Last weekend, my husband and I enjoyed a respite from the heat at our local movie theater and took a little trip down memory lane with Won’t You Be My Neighbor? This wonderful film highlighting the work and legacy of Fred Rogers is a must-see, whether you grew up watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood or not.
But the documentary is not just full of nostalgia. There’s much to be gleaned, and for me, the biggest one happened to be a brilliant parenting trick I’ve already started using.
While the film itself is not meant to give advice on how to parent your kids, I couldn’t help but be drawn to Mr. Rogers’ use of silence with children. His ability to pause, and wait for responses for kids, or even just allow there to be quiet spaces within activities and conversations really struck me as profound.
It’s not something new to me; I learned a lot about this technique as a music therapist. But it’s something I’ve often forgotten to do with my kids — and I think many of us have, especially in this fast-moving digital age.
The idea is really quite simple: when you ask your child a question, just wait. Listen. Give them space. Even if they answer fairly quickly, give them a little more time.
What Mr. Rogers discovered was that in those moments during which he was not talking, kids share the most amazing things. They often just need the time, space, and freedom to be able to do so.
Granted, this is not necessarily as easy as it sounds, particularly in our home where there are four kids trying to get my attention (often at once). But I have noticed in the few days since I’ve seen the movie and I’ve been around my kids, I’ve had fewer attention-seeking behaviors — because the kids can see that they truly do have my attention.
Just that one parenting trick alone made Won’t You Be My Neighbor worth seeing. But even if you’re not a parent, I bet you’ll appreciate the breath of positivity that this movie brings to this world, especially now, when it feels like we need that more than ever.
Find out where you can see a screening of Won’t You Be My Neighbor in your city.
Image: Focus Features