learning

In life right now I have found immense joy in learning the same lessons as my children. We don’t need the next new leadership book or conference to take our leadership skills to the next level. Being fully present and mindful about even the basics in life will naturally take us to the next level in our ability to lead. Where have you unexpectedly found yourself learning leadership lessons?

“Would you be mine, won’t you be mine – Won’t you be my neighbor!”

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