Raising a Secure Child: How Circle of Security Parenting Can Help You Nurture Your Child's Attachment, Emotional Resilience, and Freedom to Explore

Raising a Secure Child: How Circle of Security Parenting Can Help You Nurture Your Child's Attachment, Emotional Resilience, and Freedom to Explore

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Today's parents are constantly pressured to be perfect. But in striving to do everything right, we risk missing what children really need for lifelong emotional security. Now the simple, powerful "Circle of Security" parenting strategies that Kent Hoffman, Glen Cooper, and Bert Powell have taught thousands of families are available in self-help form for the first time. You will learn: How to balance being nurturing and protective with promoting your child's independence. What emotional needs a toddler or older child may be expressing through difficult behavior. How your own upbringing affects your parenting style-and what you can do about it. Filled with vivid stories and unique practical tools, this book puts the keys to healthy attachment within everyone's reach-self-understanding, flexibility, and the willingness to make and learn from mistakes. Self-assessment, checklists can be downloaded and printed for ease of use.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781462527632
Publisher: Guilford Publications, Inc.
Publication date: 02/06/2017
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 280
Sales rank: 179,053
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Kent Hoffman, RelD, has been a psychotherapist since 1972. Certified in psychoanalytic psychotherapy by The Masterson Institute in New York City, he has worked with prison and homeless populations as well as adults seeking psychoanalytic psychotherapy. His primary focus since the 1990s has been working with and designing treatment interventions for street-dependent teens with young children. The underlying theme of his life's work can be found in a TEDx talk titled "Infinite Worth." Since 1985, Dr. Hoffman has had a shared clinical practice in Spokane, Washington, with Glen Cooper and Bert Powell. Together, they have created and disseminated the Circle of Security, for which each has received the New York Attachment Consortium's Bowlby–Ainsworth Award, among other honors. They are coauthors of The Circle of Security Intervention (for mental health professionals) and Raising a Secure Child: How Circle of Security Parenting Can Help You Nurture Your Child's Attachment, Emotional Resilience, and Freedom to Explore (for parents).

Glen Cooper, MA, has worked as a psychotherapist with individuals and families in both agency and private practice settings since the 1970s. He has extensive training in family systems, object relations, attachment theory, and infant mental health assessment. Mr. Cooper also works as a treatment foster parent and long-time Head Start consultant. Since 1985, he has had a shared clinical practice in Spokane, Washington, with Kent Hoffman and Bert Powell. Much of their work has focused on the creation and dissemination of the Circle of Security, for which each has received the New York Attachment Consortium's Bowlby–Ainsworth Award, among other honors. They are coauthors of The Circle of Security Intervention (for mental health professionals) and Raising a Secure Child: How Circle of Security Parenting Can Help You Nurture Your Child's Attachment, Emotional Resilience, and Freedom to Explore (for parents).

Bert Powell, MA, began his clinical work as an outpatient family therapist in a community mental health center, where he helped a broad range of families find and use unacknowledged strengths to address their problems. Mr. Powell is certified in psychoanalytic psychotherapy by The Masterson Institute in New York City. He is Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Counseling Psychology at Gonzaga University and serves as an international advisor to the editorial board of the Journal of Attachment and Human Development. Since 1985, he has had a shared clinical practice in Spokane, Washington, with Kent Hoffman and Glen Cooper. Much of their work has focused on the creation and dissemination of the Circle of Security, for which each has received the New York Attachment Consortium's Bowlby–Ainsworth Award, among other honors. They are coauthors of The Circle of Security Intervention (for mental health professionals) and Raising a Secure Child: How Circle of Security Parenting Can Help You Nurture Your Child's Attachment, Emotional Resilience, and Freedom to Explore (for parents).

Christine M. Benton is a Chicago-based writer and editor.

Read an Excerpt

Raising A Secure Child

How Circle of Security Parenting Can Help You Nurture Your Child's Attachment, Emotional Resilience, and Freedom to Explore

By Kent Hoffman, Glen Cooper, Bert Powell, Christine M. Benton

The Guilford Press

Copyright © 2017 The Guilford Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4625-2826-4



Why It Matters

Something extraordinary happens in the most ordinary moments between parent and child:

Danny waits for his mother's reassuring smile and nod before climbing into the sandbox with the other children.

Emma instantly calms when her dad lifts his 1-year-old daughter onto his lap even though he's tapping away at his phone and barely looks at the little girl.

Jake stops clobbering his toy drum when his mom switches from demanding that he put it down to exclaiming, "Wow, that's some sense of rhythm you've got, buddy."

Moments like these are so ordinary as to be forgettable, even unnoticeable. Yet what accrues to children as those moments accumulate is nothing short of profound. Every time you answer your child's need for comfort or confidence, you're building a bond of trust. Every time you show that you understand how your child feels and what your child wants, you're demonstrating the power of a primal connection that all of us are born seeking. Every time you help your baby or toddler manage the discomfort and frustration of being a newcomer to the human condition, you're teaching your child acceptance of emotions (even the "ugly" ones), of himself, and of others.

These are the gifts of attachment. A secure attachment forms naturally for a child when a parent or other primary caregiver can:

• Help the child feel safe when frightened or uncomfortable

• Help the child feel secure enough to explore the world, essential to growth and development

• Help the child accept and manage his or her emotional experience

Both parents and children are hardwired for attachment. You start forming a bond with your child even before birth, and miraculously, your newborn emerges with a powerful instinct to be close to you. Not just any adult will do, even though plenty of adults can provide the food, warmth, and protection necessary to the baby's physical survival. Decades of research suggest that babies immediately fall in love with a parent's face because even when they can barely focus on it, they can already sense the parent's love and devotion. This is the person, a baby intuits, who is going to be here for me. This is someone who will help me figure out this confusing new world and find the goodness in it.

Our common bond as parents is that we all want goodness — love and compassion, understanding and acceptance, meaning and fulfillment — for our children. And children come into the world wanting and needing goodness from us. One of our most important mentors, developmental psychologist Jude Cassidy (along with social psychologist Phillip Shaver), recently defined attachment security as "confidence in the possibility of goodness." From our perspective, this is precisely the issue. We want what's good, deeply necessary, and fulfilling for our children. And they come to us in their unique, miraculous, ever-fresh, and often demanding way with that exact request. "Please help me trust in the goodness of you, the goodness of me, the goodness of us." Of course, this is what we're here to offer.


We all begin life more integrated with another person than separate. This is not just an acknowledgment that sharing a body before birth creates a bond for mothers and babies that often endures after it. Babies also become attached to their fathers, their grandparents, or anyone else whose gaze says "I am here for you," and who then makes good on that promise much of the time. The very youngest babies seem to recognize this devotion and start to respond in kind during their first days of life. They follow us with their eyes, flap their arms in excitement when we return from work, and their first smiles come in response to our smiles at them — a gift that few parents ever forget. In the Circle of Security program, when we are trying to convey to parents how very important they are to their children, we play Joe Cocker's song "You Are So Beautiful" as we show video clips of attachment moments between parent and child.

As pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott once said, "If you set out to describe a baby, you will find you are describing a baby and someone." He was referring to how essential we are to our infants. Baby Gino or Sasha or Hiroto may have separate arms and legs and face but really doesn't fully exist yet as an individual. We tend to view babies as completely formed little creatures who know deep down what they're feeling and needing and who they are but simply lack the language to express it. In actuality, newborn babies have no clarity about what they're feeling except that there are many times when something unknown and difficult starts happening to them (they need something) — an unformed longing begins to grow. When Mom or Dad gazes into a distressed baby's eyes and coos "There, there" and magically figures out what the baby needs — and even provides it! — the parent is telling the baby "I'm here with you. We share the same kinds of feelings, and we'll figure this out together." As this exchange is repeated again and again, the baby learns that human emotions are natural, acceptable, and shareable. She learns that this special adult can manage them for her and gradually help her learn to manage them for herself — a process called "coregulation of emotions." She learns that although she and her parent(s) have many important things in common, each of them is also unique. She learns that the relationship — the "and" — is critical to the formation of the self.

Up until the middle of the 20th century, the self — a being separate from other humans — was the focus of developmental psychology. In Western society, this emphasis informed many attitudes and expectations about how we should conduct ourselves over the lifespan. As soon as we were able, we were expected to take care of ourselves, and social policies — in the United States at least — often favored individual rights over community needs. In our work with the Circle of Security, we've come around to the opposite view: it's the "and" that matters. We would even go so far as to say this: Self-sufficiency is a myth. From birth through old age, our ability to act with some sense of autonomy is directly related to our capacity for connectedness. What does this mean for parents raising a young child? If we want our children to be independent, to go out and take on the world, we have to give them full confidence that they can come back to us as needed. Autonomy and connection: That's secure attachment.

Here's what it might look like:

Lei is 3 years old. She's vibrant, playful, and full of curiosity. She and her father have just walked to the park that's two blocks from their home and, typically for them, as they approach the climbing structure, Lei briefly looks back at her father (not more than a millisecond) and then rushes off to climb her version of Mt. Everest. What the casual observer might not notice is that in that millisecond of checking in with her dad, Lei gets precisely the permission and support she needs — Is it a glance? Is it something in his eyes? — to know it's perfectly OK to risk this new adventure.

Fourteen seconds later she's already atop the structure, looking back at her father, pride flowing from every pore, as she calls out her sense of accomplishment: "I'm a big girl."

"Yes, you are, Lei," her dad responds, "Yes, you are!" (What Lei doesn't know is that her father has to work very hard not to interfere, to hover, because some part of him is afraid she might fall. But, based on their previous experiences on this structure, ones where he's felt the need to stay close and protective, he's found that his daughter has the strength and the balance and the enthusiasm to find her own way on this particular part of the playground.)

Twenty more seconds pass, and Lei is now climbing down. She's still having fun, she's still enjoying her increasing sense of competence, but she finds herself running back to her father, smiling and remarkably proud of her accomplishment. She's delighted. He's delighted. She looks in his eyes, they briefly touch, and then — bam! — she's off, running toward the slide, ready for yet another round of excitement.

Again, that's secure attachment. In that simple moment, Lei's father is right there with her, responding to the shifting needs that his daughter experiences as she goes about the somewhat scary task of exploring her world. Significantly, Lei also knows that her dad will respond, because he has done so many times in the past. This is one reason the entire sequence appears so seamless, so unplanned. Lei's expression of basic psychological needs and her father's answering them have become the fabric of their relationship.

Attachment: A Lasting Legacy

Lei and her dad may not have had to think consciously about interacting this way, but the benefits of their secure attachment certainly had staying power, as they do for all of us. That first relationship, so close as to make "two" almost indistinguishable from "one," isn't something we shrug off the way a butterfly shrugs off its chrysalis and flies off to live happily ever after. It's something we carry with us into all relationships, all work, all communication, and if it is a secure attachment, it just might lead to "happily ever after."

Decades of research have now shown that having a secure attachment with a primary caregiver leaves children healthier and happier in virtually every way we measure such things — in competence and self-confidence, empathy and compassion, resilience and endurance ... in the ability to regulate emotions, tap intellectual capacity, and preserve physical health ... in pursuing our life's work and having a fulfilling personal life.

Perhaps most important, a secure attachment in a child's first relationship lays the foundation for good relationships throughout life. And we now know without a doubt that relationships are the engine and the framework for satisfaction and success in all domains of life. Research has shown that social relationships promote mental and physical health and even lower the risk of death: In studies of many countries, analyses have shown over and over that the more people were involved in social relationships, the less likely they were to die prematurely — in fact, the most isolated individuals were twice as likely to die as the most social. Western society seems to be making a shift toward understanding the importance of the "and," with books and TED Talks on topics like the value of vulnerability enjoying growing popularity. We're beginning to recognize that our relationships aren't just "extras." Those who get along best with coworkers often get promoted first — and not just because they've formed smart alliances; they're often the most productive. And although we understand that hovering obsessively over our children isn't helpful, we do recognize these days that consistently soothing babies isn't hovering and won't ruin them for life. The relationships we form sustain us — even define us — because in every "and" we form we become something more than we would be alone.

"I reassured myself that he has always been resourceful, resilient, and confident. Two days later, he ... called me full of exuberance and delight at his success. I told him, 'Good luck with your adventure,' knowing that this is exactly what he needed to hear. I was able to hold him from afar, knowing that he had all the tools, love, attachment, and resources resulting from years of experience with secure attachment. It was because of his secure attachment that he was able to explore further and further away."

— Heidi S. Roibal, Albuquerque, New Mexico, after her 23year-old son left on a solo cross-country journey


Intuitively, you already know about the importance of the "and." Trust and a feeling of security with others can transform relationships — deepening a friendship when you confide a shameful childhood secret, cementing an intimate relationship when you risk proposing marriage, creating collegiality and mutual respect when you ask for the promotion you deserve. Even the major achievements — painting your best picture ever; coming up with a great, if radical, innovation on the job; writing a great speech — that don't seem to involve others are often made possible by security. When we trust in the openness and acceptance of others in general, creativity, competence, wisely chosen risks, and clear thinking become more available to us because we expect our offerings to get an understanding, welcoming reception, in an environment of safety. And when they do, and we succeed, the importance of attachment is reinforced by the fulfillment of sharing the joy with others.

A secure attachment is like a virtual teddy bear. When you have confidence and trust in the goodness of me, you, us, you carry that trust with you through important transitions and passages in daily life. In fact, we adults generally measure how our lives are going by how our relationships are going. If our relationships are going well, life goes well. When love is in place, we do well.

Secure attachment is knowing that someone has your back, and knowing someone has your back opens a world of new possibilities.

If you've experienced secure attachment's beneficial effects, you won't be surprised that the total absence of attachment can be devastating. As far back as the 13th century, Roman emperor Frederick II decided to conduct an experiment to see whether newborn children would speak the language of Adam and Eve if they weren't exposed to another language by the adults around them. He ordered caregivers not to talk or gesture to a group of babies, and they all languished. Seven hundred years later, the same association showed up in the alarming 30% death rate of children in orphanages during the 1930s and 1940s. Provided with the apparent necessities of life — food, shelter, clothing — many still could not survive without an attachment to a primary caregiver.

With this kind of evidence, how could it have taken so long for attachment to be valued? These things take time, and as is so often the case, embracing a new theory often means displacing others that have become entrenched. The two dominant schools of thought regarding child development during the early 20th century were the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud and company and the behaviorist theories of John B. Watson and later B. F. Skinner and others:

• Freud decided that the psychological problems he saw in his adult patients might have their roots in various unconscious thought processes that started humming along during infancy and continued to exert their effects as a baby matured. These processes drove how a baby interacted with his parents and what the baby appeared to need in addition to food and other care. These theories kept the focus of some developmental psychologists (and psychoanalysts treating adults) on arcane concepts regarding the unconscious mind that didn't resonate with people living in the real world.

• In another camp resided the behaviorists, who believed babies had one thing on their mind when they reserved a special smile just for Mom, cried when she left their sight even though other willing caregivers were handy, or settled miraculously into Mom's arms. That thing was a reward: If they smiled, Mom seemed happy and would come closer. If they cried, Mom often came back. If they snuggled into Mom's arms, she'd let Baby stay there. As far as Watson was concerned, babies were driven to attach so that Mom would stay nearby, where she could dispense the food, warmth, or dry diaper they needed. Few today would deny that we humans respond positively to rewards. The trouble with adhering strictly to these early forms of behaviorism, however, was that Watson advised mothers not to show too much loving care for their children, or children would grow up expecting the world to treat them the same way, which would make them all invalids.

Enter the voice of reason: British psychologist John Bowlby. It was after World War II, and Bowlby was participating in research for the World Health Organization involving institutionalized World War II orphans and hospitalized children. The children were all receiving optimal care: they were well fed, clothed appropriately, and had warm beds and attentive health care, just like the prewar orphans. What they didn't have was Mom or Dad. And just like the orphans of earlier decades, all suffered terribly without the comfort, love, and closeness of a primary caregiver. Similarly, in the 1950s Bowlby and colleague John Robertson filmed a 2-year-old who spent 10 days in a hospital and saw her parents for only a half hour once a day. The little girl was transformed from vivacious to completely despondent.

Bowlby's observations changed visiting rules for hospitals forever and have informed professional child care ever since as well. And they spawned his efforts to answer the million-dollar question that should have been asked since the dawn of the human race: Why did the lack of a parent or other caregiver matter so much when everything the children seemed to need to thrive was provided?


Excerpted from Raising A Secure Child by Kent Hoffman, Glen Cooper, Bert Powell, Christine M. Benton. Copyright © 2017 The Guilford Press. Excerpted by permission of The Guilford Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword, Daniel J. Siegel
I. All Around the Circle: Understanding Attachment and the Importance of Security
1. Attachment: Why It Matters
2. Security: Befriending Imperfection
3. A Map for Attachment: The Circle of Security
4. Being the Hands on the Circle
5. Shark Music: How Our Childhood Echoes in Our Parenting
6. Behavior as Communication: Cues and Miscues
II. Creating and Maintaining the Circle: How to Be Bigger, Stronger, Wiser, and Kind—and Good Enough
7. Shark Bones: Exploring Our Core Sensitivities
8. Testing New Waters: Choosing Security
9. Staying Afloat: Choosing Security Over and Over as Your Child Grows


Parents of babies, toddlers, and older kids; also of interest to mental health professionals.

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Raising a Secure Child: How Circle of Security Parenting Can Help You Nurture Your Child's Attachment, Emotional Resilience, and Freedom to Explore 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TheThoughtSpot More than 1 year ago
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review. Thanks to NetGalley and Guilford Publications for the opportunity to read and review Raising a Secure Child by Kent Hoffman. This non-fiction book is all about parenting to help your child feel secure, comfortable and confident. As we all know, there's a lot of parenting wisdom and advice for the taking and it seems like everyone is willing to share his or her opinion whether it's wanted or not. This book describes a way to build self-esteem and the feeling of security from the time your baby is born. I like the idea of the simple act of letting your children know you are there for them and showing them, through your actions that you truly are, can build the security that we all need to succeed in life. I was interested in the sensitivity section and the checklist that helps us see our own shark music (a phrase given to how we defend ourselves unconsciously). My favorite line of the book is, "Self-esteem is built not from praise but from acceptance". 4 stars for a helpful book that boosts self confidence and a well balanced childhood!
Reancont More than 1 year ago
Contains very relevant, significant and important information! Information is deeply important to humanity as it clarifies the fact that we grow, develop our worldview, model how to relate and be affectionate, our personality and self-esteem, we acquire our values to thrive, the ability to solve and face the problems of life , for the rest of our lives! ... and all based on the quality of attachment experiences with our primary caregiver. The authors write this book with great clarity, sensitivity, there is much kindness in their approach and genunian guide, tested their Circle of Security approach and also built it on the newest findings of neuroscience. They provide many practical suggestions to connect more deeply with our children, but also to be kinder to us and develop a better parenting. What was most relevant to me are the tools to identify ruptures and make healing repairs. First, we inevitably learned an attachment style from our parents, but we can identify and protect our children (and grandchildren) from struggling with the same aspects of parenting. And second, there are times when we can feel overwhelmed and make mistakes with our children but we can always repair and teach them to resolve themselves emotionally. I visualize that the benefits and scope of applying this secure attachment model with our children, but also within schools and communities, would result in a greater percentage of emotionally and socially intelligent individuals, resilient, competent, empathetic, kind, who enjoy and sustain their physical and emotional health, ... this would change society! My gratitude to the Publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to review the book