Most of my post university training has been in the field of play therapy. I have attended many play therapy courses over the years, but one that really stands out for me, was a course by Garry Landreth, a child-centered play therapist. Child-centered play therapy is, as Garry puts it, a philosophy for living one's life in relationships with children. It is for this very reason, that I feel compelled to share some of this philosophy with parents.
Garry wrote a wonderful book called Play Therapy-The Art of the Relationship. The last time I read it, was probably before I became a parent. I have recently read it again and it has been so enlightening to look at the philosophy through parent eyes, rather than merely therapist eyes. Something that I want to share with you is what Garry says about how children should learn through play therapy. (I must mention, that when he refers to play therapy, he is referring to child-centered play therapy.)
He says this:
- Because children are allowed to be fully themselves, with no criticism, suggestions, praise, disapproval or any efforts made to change them, they learn self-control and responsible freedom of expression.
- Because children are respected and not evaluated, regardless of their behaviour, they learn to respect themselves.
- Because all their feelings are accepted and understood, even the intense ones, children learn that their feelings are acceptable.
- Because they are allowed to express their intense feelings, they are able to learn how to responsibly control their feelings.
- Because children are allowed to struggle to do things for themselves, they learn to assume responsibility for themselves and to discover what that responsibility feels like.
- Because children are allowed to figure things out for themselves and to come to their own solutions to problems, they learn to be creative and resourceful in confronting problems.
- Because children are allowed to control their own behaviour (within the careful use of therapeutic limits) and can make their own decisions, they learn self-control and self-direction.
- Because they are accepted just as they are, with no conditions, they learn, at a feeling level, to accept themselves as being worthwhile.This is significant in the development of a positive self-concept.
- Because no choices are made for the child, they learn to make choices and to be responsible for making their choices.
Even though Garry is talking about a play therapy relationship and not a parenting relationship, when I consider these learning outcomes, I wonder whether I'm successfully facilitating this kind of learning in my role as parent. I am fully aware of the fact that parenting is not therapy and that the therapeutic relationship described by Garry is a unique one, but I choose to uphold these principles in my relationship with my children, to the best that I can.
Yes, I do praise; I do evaluate; I make suggestions; I disapprove! But reading this is just such a good reminder of the respect we should have for (our) children! I certainly want my children to have the kind of personal acceptance and self-respect that Garry refers to; and, to be resourceful problem-solvers and to take responsibility for their feelings and their choices. I choose to concentrate on these desired outcomes, using these principles to guide me as I fine tune my own parenting philosophy.
Shoo, I know this has been a mouthful. Now I would love to hear what you think.
Reference: Landreth, G (1991). Play therapy The Art of the Relationship. Bristol, USA: Accelerated Learning Inc.