I first learned about The Mother Company when my kids were little. The Mother Company produces the award-winning "Ruby's Studio" series of books, apps, shows and activities, all focused on the social/emotional challenges kids experience every day, with the goal of helping them to become more communicative and kind. Their DVD called The Feelings Show was instrumental in helping my kids identify and talk about their feelings. As a former therapist, I loved the way they emphasized self-reflection and cooperation.
Since then, The Mother Company has launched several other topical DVD’s for kids, centering around emotional health, including friendship and safety, and just last week they launched The Siblings Show, all about brothers and sisters.
I might be a little biased, because one of the sibling sets featured is my own family:
Look how little they are!!
They filmed this segment a few years ago, and then more recently my kids were part of a music video that is featured in the show:
Too bad they’re all so shy.
One of the things I really appreciate about this show is that they did a segment on adoption, and featured several multi-racial families. Adoptive and mult-racial families will really appreciate seeing their families mirrored and affirmed. We got to see the premiere last weekend and really loved it.
Abbie Schiller and Samantha Kurtzman-Counter are the moms behind The Mother Company. I did a little interview with them about their company and values.
1. Tell me about The Mother Company. How did you start?
Abbie: As a working mom with a daughter in preschool, I found so few resources available to help me teach her the lessons in life that I find most important like how to express your feelings, make friends and be a good friend, resolve conflicts, build resilience, stay safe, empathy, etc. As a working mom, I really needed that 30min preschool media break to make dinner when I got home and I noticed that there was very little in children's media that explored these areas. So that's how the idea for The Mother Company was born -- I wanted to ease some of the burden of everyday parenting with a twofold approach: expert resources for parents and high-quality media for kids that all focus around these essential prosocial and emotional skills.
2. What do you see as the mission for The Mother Company? What values drive your passion?
Sam: Our motto at The Mother Company is "Helping Parents Raise Good People." How great would it be to have a new generation of people who are kind, considerate, and compassionate? Of course, studies show that kids who show proficiency in these social and emotional areas by the age of 5 tend to have more success in school, relationships and life. It is our mission to become a company that helps parents better understand their kids, and helps kids better understand themselves.
3. The Feelings Show is one of my all-time favorite DVD's for kids. What made you start with emotional literacy for your first show?
Abbie: As we often like to say, "There are 25 million children under age 6 in this country… and 100% of them have feelings!" We all do! And so many of us still don't know how to communicate about them effectively -which can lead to divorce, unhappiness, job loss - and in extreme cases, drug abuse, incarceration, homicide and suicide. Recognizing and communicating your needs and emotions is essential to our entire society and NO ONE was teaching kids what the word was for the intense physical sensation they experience daily (frustration) or often (anger). And then going beyond the basics of mad/sad/happy to emotions kids feel frequently and need names for like "jealousy" and "fear" and "pride." As Sam mentioned, every study ever done proves that if young kids can learn to recognize, identify, appropriately express and move through their feelings, they gain a much better understanding of themselves and others which lead to happier, more successful lives. We started with "The Feelings Show" because that, we felt, was the most universal need for both parents and children. And for society.
4. Talk to me about Ruby's Studio. How did you develop that concept? Why is that format so ideal for talking about higher-level topics with kids?
Sam: Children are so influenced by media. And it can be a wonderfully educational format - just by nature, kids want to watch things over and over. Abbie and I really wanted to create a new hero in the media for kids, someone who could be a role model and engage kids with respect and understanding - a modern day Mister Rogers or Mary Poppins. So we created Ruby, who is adorable, fun and magical, but still grounded, gentle and calming. And in every show, Ruby brings a group of real kids (unscripted) to her art studio for a day of exploration about a certain topic - so far, we've done "The Feelings Show," "The Friendship Show" and our new one, "The Safety Show." And through a combination of conversations with Ruby, beautiful old-school animation and original music videos, kids get to go on a totally fun adventure in a calm, gentle format that engages without overwhelming them.
5. One of the DVD’s in the Ruby's Studio series is about Safety. What does this episode cover?
Sam: We are so excited about this show (watch the trailer here!) . "The Safety Show" is a totally new, empowering approach to kids' personal safety, and we really tried to do it with no scare tactics and no "ick factor." In our usual fun, gentle format, Ruby offers multiple tools and language to help keep kids safe:
- Honor your "Uh-Oh Feeling" -- The primary idea is teaching kids to trust their own instincts when something doesn't feel right.
- "Check First" -- If it becomes a habit to Check First with a Safe Adult before doing anything unexpected - whether it's with a stranger or someone they know - kids will be much safer.
- Be the "Boss of Your Body" -- we made a really fun music video about this idea, with 75 kid hip-hop dancers, drill teams and drummers, all singing about the idea that kids need to be empowered to take charge of their own bodies and say "no" to any kind of touch they don't like. We figure that if we can get millions of 4 year-olds saying "I'm the Boss of My Body!" we will have done something really meaningful in this lifetime. Watch here!
- Get Smart about Getting Lost -- 7 out of 10 kids will get lost in their lifetime (!) so we help out by offering advice to seek help from a mom with kids (generally the safest choice) and also to really practice remembering their Safe Adult's phone number.
Ruby also leads the kids in a craft that viewers can do at home, where they make "Safety Wristbands" out of duct tape that have a Safe Adult's phone number on the inside, just in case. Watch here!
6. As a mom-run business, any advice for other working moms out there?
Sam: Support each other! It is so hard to work and be the parents we want to be. But there are enough of us out there who are in positions of power where we can make our respective lives as working moms all that much better, by offering more flex hours, benefits, leave, etc. Hopefully we can all create sea change in the work world to have more respect for the incredible dedication it takes to try to raise a generation of good people.
You can check out all of The Mother Company products here.