Parenting and the Circle of Security

People often ask me what area of psychology I specialise in. In South Africa we get a general training and are not required to specialise. Any specialisation is really just a personal affinity to one or more subjects and a desire to further one’s learning in that field. Attachment Theory always stood out for me during my training as it is well-researched and there is conclusive evidence to back it up. I also like the idea of making an impact on early development because it is rare as a psychologist to find preventative interventions.

To this end, after gaining my professional qualification I selected to participate in two separate training workshops. I wanted to improve my skills with regards to parent education paying particular attention to the role of facilitating bonding between parents and infants/toddlers. I am a licensed Babies in Mind Practitioner and I am a certified Circle of Security Parenting Facilitator. Today I’m going to highlight some of the ideas I teach during the Circle of Security workshops that I am trained to provide.

The Circle of Security Parenting Program was developed by Kent Hoffman, Glen Cooper, and Bert Powell. This program is based upon five decades of research about how security is supported and not supported. We’re all hard-wired to feel secure. This need for secure relationships is built in to our most important interactions throughout every hour of every day. Babies naturally seek security and caregivers want to provide security.

The first thing you need to know about the Circle of Security Parenting Program is that it is a relationship-based parenting approach. Parenting is a hard job and it can sometimes feel like an emotional rollercoaster, especially because children don’t come with an instruction manual! You might sometimes want to ask your children “what do you want from me?” But in actual fact our children ARE the instruction manual. We just need to learn what to look for.

Our job as parents is to give our children a sense of security. The more secure your child is, the more she or he will be able to enjoy you, have higher self esteem and the confidence to turn to you in times of trouble both now and in the future. Our children depend on us to meet a fundamental need, the need to be in relationship with caring adults. Thus we play an essential role in our children’s lives.

Without going into too much detail about the Circle of Security (which you will learn if you partake in the full workshop) let’s just say that the important thing to remember is that it’s a system that describes the relationship between caregivers and their children. In the full course you get to learn about the Circle of Security graphic and how to use it to make sense of your children’s behaviour. One of the important lessons you will learn is how to identify what your child needs from you at any given moment.

The fundamental principle taught in Circle of Security is that security is established in two ways. Children need support and guidance as they explore their worlds. They need a caring, present adult to be with them while they discover the world around them. They also need someone who is there for them when they get scared or sad or confused. We call this the safe haven. A child feels secure when they know they can explore their world and they can come back to us for a cuddle or a nod of reassurance. Children need to feel supported and delighted in when they’re being brave but also when they’re scared, when they’re out exploring but also when they overwhelmed.

Here is a short video I made explaining the Circle of Security and my stance on parenting education.

Please get in touch if you have any follow up questions or if you would like to sign up for a Circle of Security workshop!



Showing 22 comments
  • Leonie

    Very valuable information to share, thank you Carly. As a young parent one feels that there are a million pit falls to step into, one theory says let them cry it out while another says to watch their every step. I think veering on the side of instinct and applying the same principle you would for an intimate relationship: love the way you’d like to be loved in return – respectfully and with freedom to be – for me this is the best way to navigate the growing relationship with my child, I find. Keep up the good work! 😉

    • Carly

      Thank you! Yes instinct is important. The DOs and DONTs are less important than the principle of building trust. There are so many competing ideas about what children need but one thing that should be present no matter what is that you are building a relationship based on trust. If you’re ever at a loss, ask yourself what would cultivate trust and safety. You might not always have the answer but just having the intention is good enough!

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