Today I walked my child into school. As part of the Welcome-to-Kindergarten crowd of parents, the Assistant Principal called out, "Let them show you the way... follow them as they lead you to their classroom so they can practice getting to class on their own!"
I chuckled to myself because I spend most of my days following children. I follow them into their worries. I follow them into their sadness. I follow them into their anger. I follow them into all of the lost places where their Big Feelings show up and send them asunder.
I made a commitment to Follow The Child early in my career when I first learned about the concept by studying the work of Virginia Axline, a pioneer in Non-Directive Play Therapy. Maria Montessori (founder of the Montessori method of education) was also a strong believer in Following The Child.
Following The Child simply means that I believe the child will show me their truth, what hurts and what they need to heal that hurt, if I truly allow them to lead the process. I do not rush children. I do not have expectations for what "should" or "should not" happen during our time together. I do not judge them. I am patient and unconditionally accepting of whatever they choose to share with me.
I have found that when children are given the Freedom to Be themselves, they generously (and reliably) lead me straight to the lost place that unsettles Their Adults. Just as reliably, they lead me back out of that lost place, the entire time practicing how to get out of that place on their own. Before long, they learn how to avoid becoming lost. Or, better yet, they learn that even if they find themselves lost again, they can find their way back joy.
The Assistant Principal today stumbled upon the bedrock of my work... I let children show me the way, follow them as they lead me... so they can practice getting to where they want to be, on their own.