Many Ways to Say I Love You

Wisdom for Parents and Children from Mister Rogers


By Fred Rogers

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Inspirational words on parenting from the beloved PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, for new parents and those whose children are grown.

Fred Rogers has long been a wonderful resource for parents, offering their children entertainment and education through his enduring television show. Now his special brand of good cheer and wisdom are brought together especially for parents in this newest book based on never-before-published works.

Many Ways to Say I Love You is a treasury of segments from speeches and observations from his years of working with parents and children, as well as other materials from books, songs, TV commentary, and more. Using stories from his own life, Mister Rogers discusses the importance of children and the role of parents.


Many Ways to Say

I Love You




by Joanne Rogers

My own wish for children and parents alike is that they learn to find love and joy even amidst the world’s and their own imperfections …


Those of us who are parents certainly know about “imperfections”—our own and our children’s! Parenting is a struggle. I was always touched when people would tell me how much they’ve learned from Fred that’s helped them in their parenting, but I have a hunch that they thought he had some magical gift with children. He and I had to work at being good parents … just like everyone else.

As I think about our own early experience in parenting, what I remember is that we were a not-so-young mother and father, both thirty-one years old, when our first son was born. We had been married for seven years, and we were overjoyed to be a family at last. I can also remember how insecure Fred and I both felt over the prospect of taking care of this tiny person. At the same time, we felt ready for the challenges ahead. Our second son was born just twenty-one months later. Those were busy but happy times for Fred and me and for both sets of grandparents. It was a great blessing that both boys were essentially very healthy, so we were gently eased into parenthood.

Fred was understandably very protective of our family life, but he did share some of his feelings about our parenting in some writing that he did a number of years ago:

Looking back over the years of parenting that my wife and I have done with our two boys, I feel good about who we are and what we’ve done. I don’t mean we were perfect parents. Not at all. Our years with our children were marked by plenty of inappropriate responses. Both Joanne and I can recall many times when we wish now we’d said or done something different. But we didn’t, and we’ve learned not to feel too guilty about that. What gives me my good feelings is that we always cared and always tried to do our best. Our two sons are very different one from the other; yet, at the core of each of them there seems to be a basic kindness, a caring, and a willingness to try.

I’ve heard young parents complain about the way they were treated by their own parents, and they say, “I’ll never make that mistake with my kids!” And probably the most honest response to that is, “Perhaps you won’t make that mistake, but you’ll surely make your own different ones.” Well, we certainly made our share of mistakes. But whatever we did, our sons appear to have forgiven us, and now that they’re grown, that core of “kindness, caring, and willingness to try” is still very much intact. They know our love for them was always unconditional.

As Fred said in one of his “Neighborhood” songs, “There are many ways to say I love you,” and of course, we all have our own ways of expressing that love. But however we say it, Fred believed deeply that love is essential in the life of a child. I remember when he first really understood what that meant. Many years ago I traveled with Fred to London where he had the rare privilege of attending a case presentation by Anna Freud, the noted child analyst and daughter of Sigmund Freud. The child whose case was being discussed that day came from the most unhealthy emotional environment imaginable and was having some problems with the staff, yet was functioning rather well in the group. Typically in a case study, what comes next is the expert’s perspective of the child’s problems. But what Anna Freud said that day was something very different: “We need to try to understand why, in spite of all the trauma, is this child emotionally healthy and thriving?” Fred was fascinated with her question. What helps a child to be able to grow into a confident, competent, caring human being, in spite of being at risk in so many dimensions?

That focus on the positive made such an impression on Fred that it became a central part of his philosophy. I think it resonated so deeply with him because he always felt more comfortable focusing on strengths rather than on weaknesses, maybe in part because of his spiritual background. Years later, he found his own way to answer Anna Freud’s question:

The roots of a child’s ability to cope and thrive, regardless of circumstance, lie in that child’s having had at least a small, safe place (an apartment, a room, a lap) in which, in the companionship of a loving person, that child could discover that he or she was loveable and capable of loving in return. If a child finds this during the first years of life, he or she can grow up to be a competent, healthy person.

Guided by Dr. Margaret McFarland, his mentor in his graduate work in child development, Fred learned firsthand what it meant to offer that kind of safe place for children and their closest caregivers. Under her supervision, he began working directly, one on one, with young children. That’s where he learned about providing an extra measure of security that could help strengthen both children and their parents.


On Sale
Sep 3, 2019
Page Count
192 pages
Hachette Books

Fred Rogers

About the Author

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood first debuted in 1968 on PBS and for over forty years has defined television at its finest.

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