Wednesday evening was our final workshop - and work we did! The nature of the work required us to reflect, consider, acknowledge and then discover there is not just one option of how to respond to our children but many. Over the last week members of our group considered their children’s expressed behaviours and emotions that triggered their “Shark Music” (refer to More stories from the Circle of Security ~ 30th August ).
We watched clips from Romulus, My Father – adapted from the book by the same name written by the writer and philosopher Raimond Gaita. After the death of his father, Raimond Gaita wrote his boyhood memories in his attempt to recount and understand both his mother and father’s struggle to be the best parents they could be given their circumstances. Migrants to Australia in the 1950s, his parents struggled to adapt, manage and thrive in their new country. We see their love for Raimond, and we see their limitations.
We see a father who, at times, used fear in order to instill obedience in Raimond. This was the way of parenting he had learnt from his parents. When the little boy did not tell the truth about stealing his razor his father beat him “for his own good”. We see his mother suffer sadness and depression who, as a result, was often unable to be the grown up and look after her children.
Raimond experienced a style of parenting that involved meanness and weakness at the times his parents were struggling with their own demons from their past. In other words, they were at times unable to “BE WITH” their son’s feelings of anger, sadness and shame because they were struggling with their own fears. They were hearing their Shark Music at full volume. Raimond was left to organise his own feelings and often had to be the “Parent” of his parents.
The research is clear that a fear based relationship with the main caregiver/parent does much more harm to children than it prevents. We as parents were once children. Our knowledge of how to be a parent comes from our experiences of being parented and from other adults who play a key role in our lives. We know that our parents did the very best they could with what knowledge and experience they had.
Ideas, laws and attitudes change over time and differ from place and between cultures. What was acceptable as a method of parenting during one generation will alter to the next. A thrashing with a cane administered by a teacher to a child was once regarded as reasonable behaviour management. It is now recognised as child abuse and reflected in law as such.
We talked about the importance of reflection. Imagine how it might feel for our children to be on the receiving end of our words and actions when our Shark Music is triggered? Frightening.
We want our children to fear danger, not us. The more we know and reflect upon our fear, the easier it is to choose security. When we can recognise our own struggles and seek help and support from another safe adult or professional, we are more likely to reflect and make changes that benefit our children rather than act-out our fear.
The Circle of Security is more about learning a way of being than a series of techniques. When our children act out, they are actually trying to get help managing their genuine needs. Underneath the challenging behaviour, a child is saying: “I need you and I don’t know what to do with what I’m feeling.”
The quality of a relationship is the solution and to have this quality we need to be ready to repair any rupture. If we consider a child’s behaviour is like a smoke alarm, we may grab the fire extinguisher and hose off the alarm when it goes off, by which time the kitchen might have burnt down. What if your child’s difficult behaviour is an alarm trying to alert you to what they really need?
When we see our child as the problem, we take our hands off the “circle” and leave our child without “hands” to help them organise their feelings. Children don’t feel secure because we never make mistakes. What makes children feel secure is the knowledge that when we make mistakes they can be repaired. Just imagine a time when you were upset and without any support and then a time when you felt understood and helped.
“Time Out “is often used as a punishment but in the Circle of Security we learn that “Time Out” is for us as adults to calm down. Children learn best when they feel calm, safe and securely connected. Discipline is about helping children learn to make better choices not about making them feel bad.
So if “Time Out” is for us, it is a way of preparing “ Time In” for our children. In this calm connection we can help our children have a learning moment not a lecturing one. If there has been a rupture, we need to take responsibility for our part and help our children see what went wrong for them. By reflecting with our children on behaviours and feelings, we can learn how to do it differently next time. With “Time Ins”, like many things worth learning, the first 500 times are always the hardest.
I think the Circle of Security has provided the parents who attended time to reflect and consider what they see in a different way. My advice is to talk with those parents and ask them how it has helped them to connect with their children and improve the quality of their relationship in safety and security.
Maybe you are ready to sign up for the next series of Workshops in Term 4. I hope so!
SHPSH Social Worker