image

image

 
JOIN 800,000+ MEMBERS JOINJOIN Cancel
image

Pathfinder Parenting Principles

print
bookmark
comment
  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
You may use the stars on the left to rate and leave feedback for the current article. No registration is required. Waiting for 5 votes 0.0 of 5 stars (0 votes) — Thanks for your vote

Please fill out the following optional information before submitting your rating:



Pathfinder: Tools for Raising Responsible Children - Section 3

Personal Oriented Principles

  • 1. Promote your own health

  • 2. Let go of fantasy children

  • 3. Avoid being over-protective

  • 4. Curb your temper

  • 5. Avoid cloning yourself

  • 6. Let go of guilt over past parenting errors

  • 7. Forgive yourself for past parenting errors

  • 8. Avoid over-compensating

  • 9. Use detachment

  • 10. Admit your mistakes



1. Promote your own health

You need to make your own mental and physical health your top priority. You cannot encourage your children to have healthy self-esteem and maturity if you are not healthy yourself. If parents sacrifice their well being for their children, they place an unhealthy burden on their children to pay them back for their personal sacrifices. Designating their children as their life's number one priority, makes these parents susceptible to being victims and martyrs, if their children do not recognize and appreciate their sacrifices for them. Pathfinders take care of themselves first in order to provide their children with a healthy role model of self-nurturing and healthy choice making. Taking personal responsibility for one's own life is a hallmark of healthy self-esteem. It is only in having their own self-esteem in a healthy place can Pathfinders encourage their children's self-esteem.

2. Let go of fantasy children

You need to let go of the "fantasy" and/or "dreamed for" children or family which you imagined when you were planning on having children or getting married. When parents hold on too tightly to the image of the "fantasy family" or "dreamed for" children there is a danger of becoming too over controlling to make this become a reality even if it is impossible to make happen. Pathfinders accept reality for what it is and therefore accept their children for who they are rather than for who they would like them to be. The loss of the fantasy or dream takes a great deal of emotional energy to fully grieve in order to let go of it. This involves going through the full cycle of denial, bargaining, anger, despair, letting go and acceptance which are more fully detailed in Tools for Handling Loss. Parents need to recognize when they are still holding on to unrealistic expectations or obligations for their children to fulfill. Pathfinders recognize the potential of their children and set goals allowing children to become all that they are capable of becoming with no parental pressure to fulfill an idealized picture.

3. Avoid being overprotective

You need to avoid being overprotective and afraid to expose your children to the realities of the real world. The real world is not always nice to people and Pathfinders teach their children early on. They encourage their children to go out and face the world for what it is and do not paint unrealistic rose color pictures which ill prepare them to face hard times. Parents encourage their children to experience life in and outside of the house without the protective parental blanket under which they can hide if they do not like what they see or experience. These parents do not hesitate to provide opportunities by which their children see the harshness of life and the apparent unfairness of it for many people. Their children are encouraged to feel the negative feelings which come from facing life as not always safe, easy, and comfortable. They learn that in order to survive in life they need to be fully prepared, trained and educated to face the challenges ahead. Pathfinders prepare their children to survive and stay afloat by early preparation through immersion into the sea of life.

4. Curb your temper

You need to keep your temper, anger, and rage from exploding on your children. Pathfinders work hard at eliminating the negative impact of the many ways in which anger can be shown to children. They recognize that if they have a short fuse that they need to tend to it away from the children so as not to hurt them. Healthy anger work-out strategies, as outlined in Tools for Anger Work-Out, help parents to release their anger and yet protect the emerging self-esteem of their children. Parents also avoid the possibility of becoming verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive when they handle their anger in a healthy way. Children then are free of the intimidation, fear, and insecurity, which can come from homes in which anger is displayed in unhealthy ways. Parental role-modeling of healthy handling anger and curbing temper teaches children that they can do the same for themselves. There is always the possibility for parents to get angry. It is normal to get angry. How parents handle this anger is important in the development of an esteeming environment. Parents who have explosive tempers which are shown freely in the family, encourage in children the development of either the overly sensitive, fragile, and worried or the pulling-in, invisibility seeking, numbing, and non-feeling behavioral patterns in them. Parents who use healthy anger release and curb their tempers encourage openness, relaxation, and calmness in their children.

5. Avoid cloning yourself

You need to allow your children to be free to be themselves and not your clones. If parents as children lived a neglected or abused life there is a danger of trying to relive their childhood through their own children. Pathfinders recognize that it is unhealthy for children to feel responsible or obligated to please their parents by fulfilling some real or perceived script for them in life. Pathfinders help their children to learn the value of being a Pathfinder and encourage them to seek out their own path in life with no pressure from others. Pathfinders rejoice in the uniqueness and difference they experience in their children. They recognize that to create clones of themselves is to limit the freedom of their children to think, feel, and act in a congruent and healthy way complimentary to their unique personalities.

6. Let go of guilt over past parenting errors

You need to free yourself of guilt or shame for what your children have become in life as long as you have been consistent and reasonable in your current pursuit of enhancing and encouraging their self-esteem while healing your own. It is important for parents to recognize that they are powerless to determine what their children will become or accomplish in life. Parents need to eventually let go of the control they exercise in their children's lives. There is only one person a Pathfinder can change and control and that is one's own self. Pathfinders hand their children's future over to their Higher Power. They work at living one day at a time. They learn to enjoy moment to moment. They work at accepting this imperfect life as it is rather than chance their serenity in a struggle to make reality be the way they want it to be. Pathfinders recognize that they can only role model a healthy lifestyle and that their children are free to accept or reject this way of life for themselves. Pathfinders free their children of the pressure to reform or change themselves in order to please their parents. This enables Pathfinders to live a life of greater peace and serenity by taking the responsibility for children's choices off their backs. This principal is covered in more detail in Section 12: Releasing Ourselves of Shame and Guilt Through Self-Forgiveness on this site.

7. Forgive yourself for past parental errors

You need to forgive yourself for doing the best you could do knowing what you knew at the time when you were raising your children prior to your own personal recovery from low self-esteem. Parents who have only recently recognized that they were suffering from low self-esteem and made a conscientious effort to correct this have probably made significant mistakes in the rearing of their children. This does not prevent them from changing their direction with their children. In order to change direction, parents first need to forgive themselves for past mistakes in their parenting. It is human nature to not want to look at past mistakes due to guilt and shame which this creates. If a Pathfinder is on the road to healthy self-esteem then self-forgiveness is an attitude which will clear up the past hurt and shame over neglect or abuse which was tendered the children by rigid, inflexible, and inconsistent parenting. The consequence of altering parenting style will often be the negative reaction by the children. Pathfinders free themselves from the manipulation through guilt by children who react strongly to new consistent, non-controlling, detached, and unconditional accepting parenting. Pathfinders cannot change the past and there is nothing they can do to correct the mistakes made then. All they can do is to live from this day forward making sure they are consistent in their efforts at personal recovery and role-modeling for their children a healthy lifestyle. This principal is covered in more detail in Section 12: Releasing Ourselves of Shame and Guilt Through Self-Forgiveness on this site.

8. Avoid over-compensating

You need to avoid over compensating in your treatment of your children. Over compensation can come from the real or perceived guilt from past parental errors with them. It can also come from making a commitment that children will never experience the negative parenting which their parents received in their youth. This commitment can then result in parents striving to be 180 degrees different from their own parents. Over-indulging, lack of consistency and follow-through, and over-protection often results. The children then receive the wrong messages of entitlement, dependency, and learned helplessness which can debilitate their growth into responsible adulthood. Pathfinders who have let go of guilt and forgiven themselves for their past parental errors make it a point to avoid the extremes of over-indulgence, spoiling, and other forms of over-compensation. They also strive to work for the middle ground in the execution of their parental responsibilities. This avoids the black and white alternative of being the complete opposite with their children than their own parents were with them. Pathfinders feel good about themselves and do not over-compensate with their children to make up for anything in the past.

9. Use detachment

You need to use detachment so as not to get hooked by your children's behaviors or other manipulative ploys to fall back into your old unhealthy ways of parenting. Healthy behaviors in an unhealthy environment are often seen as unhealthy. In other words, healthy actions in a sick setting are viewed as sick. If children were used to an unhealthy way of parenting prior to their parents' enlightenment, then they most probably will view any change in approach to them as drastic, unhealthy, sick, and unacceptable. They will have a difficult time adjusting to the changes in reactions, behaviors, and attitudes and will try to regain a homeostasis or stability in the family system. They will try to drag their parents back into their old ways of parenting by tugging at their sense of fairness, rightness, and parental responsibility. They will use guilt; embarrassment; increased dysfunctional behaviors; troubles in their personal functioning at school; work; family; and in the community. They will literally get worse before they get better. This deterioration of behavior is a ploy to get parents to reconsider their attempts to change parenting style. If they are successful, parents will question themselves. Parents will doubt if they can consistently be Pathfinders. They will question the rationality of letting go of control over their children. They will feel tempted to return to their old tried and true ways of dealing with their children. Pathfinders do not let these behaviors hook them into giving up. They hang in there and commit themselves to self-esteeming recovery procedures of self-affirmations and stress reduction. They seek support from fellow Pathfinders in their support networks. They utilize the SEA's systems of recovery as listed in Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous, The SEA'S Program Manual. If parents begin to act indecisive, anxious, uncertain, and worried as a result of their response to their Pathfinder strategies, their children will be encouraged to continue to act up and keep them in disarray. Pathfinders try hard to be consistent in their new behaviors and stand firm in their beliefs that by being Pathfinders both their children and they will benefit in the long run.

10. Admit your mistakes

You need to openly admit to your children if and when you have made a mistake or experienced a failure. Pathfinders help their children accept their own frailty in life by openly confessing when they have made a mistake in dealing with their children. They also assist their children to develop a healthy perspective on life when they share past experiences or examples when the parents experienced failure, made major errors of judgment or experienced a lack of success. This helps children to recognize that not all things in life, which are worthwhile, come easy. This also opens them to the reality that their parents are not perfect beings and that there is no need to suffer great shame for being imperfect and fallible. Parents handling past errors, mistakes, and failures without shame and guilt, help children to eradicate their own shame and guilt for not living up to a perceived ideal or goal to be perfect for their parents. Parents who hide their own failings from their children open themselves up to be seen as hypocrites, if these past behaviors ever come to light unexpectedly. Children can be sadly disillusioned if their parents who have been put on a pedestal should someday fall off from there unintentionally. Pathfinders help their children take them off the pedestal so that they can have an authentic, realistic, and healthy perspective as to who are their parents.

Family Oriented Principles

  • 1. Promote the health of your marriage

  • 2. Balance career and family life

  • 3. Avoid triangulation

  • 4. Seek win-win solutions

  • 5. Be the leader of the family

  • 6. Establish healthy boundaries

  • 7. Encourage respect for others

  • 8. Eliminate family secrets

  • 9. Seek out professional help

  • 10. Advocate for children


1. Promote the health of your marriage

You need to make the health of your marriage or relationship with your significant other your next priority after yourself. You and your partner in parenting cannot be an effective team developing healthy esteeming structures for your children unless your relationship is healthy first. Children will leave the nest after they reach adulthood and that will leave you and your partner alone. If you two have not spent the time to nurture you own relationship you will have a struggle to redefine your relationship once your children have left. By placing the children before the relationship, you are also setting up the possibility of your spouse or partner being jealous of the children. This can result in the partner competing with the children for your attention. Healthy Pathfinders keep their priorities clear and role model healthy relationships for their children. Relationships which are nurtured wisely and in a timely fashion by parents teach children the value of intimacy, privacy, sharing and mutual problem solving. This creates a healthy esteeming environment for people in relationships.

2. Balance career and family life

You must balance the need to work and have a career in order to insure that your children and family life are the third priority after yourself and your relationship. You can do this by maintaining a balance of obligations of work with home life. Pathfinders put their children in a balanced priority of importance in their lives. Personal, marital and family well-being are placed in importance before that of work, recreation and community or volunteer activity. This does not mean that a parent must not attend to the responsibilities of the job or career. It is important that parents provide the essentials for survival and security of the family. However, once the survival and security needs are met, Pathfinders make it a point of letting go of the workaholic and over responsible attitudes which keep them invisible from their families. Parents who balance the need to provide for family welfare with the need to interact in healthy ways with the children, role model a balanced attitude about work which will encourage the children to place job and career in a healthy perspective. It also helps the children and the spouse to appreciate the work of the pathfinder rather than to resent it. Children and spouses often feel like they are competing for the attention of individuals who are too dependent on a job or career for their self-esteem, self-worth, and identity in life.

3. Avoid triangulation

You need to avoid getting into triangle communication between children, spouse and yourself. A triangle is when one person communicates to a second person indirectly by going through a third person. This is often done to avoid a conflict with the second person. Parents need to pull themselves out of the third person role. They also need to deal directly with their children without going through a third person. This encourages children to speak directly and assertively with the individuals with whom they have a disagreement or conflict. It eliminates faulty communications or "second person accounts." It strengthens the relationship between the disagreeing parties and frees the third person from the peacemaker or middle man role. Parents need to avoid putting their children in a third person role when the parents are in conflict. This confuses the children and creates a great deal of discomfort in the family. The Pathfinder parenting team needs to present a united front to the children in order to prevent a "divide and conquer" mentality which can break down the consistency of parental follow through.

4. Seek win-win solutions

When solving problems, resolving disagreements, or settling conflicts, you need to use the win-win solution model. This involves compromising between the two parties so that the solution is satisfactory to both. This results in a win-win where both parties are winners. It avoids the win-lose solution where only one person is the winner. The win-lose solution often results in resentment, hard feelings and fear of future conflict in the loser. The winner learns to use intimidation, coercion, and threatening in order to beat down the other party. The win-win also avoids the lose-lose solution where neither party wins. This lose-lose solution is deadly to relationships resulting in resentment, greater distance, and a break down in communications between the two parties. It is important for children to not always be on the losing side of an argument and to learn how to reach compromises in life. This happens in win-win solutions between parents and children.

5. Be the leader of the family

You need to avoid rationalizing to the children why you, as the leader of the family, have decided on specific parental directives, requests or recommendations for them. Pathfinders avoid talking too much about the reasons why they have made these decisions. They recognize that the more they try to explain the wisdom, soundness and validity of their judgments to their children; the more they are undermining their leadership role, authority, and credibility with them. Pathfinders recognize that parents are the leaders of the family and that they do not have to always explain their reasons for their parental directives. They recognize that children might use the question "why" to manipulate situations so as to talk the parents out of their original intentions and by this take control away from the parents. Pathfinders are clear that they are in charge of the family. They are aware that it is unhealthy for children to be placed into an "in charge" position through manipulating their parents by guilt, questioning, and refusal to comply. They make every effort to avoid placing their children in charge of their lives. This helps children learn a valuable lesson in how to deal with authority and leadership in real life situations outside the home.

6. Establish healthy boundaries

You need to establish healthy emotional and physical boundaries with your children. Pathfinders are able to distinguish where their emotional and physical selves begin and end. They are capable of protecting themselves from being invaded by their children. They likewise do not invade the emotional or physical boundaries of their children. Healthy respect for each other's boundaries is encouraged in this pathfinding atmosphere. Pathfinders are alert not to allow themselves to become either too enmeshed or too detached with their children. There is an effort made to prevent the children from feeling too smothered by their parents. Also there is a equal effort to provide the children involvement, guidance, and nurturing so that they do not feel neglected or too detached from their parents. Physical affection through touch, hugging, and kissing is appropriately provided so that the children are not left with any sense of shame or guilt for such interaction with their parents. Section 11:Establishing Boundaries, of this material explores this issue more deeply.

7. Encourage respect for others

You need to work at instilling in your children a respect for others. Pathfinders help their children to understand and accept the difference among and between people of different races, creeds, cultures, color, sex, sexual orientation and age. They make it a point to expose their children to settings in which these differences are visible. Other differences in people including: body size, handicapping conditions, developmental disabilities, weight, bodily features, and places of residence are also pointed out with respect and acceptance by parents. Children are taught that discrimination of any kind is unhealthy because it exaggerates barriers between people. Pathfinders encourage children to have an open mind about everybody and to hold off from being too critical or judgmental only because of surface characteristics. These parents encourage their children to be generous to others in need by volunteering time, money or talents to activities and programs which build bridges to overcome the differences in people. Respect for others begins at home where the children are encouraged to respect the feelings, interests and needs of others. Pathfinders function in ways around their family members so that their children are able to show them respect and acceptance. They give their children an experience of respect for differences by allowing and accepting the differences in their children unconditionally.

8. Eliminate family secrets

You need to eliminate the keeping of family secrets. Pathfinders encourage their children to maintain a sense of reality as it is rather than reality as it should look. These parents do not require their children to maintain a certain image out in the community in order to make their family look good. If the family has experienced the pain of alcoholism, drug abuse, or other compulsive behaviors for which target family members are now in recovery, there is no need for the children to deny the existence of these past problems as they deal with their everyday life. If the family life has been full of negative fighting, arguing, and turmoil prior to implementing the Pathfinder system, there is no need to deny this to others for fear of making the family look "less than good." Parents who expect their children to maintain the "Looking Good" family image are hampering their development of a healthy sense of reality, justice, and fairness. Encouraging the keeping of family secrets sets the children up, creating a delusion that their family somehow fits into a fantasy or idyllic image of perfection. Children who are raised in a delusional family environment have a difficult time sorting out reality, rationality, and truth as it is. Children are encouraged to freely observe the reality of the humanness of the Pathfinder's home life so that they can make better judgments for themselves as to what is healthy or not in the ways their family interacts. By not holding their children to keeping secrets, Pathfinders give their children permission to call them on it, if they are reverting to old unhealthy behaviors which could be injurious to the parents and/or the family.

9. Seek out professional help

You need to admit when you and/or your family are experiencing problems which you cannot solve on your own and then seek out professional help. Pathfinders recognize their own limitations and are willing to seek out assistance from professional helpers to address problems which are amenable to such intervention. They seek out competent, licensed, certified, and credible professionals in medicine, mental health, education, religion, and law to help them and their families to deal with their problems. Pathfinders avoid the sense of pride which insists that they should be able to solve their problems on their own. Pathfinders recognize that they are experts on their children and families because they know them best, by living with them 24 hours a day. Pathfinders do not blindly submit to the advice and direction of professionals but work as a team with them to come to a workable resolution of the problems. Pathfinders recognize that they may be blind or non-objective in dealing with specific problems which are directly related to them. They try to remain willing and open to the objective observations of professionals on how to address and correct the problems. Pathfinders do not try to fix problems outside of their realm of competency and seek professional assistance to address them.

10. Advocate for children

You need to advocate for your children with the schools, churches, sports teams, clubs, and other community systems which serve them. Pathfinders advocate so that these organizations will implement the Pathfinder model to continue the self-esteem enhancement efforts begun at home. They negotiate with the various groups, systems, and agencies involved in their children's lives to insure that they are offering an optimal environment which will build up rather than tear down self-esteem. Pathfinders are willing to speak out if there is an injustice or impropriety aimed at their children. They do not sit back and let their efforts at home to assist their children be sabotaged outside the home. Pathfinders become fully informed about the school system in which their children are enrolled. They make their presence known at school and openly invite all teachers and administrators to involve them on their children's educational team. Pathfinders monitor the other sports, club and community functions their children are involved in to insure that their functioning is consistent with the principles encouraged at home.

Child Oriented Principles

  • 1. Encourage uniqueness and individuality

  • 2. Encourage children's sense of autonomy

  • 3. Avoid entitlement

  • 4. Empathize with children's hard knocks

  • 5. Teach feelings are personal choices

  • 6. Give children freedom of choice

  • 7. Love unconditionally

  • 8. Adapt for special needs children

  • 9. Avoid perfectionistic parenting

  • 10. Be authentic


1. Encourage uniqueness and individuality

You need to allow the personalities of children to blossom in their uniqueness and individuality with no constraints or demands that they conform to the "fantasy" or "dream" which still lingers in your mind. Parents need to avoid accepting only on the intellectual level, that they need to accept their children unconditionally. This could lead to their deluding themselves that they are doing so even when they are still emotionally hanging on to their personal expectations for their children's outcomes. Pathfinders clarify their emotional reaction to their children. They get out their anger, resentment, disappointment, dismay, and disillusionment over who their children are in reality. Pathfinders get out their anger in healthy ways which are fully explored in the Tools for Anger Workout. It is only after they have accepted that they will have continuing bouts of anger over their children's emerging reality, will Pathfinders be able to allow them (their children) the freedom to be themselves. Parents need to establish that it is ok for each child in the family to be different and unique from the other family members. This helps children to believe that they are not "less than" if they do not match or equal the talents, skills and abilities of the others.

2. Encourage children's sense of autonomy

You need to allow your children to strive for autonomy when they are at that developmental stage in which this movement is natural. Pathfinders are not threatened when their children begin to show signs of pulling away from their dependency on parents. This occurs early on when children reach the "terrible two" stage and then again in the pre-adolescent to latter adolescent period. Eventually as they grow into young adults they will seek to leave home to set out into the world on their own. Parents need to insure that their children have a sense of personal mastery, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and self-confidence to handle the challenges of independent living. The training ground for independence is at each stage of the breaking away to be autonomous and self-directed. Children have an innate ability to self-regulate, self-correct, and self-direct. Pathfinders facilitate their developing of these skills throughout their childhood and adolescence. Pathfinders do not hold on too tightly to their children. They recognize that they must allow their children to make their own choices and decisions. Pathfinders enjoy watching their children experiment with independence. They are always available to help the children learn from the mistakes and errors they will make in the process. Pathfinders do not take it as an attack on their performance as parents when their children begin to push for autonomy. Rather they seize the opportunity to encourage their children to learn how to take increasing personal responsibility for their own lives.

3. Avoid entitlement

You need to insure that you do not provide your children with a sense of entitlement. Entitlement is an irrational belief of children. They believe that they do not have to do anything for themselves or others because of their place in the family. They believe that they are to be taken care of, pampered, and spoiled by their parents and other family members. Entitlement belief results in these children rarely taking personal responsibility for their own lives as adults because of their "learned helplessness" and over-dependency on others. Pathfinders give their children responsibilities, chores, and jobs in the family which they must complete on their own to prevent entitlement from developing.

4. Empathize with children's hard knocks

You need to be available and capable to empathize with and support your children when they come back to tell you of the distress they experience in real life. They may experience hurt and pain from teasing, name calling, and kidding from their peer group or other adults outside of the home. They may experience problematical relationships at school, work, or in the community. They may experience failures, frustrations, or major errors of judgment, behavior, and actions. They may experience discrimination due to being a minority in their real life world. They may run into people who do not accept, understand, or like them. They may be shocked by the lack of love, warmth, and caring in the real world. They may find out that there are no easy answers or quick fixes. They may come face to face with death of a family member, a friend, a neighbor, a classmate, or some other person known to them. Whatever the hard knock of life, Pathfinders provide their children with an empathic listening ear and supportive response which leads them to develop strategies to cope with such harsh realities of life outside the home.

5. Teach feelings are personal choices

You need to teach your children that how they feel is their choice to make. In encouraging them to express their feelings you need to point out that feelings are chosen by the people feeling them. You need to inform them that it does no good to blame or credit others for how they feel especially if they feel negatively. Pathfinders help children to own their own feelings and not to project these feelings onto others. These parents assist their children to recognize that to blame, tattletale, and tell on others is not acceptable. Getting other people into trouble to cover up for their part in problems, to avoid painful feelings, is not reinforced by Pathfinders. These parents encourage children to recognize that they must accept negative as well as positive feelings since all feelings are valid. They are encouraged to recognize that feeling angry is ok as long as it is expressed in healthy ways. These children are then taught the healthy anger work out model. These children are encouraged to realize that there are no right or wrong feelings. They are encouraged not to stuff their feelings. They are encouraged to recognize that there is a huge warehouse of feelings to choose from. They are encouraged to avoid only choosing the black and white feelings. They learn how to choose among the gray, beige and pastel ones by their parents' example and role model.

6. Give children freedom of choice

You need to give your children the freedom to make choices in their lives not burdened by guilt, fear of loss of approval, or rejection if their choices do not please you. Pathfinders help their children to live in a rational reality based life which is free of guilt, fear of loss of approval, or fear of rejection. These parents are skilled in positively affirming their children and giving them the message of full unconditional acceptance for who they are rather than just for what they do. These behaviors are more fully explored in, Tools for Personal Growth. Pathfinders do not manipulate or intimidate their children to do what they want them to do. These parents try not to use unhealthy controlling techniques to assist their children to grow up emotionally and physically strong. They assist children to accept personal responsibility for their own choices and behaviors. Pathfinders try not to develop dependency relationships with their children. They assist their children to recognize the natural and logical consequences of their actions. These control issues are more fully explored in Tools for Handling Control Issues. Pathfinders assist their children to become good problem solvers capable of making decisions in a rational and reality-based way. These children learn from their parents the importance of handling differences of opinion and conflict with their parents in healthy ways. They recognize that even if their choices do not please, that they will still be loved and nurtured by their parents. Love is never withheld to blackmail children to conform to the will and desires of their parents in a self-esteem enhancing home. Pathfinders have healthy intimate relationships with their children in which they feel free to share secrets without the fear of disapproval or rejection. These relationship issues are more fully discussed in Tools for Relationships (Messina, J.J., 1992, Kendall-Hunt).

7. Love unconditionally

You need to show your children that you love them unconditionally for who they are not for what they do. Pathfinders avoid giving their children the false impression that their worth and value is dependent on how they perform, act, or achieve. Pathfinders nurture their children with no regard for what the children have done or how they have behaved. They do not bargain with their children by only loving them if they perform in a manner which the parents expect. Pathfinders recognize that every thing they say or do which is directed towards children has a significant impact on how their self-esteem will develop. They recognize that their messages to their children become the subconscious scripts which they listen to about who they are and how much value and worth they have as people. Pathfinders recognize it is their responsibility to assist their children to recognize that their innate worth and value is more important than the externals in their lives. They de-emphasize the importance of things and the content of life and emphasize the value of feelings, interactions, and relationships as tools which give their children a sense of worth and value. Pathfinders work at helping their children to develop a sense of self-confidence and self-pride so that they can becomes self-sufficient and self-reliant later in life.

8. Adapt for special needs children

You need to make adaptations in your parenting style for children who have special needs. These include children with developmental disabilities such as intellectual deficits, hearing impairments, visual impairments, physically handicapping conditions, epilepsy, autism, specific learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity and distractibility, and other genetic or physiologically based conditions which impair typical development. Another set of children with special needs have childhood chronic illnesses like asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, heart, kidney, liver, or other diseases. A third set of special needs are children who are gifted in intellectual, athletic, musical, or other performance activities. A fourth set of special needs are children who were injured and possibly permanently impaired in an accident or manmade or natural disaster. A fifth set of special needs are children who are survivors of a parent, sibling, or other close family member's death either from accidental or natural causes. This set also includes children who are survivors of a close family member's death by suicide. Pathfinders seek out help from professionals in the areas of their children's special needs in order to learn how to modify and adapt their parenting strategies to address these needs. They also recognize that the siblings of special needs children have special needs themselves. These children need to be given equal attention and support as that given those with special needs. This insures typical siblings are not neglected or ignored in these families. Having a child with special needs is a challenge to parents. They need a great deal of support and assistance in order to learn to cope with and handle the stress this entails. This issue is explored further in Coping Strategies for Parents of Children with Special Needs by James J. Messina on this Website. Pathfinders adapt their family and home life to address the special needs of their children.

9. Avoid perfectionistic parenting

You need to be gentle with yourself as you begin to experiment and implement the Pathfinder model of parenting. You also need to recognize that it is difficult to implement a parenting modality which you have never been exposed to in your own childhood. To implement the Pathfinder model of parenting you will need to give yourself permission to make mistakes and take risks. This model is a thinking person's system and it requires a lot of analyzing, problem solving, alternative seeking, and rational thinking. You will need to seek out input from others who are currently using this model themselves. There are real benefits from using this model but it does not come easy. Parents who have for many years maintained a great deal of control in their lives so as not to go insane will find it hard to let go of control. They will experience the panic, fear, and anxiety which feels close to being crazy and out of control as they implement this parenting system. The backing down from these principles in order to regain control so as to avoid discomfort is understandable. Breaking old habits takes time and a lot of practice. If Pathfinders relapse into the old controller mode of parenting, they get back on the wagon of parental recovery and forgive themselves for being human. They remind themselves that if they go back to their old habitual ways of dealing with their children, they risk not only losing their serenity and sense of recovery, but they also will do more harm to their children's self-esteem. The worst possible thing that can happen if they hold to a consistent Pathfinder model of parenting is that their children will react negatively to their change, but they act negatively to their old controlling model of parenting so they have nothing to lose. Parental serenity and self-esteem benefits from holding firm to the Pathfinder principles in family interactions.

10. Be authentic

You need to be honest with yourself and others as to your level of commitment to your children and family life. Pathfinders work hard to let go of Looking Good, People Pleasing, and Entertainer Behavioral Patterns (described in Laying the Foundation) which mask how they are really thinking, feeling, and acting. Children have intuitive sensitivity and can pick up when parents are being incongruent in the ways they deal with them. Parents who can recite the Pathfinder's principles word for word, but yet do not live them in real life create anxiety in their children. The discrepancy between words and actions confuses them as to what is really real in their lives. Do they live by the words or do they live by the parents actions? Pathfinder parenting is a role-modeling process by which children learn by how parents live rather than just how they speak. The dishonesty of one's life will eventually surface. Pathfinders work hard at letting their children know that as human beings their parents have faults and failings which interfere often times with the rhetoric of the Pathfinder Philosophy of life. This open and honest admission by parents of their fallibility helps children to be more relaxed and trusting of their experiences in the family. If parents agree at the intellectual level with the Pathfinder model, but are not yet ready to implement it at an emotional level, then they first need to clarify their emotional resistance before they go on. Parents who are committed to a Looking Good way of life may pick up this book and other texts on parenting in hopes of finding answers to how to look like good parents. The Pathfinder model requires a complete commitment on the part of parents to turn their own lives around into a recovery mode. Only after intensive personal recovery work on themselves will parents be ready to implement the Pathfinder system.

Developmental Principles

  • 1. Have fun with children

  • 2. Stimulate creativity

  • 3. Let children be children

  • 4. Encourage healthy sexuality

  • 5. Avoid sexual stereotyping

  • 6. Stimulate leadership potential

  • 7. Live a healthy lifestyle

  • 8. Promote spirituality

  • 9. Encourage a world view

  • 10. Encourage career mindedness


1. Have fun with children

Allow your healthy inner child to interact with your children. Pathfinders take care of their own inner children with activities similar to those which are fully explored in Growing Down - Tools for Healing the Inner Child. Pathfinders play with their children. This helps children learn how to have fun in games and other child-like activities. Pathfinders are alert to when children lose the point of having fun in a game or activity. They stop the activity when it ceases to be fun. Pathfinders encourage their children to have fun in sports activities and de-emphasize the importance of competition and winning which can become the unhealthy goal in children's games and athletics. By having fun and enjoyment in their interaction with their children's activities, Pathfinders role model the appropriate place for fun, relaxation, and leisure activities in life. Pathfinders encourage their children to learn activities which encourage healthy exercise and physical outlet which they can enjoy over their entire life span. Parent's role model through their own healthy lifestyles the appropriate use of free time to "re-create" themselves. Learning to laugh and develop a good sense of humor about themselves and life is an essential self-esteem tool which Pathfinders share with their children.

2. Stimulate creativity

You need to provide opportunities and outlets for your children to develop their creativity, imagination and freedom of expression in problem solving. Pathfinders encourage their children to develop extensive repertoires of approaches, solutions, and resolutions to problems, challenges and crises in life. This eliminates stereotypical problem solving and black and white thinking. Children are taught from an early age on to brainstorm all ideas, solutions and creations in which they are involved. They are allowed the freedom to be exhaustive in this brainstorming and are not limited by "yes, but" responses by parents and other adults with whom they are engaged in this process. No alternatives presented are questioned immediately. Instead the goal is for a large number of ideas, solutions and alternatives to be generated before going on to the next step. They then proceed to analyze the items on the list to eliminate the "impossible to achieve" ones. Once they have a workable list they then put them into priority according to what is realistically possible given their talents, skills, abilities, resources, and time available. Single solutions for problems with no prior creative thinking are not encouraged. Simple answers which require little thought, imagination or freedom of expression are equally discouraged. Creative responses utilizing the whole range of thinking, feeling, energy, talents and abilities of children are not only encouraged but also reinforced. Children who have been encouraged to be creative problem solvers and creators optimally utilize their intellectual and cognitive potential.

3. Let children be children

You need to allow your children to be children and not little adults who need to take care of their dysfunctional parents. Pathfinders work hard on promoting their personal growth and self-esteeming efforts by actively seeking support from networks of support either in their natural environment such as friends, relatives and work colleagues or in simulated support systems such as 12 Step programs or parenting support groups. A good example of an appropriate Pathfinders support program is the 12 Step program described in Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous - The SEA'S Program Manual. Pathfinders work hard at not being the Troubled Person in the family, who need to be rescued and cared for by the children. Pathfinders are aware of the damaging personality styles which emerge in dysfunctional families as outlined in Laying the Foundation. They make every effort to insure that the home environment is not dysfunctional. Pathfinders establish clearly that parents are responsible for the health of the family. Pathfinders remind their children that they are children and as such they need to accept the guidance and direction of their parents. Pathfinders seek out help for themselves when they have relapsed into the old unhealthy behavioral consequences of low self-esteem so that they do not lay a burden on their children to take care of them. Pathfinders seek to end the transgenerational transmission of dysfunctional living which they received in their families of origin. They seek out a better understanding of what is normal and healthy and let go of the irrational and unrealistic beliefs which they learned in their earlier state of lowered self-esteem.

4. Encourage healthy sexuality

You need to encourage you children to develop a healthy sexuality for themselves. Pathfinders recognize that the sexual development of children begins with their birth. They provide their children with healthy sex education over their entire childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. They utilize the physiologically correct terminology for all body parts and functions from the time their children are newborns. They practice appropriate nudity, modesty, and sexual functioning around their children. They make an effort to avoid any embarrassing sexually based behaviors with their children to avoid not only physical sexual abuse, but also covert sexual abuse. These parents believe that children need a family based sex education which is then supplemented in the school, church and other children centered activities such as scouting, clubs and youth programs. They recognize that sexuality is more than pure physical sexual functioning. These parents teach their children to feel good about their sexual characteristics and functioning. Pathfinders role model by their appropriate behaviors that sexuality is a way of being which enhances self-esteem and personal functioning. These parents teach their children about safe sex practices, responsible sexual interactions, birth control, and the use of common sense in relating to members of the opposite sex. They teach their children about all forms of sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS. Pathfinders point out that celibacy, no pre-marital sex, and chastity are preferred forms of sexual interaction for single teenagers and young adults. However they leave the choice in these matters up to their children after first pointing out the natural and logical consequences for choosing to engage in sex in an irresponsible way. These parents also openly discuss with their children accurate information about alternative sexual orientation. They also point out the natural and societal logical consequences of choosing this lifestyle. Pathfinders allow their children to choose their own sexual orientation with no fear of loss of love from the parents. Parents encourage their children's sexuality knowing, that in so doing, they are preparing them for an important component in their self-esteem, personal responsibility taking and self-confidence.

5. Avoid sexual stereotyping

You need to avoid treating your children with characteristic sexual stereotypes. Pathfinders work at treating their sons and daughters in an egalitarian fashion. They try not to single out one sex or the other for specific training, reinforcement or support. They treat both sexes as equal and try to avoid saying disparaging remarks about the benefits of being one sex or the other. Respect for the human body and its function is taught with an eye towards instructing each sex about the anatomy of the other. Mothers and fathers reflect in their role modeling an equality and partnership in the family leadership. The parents seek to exemplify successful cooperation and harmony between the sexes. No partner is seen as dominating over the other due to sexual type. Boys and girls are both encouraged to be open to their feelings and to freely express them no matter how emotional they might appear to others. Girls and boys are both taught to work hard in order to be successful. They are both encouraged to realize that world can be competitive. They are made to realize the need to be as fully trained, educated, and prepared to meet the demands of life. Daughters and sons are encouraged to become leaders in what they endeavor. Toys are not differentiated by sex. Girls are encouraged to play with trucks, trains and tool boxes. Boys are given dolls, play houses, and cooking tools to play with. Sons are encouraged to pursue their own career choices even if it is in a field which was historically thought to be feminine such as: dancer, nurse, florist, teacher, nanny, dental hygienist, etc. Daughters are encouraged to pursue their own career choices which in the past might have been perceived more masculine like: big machine operator, engineer, architect, construction worker, truck driver etc. Respect for the opposite sex is engendered in Pathfinder led families where the sexes are perceived and treated as equal.

6. Stimulate leadership potential

You need to encourage your children to experience the feelings of being leaders of their own lives with a sense of self-direction, self-determination, and self-deserving. Pathfinders encourage their children to altruistic and willing to share their talents, skills, and resources with others less fortunate. Pathfinders hold weekly or regularly scheduled family meetings with their children to review the health and functioning of the family system. To enable their children to experience the leadership responsibility they are given turns along with their parents to conduct and lead the meetings. Parents encourage their children to come up with their own goals, objectives, and procedures to achieve desired outcomes in their lives. In the family meetings the children are also encouraged to focus on the positives in their lives. Their strengths, achievements, and success are given attention in the meetings. Minutes of the meetings are kept so that the children can have a written record to remind themselves of what was accomplished and decided. Pathfinders encourage their children to make an honest assessment of their capabilities, competencies, and talents. With a clarity of who they are and what they are capable of achieving the children are encouraged to pursue activities which will accentuate, complement, and highlight them. Pathfinders conduct a homelife which is the boot camp for leaders in life. These children learn how to lead themselves, family, peers, friends, classmates, team-mates, and work colleagues. They are instilled with an altruistic sense of responsibility to serve others while insuring they do not sacrifice their own physical or mental health in the process. They are taught that leadership is not taking control by becoming a fixer, rescuer, caretaker, or enabler.

7. Live a healthy lifestyle

You need to teach your children how to live a healthy lifestyle by living it in your daily life. Pathfinders live a lifestyle according to the outline given in the SEA'S Tools for a Lifestyle of Recovery. This lifestyle includes: (1) Control over all compulsive and addictive behaviors (alcohol, drugs, smoking, eating, gambling, sex, shopping, use of money, relationships, work, etc.) to insure that personal self-esteem is protected. (2) Good time management to insure that all needed aspects of healthy living can be fit into the weekly schedule. (3) Getting adequate rest and sleep to prevent lethargy, restlessness, and low energy. (4) Eating a balanced diet which is based on guidelines of the American Heart Association's diet to insure adequate weight management. (5) Daily aerobic exercise of 20 to 30 minutes a day to insure energy to accomplish this lifestyle regiment. (6) Maintaining physical health by following the direction of a family physician to insure wellness. (7) Healthy structuring of home, work, and community involvement to insure that health of mind and body are protected. (8) Maintaining a healthy and vibrant social support system of friends, relatives and support buddies to assist lifestyle pursuit. (9) Stress management and relaxation activities to reduce anxiety, tension, and fatigue of life's pressures. (10) Engaging in adequate recreational and leisure activities to insure "re-creating" the mind, soul, and body to continue the pursuit of all that is required to maintain personal and family health. Children learn best what is a healthy lifestyle by how their parents live their lives. The message of a healthy lifestyle gets lost on children whose parents ignore implementing these guidelines in their own lives. A Pathfinder's home is a breeding ground for fitness and wellness.

8. Promote spirituality

You need to promote a spirituality in your children to insure that they have an awareness of a Higher Power in their lives to whom they can turn over their burdens which are out of personal control to change or fix. Pathfinders recognize that there is a difference between organized religion and spirituality. The spirituality encouraged by the SEA'S Program is that of the 12 Steps which were adapted from those of Alcoholics Anonymous. This spirituality is more detailed in the The SEA'S Twelve Steps Tools. Pathfinders clarify their values about what is important in their lives. They choose the emotionally based values of relationships with self, others, and a Higher Power as more important than relationship with things, money, and material possession. Pathfinders show their children by example the need for a relationship with their Higher Power. They explain that humans can only control and change their own lives. The rest of the people, places, things, and conditions in life which bring them down or burden their capabilities to endure are best handed over to the keeping of their Higher Power. Children are encouraged to recognize that it is unhealthy to hold onto burdens which can impair their mental health. They are taught that it is healthy to ask for help of their Higher Power and to hand over problems out of their range of personal control and responsibility so as to gain serenity in their lives. This spirituality of serenity is explored further in Tools for Personal Growth: Handling Pride and Spirituality. The place of our Higher Power in our life is further detailed in Tools for Handling Control Issues: Accepting Powerlessness and Letting Go of the Uncontrollables and Unchangeables and Developing Detachment. Children of Pathfinders grow up with a healthy respect, understanding, and appreciation of a Higher Power in their lives.

9. Encourage a world view

You need to open the eyes of your children to the realities of the world around them so as to encourage a world view in their awareness of life. This prevents them from developing a restrictive and parochial view of life which is limited to their families, neighborhood, and school. Pathfinders encourage their children to read newspapers and magazines which detail the news of the world, nation, state, and community. They also encourage their children to watch television and listen to radio news shows. They engage their children in conversations about the news which they are reading, seeing, and hearing. They listen to their children's questions about what is the meaning and importance of these news events. They also engage their children in further exploration about the history and traditions of different cultures, societies, and nationalities. They bring their children to museums, libraries, and events which expand their awareness of the world and its problems. Pathfinders encourage their children to have a reality based understanding of poverty, discrimination, war, civil unrest, crime, economics, social problems, and other concerns in the world. Pathfinders raise children who appreciate the meaning of world peace and a secure future. Children raised by such parents are ready to face the challenges of life in the real world in a more realistic way.

10. Encourage career mindedness

You need to encourage your children to be aware of the world of work so that they can develop career mindedness which intrinsically motivates them to do their best in school, academic and formal training activities. Pathfinders make it a point to involve their children in their work. They bring their children to their place of employment so that they can see what the parents do when they are away from home at work. They send their children notes or letters from work while on the job to let the children know that they are thinking about them during the work day. They mail these letters through the mail from the work place to let the children know that the parents priority is balanced between work and family. These parents engage their children in discussions about their own careers covering: why they chose them; what are the benefits and drawbacks; what training and education is needed; what the current job market is for their careers and what went into their decisions to accept their current job placement. The children are encouraged to role-play and engage in imagination play about the world of work. Pathfinders work with their children's schools to insure that they also encourage career mindedness in children. Allowing children to choose their own career paths and to freely explore all alternatives for themselves, helps them to develop a sense of personal mastery over their own lives. It also develops a goal for them which becomes an intrinsic motivator to become a productive person in adult life. Children raised by Pathfinders do not need to be constantly hounded by their parents to work hard in school if they want to be successful in life. They are self-directed and driven to achieve the best they can in order to meet the entry requirements of the careers which they picture themselves.

Behavioral Principles

  • 1. Describe behaviors, not children, as non-acceptable

  • 2. Catch the good in children

  • 3. Ignore the negative

  • 4. Listen to behaviors

  • 5. Communicate with children

  • 6. Avoid cornering children in lies

  • 7. Use natural and logical consequences

  • 8. Be consistent

  • 9. Follow through

  • 10. Be assertive with children


1. Describe behaviors, not children, as non-acceptable

You need to describe only the behaviors of children as unacceptable, when they upset you. Avoid engaging in name calling, belittling, or other disparaging remarks about the children. Pathfinders when upset with children's behaviors convey to them, although they are accepted and loved unconditionally, that their current behaviors are unacceptable. These parents also point out what are the possible negative consequences if the children choose to continue these behaviors. This is a difficult parental skill to master. It requires a great deal of practice accompanied by a cool head, relaxed emotions, and a rational perspective. Often times in anger; negative words, names, or threats are spoken by parents which children indelibly forge into their memories and self-scripts about themselves. These negative remarks then mar their beliefs about their self-worth, self-value, and self-confidence. Pathfinders vent their anger in a healthy manner on inanimate objects away from the children, before they engage in addressing their unacceptable, upsetting, and irritating behaviors.

2. Catch the good in children

You need to be consistent in positively reinforcing your children's strengths, abilities, skills, talents, competencies and accomplishments. Pathfinders make a concerted effort to point out and compliment children when they are doing acceptable behaviors and accomplishing positive results. Success breeds success. If positive attention is paid to positive behaviors, children learn that there is no need to act up or misbehave in order to get their parents' negative attention. When children's skills, abilities, talents, competencies and strengths are pointed out to them, it gives them external validation of what is real about them. Pathfinders avoid only paying attention to the bad behaviors of their children. They catch the good in their children and celebrate it with them.

3. Ignore the negative

You need to ignore the negative behaviors of your children so that they are not being reinforced to continue them. Pathfinders recognize that by attending to negative behaviors in children there is a good probability that such attention is negatively reinforcing the behaviors to continue. Parents need to try to assist the extinguishing of the negative behaviors by withdrawing from commenting, noting, or calling attention to them. This requires parents to let go of the need to fix, correct, and change their children's negative behaviors. Parents can practice the process of letting go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in their lives. The more they try to control and change these unwanted behaviors the more they persist in occurring. The paradox of life that "the more you exercise control the less control you have" takes affect when over attending negative behaviors in children. Parents need to hand over these negative behaviors to their Higher Power, as things which they cannot control or change. This handing over lightens up the pressure on parents to attend to these negative actions and frees them to accept that there is something else behind the actions of their children which needs to be further deciphered and decoded. As parents hand these negative behaviors over, they will gain a serenity in their lives. Pathfinders recognize that toughening it out by ignoring the negative, uncomfortable, and irritating behaviors in children is actually a pathway to peace in the family.

4. Listen to behaviors

You need to listen to the behaviors of your children and not just to what they verbally tell you. Pathfinders recognize the need to monitor the behaviors, activities, and actions of their children for the messages contained in them. They recognize that often there is a goal behind children behaving or acting in certain ways. Parents need to decipher the hidden messages because the children may be lacking the communications skills to be clear on what they want or need. Children often learn early that they can placate and manipulate their parents by telling them exactly what they want to hear from them. This teaches children to be people pleasers who stuff how they really feel about things in order to keep their parents peaceful, calm, and happy. If children are actually in disagreement, angry, or upset with their parents and yet say the "looking good" thing, they learn how to be passive aggressive and mean "no" when they are saying "yes." If children feel ignored, unattended, and not listened to; they might act out negatively in order to gain their parents' attention, even if this attention is negative. They intuitively sense that some attention, even negative, is better than no attention at all. Pathfinders spend a great deal of time reviewing the behaviors of their children in order to derive the hidden messages within them.

5. Communicate with children

You need to communicate with your children at their level of understanding about feelings and emotional matters so that they know that their feelings are important. Pathfinders know the importance of open and honest communication with their children. They make every effort to listen and respond to the feelings and messages expressed by children both verbally and non-verbally. Pathfinders de-emphasize the content of what is being said to insure that the feelings of children are being listened and responded to. The healthy communication model which encourages healthy self-esteem is covered in Tools for Communication (Messina, J.J., 1992, Kendall-Hunt). Pathfinders try not to get so caught up with the content of what children express so that their feelings do not get ignored in the process. Pathfinders share with their children their own feelings. Openness, about how one feels, encourages learning the lesson that honesty, about how one feels, is healthy and desirable. Open communications encourages children to be visible to others. Pathfinders encourage children to openly discuss all fears and concerns so that they do not grow up hindered by unresolved worries or fears.

6. Avoid cornering children in lies

You need to be careful not to force your children to lie to you, when you know the truth about something you are asking them to explain or defend. Pathfinders encourage their children to be honest about everything in their lives. These parents are sensitive to forcing children into becoming people pleasers who only give them the answer which they are hoping to hear. They are also on guard for passive aggressive responses which sound like a "yes" when the children, in stuffing their anger, really mean "no." Pathfinders allow children the freedom to express their negative emotions, fears, and concerns when there is a situation in which they have done negative or unwanted behaviors. These parents encourage their children to be open and above board so as to avoid greater conflict, disharmony, and negative consequences arising from lying. Pathfinders reward truth, honesty, and veracity. They give a great deal of guidance and training to their people-pleasing and passive aggressive children who would rather lie than to face conflict or disagreement.

7. Use natural and logical consequences

You need to assist your children to recognize what outcomes will naturally occur for behaviors they choose. Once they know what the natural consequences are, then you allow them to make their decision to do or not do the targeted behaviors. If they do the behaviors, then allow the children to experience the natural consequences. They will learn from these experiences the wisdom or lack of wisdom of such choices in the future. To allow children to experience a natural consequence, which could be dangerous or life threatening, is not appropriate. Pathfinders then point out a logical or parental decided alternative consequence for the target behavior. The children are then free to choose the target behavior, If they proceed with it, they are then given the logical consequence which had been pointed out earlier by their parents. Natural and logical consequences reinforce the limits set for children by their Pathfinder parents. Once limits are set and the consequences are defined for breaching these limits, the children are free to make their own behavioral choices. Pathfinders avoid using the terms which would imply that positive natural or logical consequences are rewards for good behaviors. They also avoid the terms that would imply that negative natural or logical consequences are punishments for negative or bad behaviors. The healthy use of natural and logical consequences frees parents from becoming behavioral and disciplinarian watch dogs over their children. It requires parents to engage in ongoing dialogue and problem solving with their children as to what the consequences are to be if certain behaviors, actions, or activities are chosen. This principal is covered in more detail in Section 7 of this material.

8. Be consistent

You need to be consistent in your parenting style with your children. Consistency in parental handling provides children with a sense of order, predictability and rationality. This helps children to develop feelings of security, safety, stability and survivability in their family and home life. Pathfinders are consistent in their use of logical and natural consequences. They strive to keep the rules, limits, and guidelines for children stable, easy to remember and simply stated. To insure compliance with the rules and guidelines, parents have them written up for their children to see in a public space in their homes. Parents use contracts as written documents to insure a mutual understanding as to how the rules will be consistently enforced in the home. Pathfinders establish regularly scheduled family meetings in which the children can discuss with their parents their reactions to the rules and their enforcement. These family meetings insure consistency of approach. The minutes of these meeting are kept in a family journal, as an archive, which can be referred to in the future to clarify the intentions of guidelines, rules, and limits set in the family. Pathfinders work hard at reminding themselves of these principles of parenting and keep them posted in their home to assist their quick recall.

9. Follow through

You need to follow through and see to it that your children experience the consequences for their behaviors for which limits, rules, and guidelines have been agreed upon. Pathfinders recognize that they risk their credibility, believability, and leadership role, if they do not follow through with what has been previously decided upon within the family. Parents who weaken in their resolve, to be strong, hang tough, and stand firm; open themselves up to be manipulated by their children. This does not encourage the children to grow up with a sense of personal responsibility for their behaviors, actions taken and choices made. They learn that their parents will be their rescuers, enablers, and caretakers in the future if they do not do what they are supposed to do. Pathfinders recognize that by letting go of the need to protect their children from the unpleasant realities in life, which result from making a mistake, failing or choosing wrongly, will strengthen them. By following through on enforcing the natural and logical consequences, helps children to face life more realistically, rationally, and responsibly.

10. Be assertive with children

You need to be assertive with your children, to let them know how you feel when you experience your rights being violated by their behaviors, actions, or activities. Pathfinders let their children know that it is their choice to act in this manner, but it is the parents' choice to feel the way they feel if these behaviors violate their rights. To protect parental rights in the future, they ask their children to cease these behaviors. In being assertive, Pathfinders do not use coercion, intimidation, or threats to let children know what they are requesting in order to insure rights are not violated in the future. Assertiveness is different from passiveness and aggressiveness. Passiveness is when parents allow their children to violate parental rights by their behaviors without speaking up to let them know how they feel. Chronic passivity encourages children to develop a lack of empathy and concern for the rights, feelings, and sensitivity of others. Aggressiveness is when parents use coercion, threats, and intimidation to get their children to change their behaviors which violate parental rights. Aggressive behaviors include: lecturing; demanding; belittling; name calling; blaming; ordering; commanding; directing; preaching; threatening; criticizing; and ridiculing. Chronic use of aggressive behaviors creates walls of defensiveness in children. It also damages their ability to have open, honest, and free communication with their parents. Parental assertive behaviors lessen the resistance and defensiveness of children. It involves the use of "I feel..."and not "you do..." statements of blaming, scolding, and condemning. Assertiveness is a skill which requires much practice to master.

Pathfinder's Parenting Principles Inventory

Now that you have considered these Parenting Principles for Pathfinders, take some time to identify which ones you have already implemented in your life and which ones you have to add. Use the following Pathfinder's Parenting Principles Inventory to make your assessment.

Direction: Put a rating next to each of the 50 principles above as to how frequently you have used it in the parenting of your children. Use the following rating scale:

1. Never used this principle in parenting

2. Rarely used this principle in parenting

3. Sometimes used this principle in parenting

4. Frequently used this principle in parenting

5. Always used this principle in parenting

Once you have put in your ratings, add them up and put in your total score:

_____ Total Score

Interpretation of scores on Pathfinders Parenting Principles Inventory

Add up all of the ratings you have given the 50 parenting principles for your total score. The following is the interpretation of the scores.

Score Rating Interpretation

50-75 Very Poor You have a long ways to go to find the road to becoming a pathfinder with your children.

76-125 Poor You are getting close to the road to begin your journey to becoming a pathfinder.

126-175 Fair You have entered the road and begun to make progress in becoming a pathfinder.

176-225 Good You have come quite a distance on the road to becoming a pathfinder.

226-250 Excellent You are almost at the completion of the journey to becoming a pathfinder for your children.

Journal Exercise

Directions: In your personal journal respond to the following questions:

1. Which of these principles are you currently following in your parenting with your children? How hard a time do you have abiding by these principles? What do you need in your life in order to assist you to keep these principles actively working for you?

2. Which of these principles do you not currently follow? Which of these principles would you like to implement in your life? What is currently keeping you from implementing them? Which of these principles do you not want to implement? Why is this? What makes these principles unacceptable to you?

3. Which of these principles currently challenge your beliefs about being a parent? What beliefs are being challenged? How rational are your beliefs which are being challenged by the Pathfinder's Parenting Principles?

4. What do you think your family would be like if you implemented all of the principles you can accept as valid in your life?

5. How would your personal functioning change if you implemented all the principles you want to put into place with your children?

6. What obstacles currently stand in your way to fully implementing the principles you like on this list?

7. What would be the reaction of your children to the implementing of the principles you want for your family?

8. How would your partner in raising your children respond to your implementing these principles?

9. What do you need to do for yourself in order to fully implement these principles?

10. What do you think could be the benefits for you in implementing these principles in your life?

Credits: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

Visitor Comments (0) - Be the first to comment
Adding your comments contributes to the adoption community. Please keep all comments on topic and civil. Visitors are invited to comment and vote for or flag comments based on appropriateness and helpfulness. All comments must adhere to our commenting rules and are subject to moderation.
Settings Help Feedback
Template Settings
Width: 1024     1280
Choose a Location:
Choose a Theme: