One of the greatest blessings of my life is being able to help hurting children heal. I remember being in my first graduate class for something called play therapy and listening to the professor lecture. I could feel the lightbulb suddenly blazing over my head and thought, “Wow! I need to find a way to become a play therapist.” I was determined to get the additional education and certifications required no matter how long it took.
I had the great good fortune to encounter Dr. Garry L. Landreth, Regents Professor, Department of Counselor Education, and Director of the Center for Play Therapy at the University of North Texas in Denton, as I travelled the path to living my dream. He taught everyone who crossed his path how to be the best therapist possible, how to honor children so that they can find the strength and courage to heal, and how to be the person God created each of us to be. What he lived and lives lights up the world for children…and for those of us who want to follow in his footsteps. I have never seen a better guidebook for loving and honoring children than these principles that follow. The words were taken from one of my textbooks, Play Therapy: The Art of The Relationship, written by Dr. Landreth –
“I have been working with children in play therapy relationships for over twenty-five years, and I am still learning about children and about myself as I experience with them the complex simplicity of their play and the unfolding of the vibrant colors of their emotional inner world. What I have learned and how I have come to incorporate that learning into my relationships with children is perhaps best expressed in the following principles.”
PRINCIPLES FOR RELATIONSHIPS WITH CHILDREN
Garry L. Landreth
I am not all knowing.
Therefore, I shall not even attempt to be.
I need to be loved.
Therefore, I will be open to loving children.
I want to be more accepting of the child in me.
Therefore, I will with wonder and awe allow children to illuminate my world.
I know so little about the complex intricacies of childhood.
Therefore, I will allow children to teach me.
I learn best from and am impacted most by my personal struggles.
Therefore, I will join children in their struggles.
I sometimes need a refuge.
Therefore, I will provide a refuge for children.
I like it too when I am fully accepted as the person I am.
Therefore, I will strive to experience and appreciate the person of the child.
I make mistakes. They are a declaration of the way I am—human and fallible.
Therefore, I will be tolerant of the humanness of children.
I react with emotional internalization and expression to my world of reality.
Therefore, I will relinquish the grasp I have on reality and try to enter the world as experienced by the child.
It feels good to be an authority, to provide answers.
Therefore, I shall need to work hard to protect children from me!
I am more fully me when I feel safe.
Therefore, I will be consistent in my interactions with children.
I am the only person who can live my life.
Therefore, I will not attempt to rule a child’s life.
I have learned most of what I know from experiencing.
Therefore, I will allow children to experience.
The hope I experience and the will to live come from within me.
Therefore, I will recognize and affirm the child’s will and selfhood.
I cannot make children’s hurts and fears and frustrations and disappointments go away.
Therefore, I will soften the blow.
I experience fear when I am vulnerable.
Therefore, I will with kindness, gentleness, and tenderness touch the inner world of the vulnerable child.
It takes courage to live these principles. Doing what means everything often does.