Behavior is communication

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Were you ever a child? Mostly likely. Do you remember times when communicating with your parents, or them communicating with you, was a real chore? If not, then maybe you really weren’t ever a child!

Being a parent, or a grandparent also means communicating with children and grandchildren have their challenges. Your role in that communication is different now, but it can still be a tough deal for all.

Last May, I read an article in the Spokesman-Review about a parenting program that was co-founded by an email friend of mine, Dr. Kent Hoffman. He and two other psychotherapists developed a relationship-based program called “Circle of Security”.

I was attracted to the teaching thrust focus on how parents and children communicate with each other -- in healthy and unhealthy ways. Everything we do in relation to another person is a form of communication. We may even use words! Words are often a minor part of communication.

Circle of Security centers on three parenting themes: 1) Parents need to be bigger, stronger, wiser and kind with their children; 2) All children need a fair amount of soothing and comfort; and 3) Kids also need autonomy for the exploration of their world.

One of the other co-founders, Glen Cooper, says something a bit startling: “I hope parents can shift from focusing on (correcting) children’s behavior to looking at the behavior as their way of communicating that they have a need, particularly with misbehaviors or dysfunctional behaviors.”

The Circle program intends to show parents how to shift from only behavioral correction to behavioral understanding and empathy. In other words: behavior is communication. The underlying agenda is: what are we as parents and grandparents communicating to our children?

I wrote to my friend, Kent, the other day with a question about the book the three therapists wrote: Does “Raising a Secure Child” include the important role of grandparents in the whole family communication system? Kent admitted they didn’t include much about grandparents, but he said my point is very well taken.

Later this past summer, I discovered that a good friend and a mental health therapist, Brenda Hammond, had become certified to teach the Circle of Security program. As I asked her about the role of grandparenting in family communications, she quickly embraced that as vital also. She too is a grandparent.

Her classes have mostly been with parents of Mountain States Early Head Start children, but she is also making the classes available to the general community now. Brenda will bring a 90-minute look at Circle of Security to The Geezer Forum next Tuesday, Nov. 14.

Brenda has been an educator, a therapist and social worker for over 40 years. She is convinced of the effectiveness and importance of the Circle of Security parenting program. And she wants to help older adults understand how we can communicate even more effectively with our children and grandchildren. I think it applies to all children we meet too.

I look forward to learning from Brenda next week at The Geezer Forum, Tuesday Nov. 14, 2:30-4:00 at Columbia Bank’s Community Room. I hope you will join me and get a refresher course on how to better communicate with your younger children, your older children and/or your grandchildren.

Paul Graves, M.Div., is lead geezer-in-training for Elder Advocates, a consulting ministry on aging issues. Contact Paul at 208-610-4971 or

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