Amanda's Adventures

{March 14, 2015}   Making It Real Again

I grew up watching Mr. Rogers like so many people. The show is fully integrated into my child identity. I remember the Land of Make-Believe and that almost every lesson had to do with being honest with yourself and others, even though it can be hard sometimes. Through television, Fred Rogers told generations of children that they are worthy of love and respect.

So cut to today when I came upon this video:

Needless-to-say, I was a mess. This caring grandpa-man recognized that adults are just big kids and that we still need to hear the messages we were told when we were kids. “I like you just the way you are” and “I’m so very proud of you” are incredibly powerful messages when when the speaker is genuine and the listener is open. I’m tearing up now just thinking about it. I felt like he was talking to me directly. I’m certain that everyone who watches that video will feel the same way.

I did some research to see what happened to Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (since I know that he passed away in 2003). The show has become animated and stars and little tiger. Though I appreciate that there is still content out there addressing the emotional awareness and social problem-solving needs of kids, I’m disappointed that it has gone the route of animation. I know that animation is visually stimulating and is able to provide magical components that live-action TV isn’t, I feel like a big part of the message is lost in not having real people in the series.

I think that it was valuable to see real kids and adults (sometimes dressed up as characters, sometimes not) talk about their feelings and solve problems. It made it less scary to do those things in real life. Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and Barney all had real kids as a part of their regular programming. Even non-educational television shows had more kids, just being kids: GUTS, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Double Dare, What Would You Do, and Nick News with Linda Ellerby. I feel like we got to see so many examples of how we are all different and, at the same time, how we are all the same. The early education programs showed us how we can know/love ourselves and showed how to be a good family member, treat our friends with respect (even when we are mad), and contribute to our world community.

Now, we mostly see kids on highly-scripted shows with laugh tracks and lots of programming has turned to animation. Sesame Street continues to have real kids and adults on the show and has been very public about their dedication to helping young children develop emotional awareness and the skills for emotional regulation. Emotional Regulation was Sesame Street’s theme for the year 2014 and they developed special programming and even related apps for this theme (I’ve used one of their apps in my work with the younger kids).

A research-based approach to helping kids (and adults) develop social skills is called video modeling. There are two different ways to implement video modeling. The first way is to record a peer or adult performing the target skill or behavior appropriately and then have the client watch, discuss what they see (if they can), and then perform the target skill themselves. This target skill is then supported (ideally) across a variety of settings, with the therapist repeating the video as needed until the client is able to perform the skill on their own. The second way to do this is actually called video self-modeling. In this model, the therapist actually records the client performing the target skill or behavior and then replays the video to the client. This can be especially empowering for clients because they are able to see themselves doing something that is hard for them. They get to see themselves be successful. Both video-modeling approaches have been successful for some of my students.

I really think that television (and other sources of media consumption) should depict real kids talking about real feelings and problems. The programs should also promote tools these kids can use to help navigate their social life. We should talk about our feelings (including the not fun ones) and make it relatable and real. Our kids need a model and they can learn from us, but they learn best from each other.


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