"Here’s the deal. The human soul doesn't want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. When we make that kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the soul’s healing resources, the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through."
This quote from Parker Palmer's column, The Gift of Presence, The Perils of Advice published by On Being is really speaking about adult relationships, but it's not hard to see how it applies to parenting. When our kids are suffering, they don't want advice. They don't need us to fix or save them. They simply need to be seen and 'companioned.' It hurts to watch other people suffer and struggle and feel, but by doing it we provide a genuine, generous service.
When we are sit with an angry, scared, or sad child without reacting, just allowing them to feel what they feel, they can work through those feelings. This process is kind of like compost, though, it can be messy, unpleasant and time-consuming. Just as food scraps compost into rich, fertile soil, difficult emotions transform into presence. When a child moves fully through their feelings, something changes. They may just run off and play. They may fall asleep or find a quiet place to be by themselves. They may have a good cry in our arms (or out of our arms). Something in them is transformed.
To do this for a child:
My life and work are guided by the these core understandings: that all beings (including me!) are capable of transformation and joy, that healthy parenting matters profoundly, and that simple practices can support each of us.