Freddish: Mr. Rogers’ Guide for Talking to Kids | Rice Psychology

Freddish: Mr. Rogers’ Guide for Talking to Kids

Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s topic.

Before Audrey was born, I was often told that being a parent would be tough, but it wasn’t the diapers, the sleepless nights, or the tantrums that proved to be difficult. Now that she’s older, I’m finding that answering her frequent questions about what certain things mean or explaining even the simplest of life’s moments can be difficult. She is so inquisitive, and I am having trouble finding the right way to explain things to her. How can I do a good job at communicating and explaining things to her in a way that she’ll understand?

Many television icons hold a dear place in our hearts for a variety of reasons. There’s The Fonz with his classic taglines on Happy Days, Homer Simpson’s buffoonery on The Simpsons, and the witty Elaine Benes on Seinfeld. However, believe it or not, few TV icons have made a bigger personal and cultural impact than Fred Rogers.

He gave millions of children the tools to learn respect, kindness, and humility on his program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but his impact went beyond the screen. Rogers had the gift of effectively communicating with children to ensure that they understood more than just the words they’d been told by adults. It’s something that many parents struggle with. This concept, known as “Freddish” today, is a method that our Tampa therapists believe may help you.

A Commitment to Understanding

According to a Maxwell King article in The Atlantic, Fred Rogers went to great lengths to ensure that his young audience was not misled or confused. This resulted in his team of writers coining the term “Freddish” for the unique way he spoke to children.

At its core, Freddish is about anticipation. Rogers preemptively thought about all the ways his audience could interpret any given message and actively changed it to avoid any misunderstandings. Even the TV show’s iconic “Tomorrow” song was altered for Fridays so that kids would not assume the show would be televised on Saturday!

Rogers was so committed to being proactive in the way he communicated with his audience that he removed the phrase “to sleep” from a script which discussed pet euthanasia. He did this to avoid the possibility of kids worrying about falling asleep.

The Nine Steps to Freddish

As King explains in his article, show writers Arthur Greenwald and Barry Head created a manual that showcased the nine steps they could use to translate a given sentence into Freddish. While the manual was created as a “loving parody,” it reflects the level of educated care that was put into each script.

It’s something that proved to be effective when communicating with children, and the great thing about Freddish is that it can still be used by today’s parents when talking with their kids.

The pamphlet described the nine points as follows:

  • “State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible and in terms preschoolers can understand.” Example: You can get hurt running indoors.
  • “Rephrase in a positive manner.” Example: Running outdoors is safe.
  • “Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust.” Example: Ask your parents where you’re allowed to run.
  • “Rephrase your idea to eliminate all elements that could be considered prescriptive, directive, or instructive.” Example: Your parents will tell you where it’s okay to run.
  • “Rephrase any element that suggests certainty.” Example: Maybe your parents can tell you where it’s safe to run.
  • “Rephrase your idea to eliminate any element that may not apply to all children.” Example: Maybe your favorite grown-ups can tell you where you can run.
  • “Add a simple motivational idea that gives preschoolers a reason to follow your advice.” Example: Maybe your favorite grown-ups can tell you where you can run. Listening to them is good.
  • “Rephrase your new statement, repeating the first step.” Example: Maybe your favorite grown-ups can tell you where you can run. Listening to them is important.
  • “Rephrase your idea a final time, relating it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand.” Example: Maybe your favorite grown-ups can tell you where you can run. Listening to them is important and listening is an important part of growing up.

We Are Here to Help

Communicating with your children is an important part of your relationship with them and plays a key role in their development. As King states in his article, every detail of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a “product of a tremendously careful, academically-informed process.”

Beyond that, learning to communicate in Freddish is something that your kids might really appreciate, and it’s also something that you might find useful to help them truly understand what you’re saying. Even if you’re hesitant or struggling to move forward, we encourage you to reach out to us! Our psychologists in Tampa, FL can help. Contact us for more information about our services.

About Rice Psychology

Rice Psychology Group is home to a team of psychologists who work tirelessly to help adults, adolescents and children deal with their issues. Whether you’re currently dealing with depression, going through a divorce or fighting an issue you just can’t understand, know that our Tampa psychologists are here to help.

One Response to “Freddish: Mr. Rogers’ Guide for Talking to Kids”

  1. Josie K Vernon

    Thank you again for another great lesson. I still have lots of “little” friends, and this Freddish definitely will be useful. Have a blessed day.

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