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Pathfinders - Who are They?

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Pathfinder: Tools for Raising Responsible Children - Section 1

A. Pathfinders are parents who:

  • put their energy into the provision of parenting which allows their children to accept personal responsibility for their own lives and to develop healthy self-esteem.

  • are willing to let go of control of the need to insure that their children become the fulfillment of their fantasies of what is healthy and successful

  • believe that their children should be given a chance to prove themselves on their own merits

  • give their children unconditional love and strive not to give the wrong message that their children are only loved for what they do and accomplish

  • allow their children the freedom to define who and what they want to be in life without the burden of guilt for not pleasing their parents by becoming something other than what their parents expected

  • are open to the possibilities in life and do not hold onto the pessimistic belief that their children will be losers if they do not act or believe the way they expect them to

  • recognize that they do not have all the answers in life for their children

  • are open to receiving support from their friends, families, and professional helpers to handle this reality

  • seek out support in their letting go of the need to control the future for their children.



B. Children raised by Pathfinders:

  • experience freedom to be what they are capable of becoming

  • are free of guilt and anxiety over pleasing their parents by their behaviors, activities and choices in life

  • have been encouraged to be all that they are capable of becoming and are willing to take risks without the fear of failure or loss of other's approval

  • are capable of accepting personal responsibility for their own behaviors and the consequences for their own actions

  • allow themselves to become vulnerable by expressing their feelings openly

  • are recognized by the productivity in their lives at home, school and in the community

  • are capable of taking on leadership roles in school, sports and club activities

  • have a broader sense of creativity and interest in the world around them

  • stand out from others because they have a healthy sense of who they are and where they are going in this world

  • become Pathfinders in their own lives as adults.


In SEA's Therapeutic Workshops, conducted by this author, participants are lead in a trust walk in which there are three roles to be played. The first role is that of the helpee who is blindfolded and not able to see. The helpee is allowed to ask questions as it is being helped to find its way in the exercise. The second role is that of a helper. The helper is a silent role. The helper is only allowed to hold onto the elbow of the helpee and silently guide the person based on the directions of the pathfinder. The third role is that of the Pathfinder. The Pathfinder is the only person allowed to give directions to the helpee but does not directly physically assist the helpee. The Pathfinder walks in front of the helpee and helper and is free to give directions at will. The Pathfinder cannot control the outcome of the trust walk because the helper and helpee are free to follow the directions or to take their own way to accomplish the task. The Pathfinder sets limits, but the helper and helpee have freedom of individual expression within those limits. The Pathfinder does not want any harm to come to the people who have been put under its care and yet it cannot minutely dictate the outcomes of the actions and behaviors of these people. This role play activity gives people the simulated experience of being pathfinding parents to children in their care. The helpee is the younger or single child in a family. The helper is the older or first child in the family. Being a helper who takes the external directions of the pathfinder is much like an older brother or sister who assists younger siblings to know the rules of the household. Being a helpee is like a child who is dependent on parents for guidance in this strange world, but yet possessing innate abilities to create a unique response to it.

In the same SEA's Therapeutic Workshops, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, by Shel Silverstein (Harper and Row, NY, 1981) is read. In this story the missing piece comes in contact with two types of people. The first is the perfect fitter who is the perfect fit for the missing piece. The only trouble with this is that once the perfect fit is accomplished the missing piece is so well nurtured and cared for that it outgrows the perfect fitter and must pull away. The second, the Big O rolls along side the missing piece and does not offer any of itself in order to assist the missing piece. This initial lack of self-sacrificing on the part of the Big O looks selfish and cold, but in time it proves to be the right match for the missing piece. By only role modeling appropriate movement in the world the Big O provides a motivating stimulus for the missing piece to learn to roll on its own. The missing piece begins to pull itself up and flips over end over end wearing down its sharp points and eventually becomes smoother and smoother on all ends until it eventually shapes itself into a Big O of its own. Pathfinders are Big O's to their children. Pathfinders help children to learn from their role modeling on how to mature and grow in life to become self-sufficient and self- directed people.

C. Are you a Pathfinder?

Parents can determine if they are currently Pathfinders by answering the following parenting inventory.

Parenting Inventory

Read each statement and then rate yourself as to how true that statement is for you using the following rating scale (Use a page in your journal to record your ratings so that you can return to this inventory later, once you complete this book):

  • 1 = Never

  • 2 = Rarely

  • 3 = Sometimes

  • 4 = Frequently

  • 5 = Almost Always



_____ 1. I call my children names when I am angry at them for not doing what I ask them to do.

_____ 2. I believe that my first priority in life is my children and that it is my responsibility how they turn out later on in life.

_____ 3. I blow up a lot when my kids get me angry and I let them know that they have an obligation to do what I expect them to do.

_____ 4. I am disappointed in my children's behaviors and the way they treat me, which is so disrespectful and not the way I expected my children would act towards me.

_____ 5. I find that I use a lot of the same words and disciplinary actions that my parents used on me. This is just the opposite of what I had promised myself when I was younger that I would do if I had children.

_____ 6. I let my children know that they disappoint me when they do not reach the expectations I have had for them as to success at school and/or in sports and/or in community activities and/or socially and/or in participation in the family.

_____ 7. I find that I am very sensitive to my children's behaviors, attitudes and treatment towards me.

_____ 8. I find it hard to have fun with my children.

_____ 9. I find it difficult to hold a civil conversation with my children because of their attitude, rebelliousness or insensitivity to my feelings, desires, and directions.

_____10. I find that I am either very depressed, or tired, or very stressed out when dealing with my children.

_____11. I find that I tend to use a lot of manipulation and guilt to get my children to comply with my requests.

_____12. I resort to shaming my children to get them to change behaviors which I believe are immature, inappropriate, or embarrassing.

_____13. I will not speak to my children for hours, days, or weeks in order to give them a taste of what it is like to live with people who are inconsiderate, disobedient, or obnoxious.

_____14. I let my children know when they are blowing it with me by the choices they are making in the types of friends they hang out with and the activities in which they engage.

_____15. I have threatened to send my children to a state foster home or detention center if they did not clean up their act.

_____16. I have said to my children: "Do as I say, not as I do."

_____17. I will not tell my children when I feel I have made a mistake in judgement with them. In fact I think my judgement has been on the mark with my kids since they were born.

_____18. I believe that parents know more than their children about life and that children should seek out their parents' input and respect what their parents suggest for them to do.

_____19. I feel that my children are much more than I bargained for when I decided to become a parent and I resent the pressure they put me under.

_____20. I feel it is my obligation to please my children and to make them happy.

_____21. I find that I am easily manipulated by my children's behaviors towards me, especially when I feel guilty and ashamed for how I have treated them in the past.

_____22. I do not believe you can ever spoil a child too much. I see nothing wrong in keeping my children happy and content even if I may go overboard at times.

_____23. I am afraid of my children's response when I try a new or different form of discipline with them.

_____24. I feel like I am messing up my children and I don't know how to stop myself.

_____25. I envy others who seem to have an easier time with their children and I wish that I could trade in my kids for theirs.

_____26. I do not agree with my partner in child rearing on how to raise, discipline, and control our children.

_____27. I remind my children that our family's business is ours to keep quiet, private, and a secret from others. I tell them it is nobody's business what goes on in our house.

_____28. I leave my children's education to their teachers and the schools. They are professionals and that's what we pay taxes and tuition (if children in private school) for.

_____29. My partner and I fight a lot about the children and how we handle their rearing.

_____30. My children are told that they do not have the freedom to think and act for themselves until they leave home. Until that time they will do what I say or else.

_____31. I have a difficult time getting my children to follow the rules I have set for them.

_____32. I find that I am getting bitter about my children and am beginning to suspect that I would be a happier person if I had never had them.

_____33. I believe that it is good for children to learn how to compete in the world. That is why I put my children into team sports or other competitive activities to understand this lesson early and become more competitive themselves.

_____34, I want my children to have it better materially than what I had as a child. I work hard to make it happen for them.

_____35. I want my children to get educated, become professionals and be successful in adult life.

_____36. I want my children to meet the right persons to marry and have a family with. I believe that I can set the stage for this by the neighborhood we live in, the schools they go to, and the social outlets I make available for them.

_____37. I tell my children to keep their tempers in check and to not ever get angry around me.

_____38. I believe that raising kids is hard work. If I put enough effort into it, I will be able to shape my kids into what I want them to become in life.

_____39. I believe that my children owe me a lot for everything I have done and sacrificed for them.

_____40. I expect only the best of my children and therefore I expect them to do their best at all times.

_____ Total Score

Scoring Directions for the Parenting Inventory

Add up all of the ratings you gave on the 40 item inventory and put that number on the Total Score line.

Interpretation of scores on the Parenting Inventory

Score Rating Interpretation

  • 200 - 160 Very Poor You are suffering from severe low self-esteem as a parent. You are in need of extensive recovery work on your low self-esteem. You have a very controlling parental attitude and most probably have a severe negative impact on your children's self-esteem.

  • 159 - 120 Poor You are suffering from moderate low need of much recovery work on your low self-esteem. You are very controlling as a parent and most probably have a moderately negative impact on your children's self-esteem.

  • 119 - 80 Fair Your self-esteem as a parent is low. You are amenable to the Pathfinder system of parenting your recovery from low self-esteem. If you do not adopt a less controlling mode of parenting, you will have a negative impact on your children's self-esteem.

  • 79 - 60 Good You feel good about yourself and your self-esteem as a parent is good. You utilize many of the Pathfinder principles in your parenting. You can still have a negative impact on your children's self-esteem, but you are willing to work with your children to assist them to feel better about themselves.

  • 59 - 40 Excellent You have mastered the Pathfinder System of parenting. Your self-esteem as a parent is high. You utilize the principles in Pathfinder, to let go of the need to control the outcomes for your children. Your role model of a healthy life style: free of unhealthy expectations, obligations, and over-responsibility influences your children to experience life on their own terms with a high degree of personal self-esteem.



D. Journal Exercise

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

1. How do you feel about yourself in your role as a parent?

2. What are the major obstacles keeping you from enjoying your parental role?

3. What are your major worries about being an effective parent?

4. How have your efforts at recovering from your own low self-esteem assisted you to become a more effective parent?

5. What irrational beliefs about being a parent do you currently ascribe to which keep you locked into an over-controlling mode with your children. (Tip in answering this question: the 40 questions in the inventory are all irrationally based statements)

6. What do you need to change in your current parenting style in order to become a BIG O or Pathfinder to your children.

7. Can you think of any parents you have met in your lifetime who may have been Pathfinders? How did their parenting style differ from what you are currently doing?

8. How open are you to changing your behavioral style, patterns and behaviors? How threatening is this concept of Pathfinder to your current beliefs, philosophy of life, and ideals about what a parent is and what constitutes a happy family.?

9. What risks do you foresee in pursuing the Pathfinder model of parenting with your children?

10. How well do you think this inventory did in identifying where you are in terms of your self-esteem as a parent, the level of control you use in your parenting, and the impact of your parenting on your children's self-esteem?

Off the Internet

Subject: Help Wanted

JOB DESCRIPTION: Long term team players needed for challenging permanent work in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work various hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in faraway cities. Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties also required.

RESPONSIBILITIES: This is for the rest of your life. Must be willing to be hated at least temporarily, until someone needs $5 to go skating. Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly. Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf. Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks. Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next. Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys and battery operated devices. Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product. Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.

POSSIBILITY FOR ADVANCEMENT AND PROMOTION: Virtually none. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: None required, unfortunately. On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.

WAGES AND COMPENSATION: You pay them, offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. When you die, you give them whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.

BENEFITS: While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered, job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life if you play your cards right.

So there you have it a Pathfinder Parent!

The Cost of a Child
The government recently calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 and came up with $160,140 for a middle-income family. Talk about sticker shock. That doesn't even touch college tuition. For those of us with kids, that figure leads to wild fantasies about all the things we could have bought, all the places we could have traveled, and all the money we could have banked if not for (insert child's name here).

For others, that number might confirm the decision to remain childless. But $160,140 isn't so bad if you break it down. It translates into $8,896.66 a year, $741.38 a month or $171.08 a week. That's a mere $24.44 a day. Just over a dollar an hour. Still, you might think the best financial advice says don't have children if you want to be rich. However, the opposite is true There's no way to put a price tag on:

  • Feeling a new life move for the first time

  • Seeing the bump of a knee rippling across your skin.

  • Having someone cry, "It's a boy!" or shout, "It's a girl!"

  • Hearing the baby wail and knowing all that matters is it's healthy.

  • Counting all 10 fingers and toes for the first time.

  • Feeling the warmth of fat cheeks against your breast.

  • Cupping an entire head in the palm of your hand.

  • Making out "DA" or "MA" from all the cooing and gurgling.


What do you get for your $160,140?

  • Naming rights. First, middle and last.

  • Glimpses of God every day.

  • Giggles under the covers every night.

  • More love than your heart can hold.

  • Butterfly kisses and Velcro hugs.

  • Endless wonder over rocks, ants, clouds, and warm cookies.

  • A hand to hold, usually covered with jam.

  • A partner for blowing bubbles, flying kites, building sand castles,

  • Skipping down the sidewalk in the pouring rain.

  • Someone to laugh yourself silly with no matter what the boss said or how your stocks performed that day.


Moreover, for $160,140,

  • You never have to grow up.

  • You get to finger-paint, carve pumpkins, play hide-and-seek, catch lightning bugs, and never stop believing in Santa Claus.

  • You have an excuse to keep reading the adventures of Piglet and Pooh, watching Saturday morning cartoons, going to Disney movies and wishing on stars.

  • You get to frame rainbows, hearts, and flowers under refrigerator magnets and collect spray-painted noodle wreaths for Christmas, hand prints set in clay for Mother's Day, and cards with backward letters for Father's Day.


For $160,140, there's no greater bang for your buck.

  • You get to be a hero just for retrieving a Frisbee off the garage roof, taking the training wheels off the bike, removing a sliver, filling the wading pool, coaxing a wad of gum out of bangs, and coaching a baseball team that never wins but always gets treated to ice cream regardless.

  • You get a front-row seat to history to witness the first step, first word, first bra, first date, first time behind the wheel.

  • You get to be immortal. You get another branch added to your family tree, and if you're lucky, a long list of limbs in your obituary called grandchildren.

  • You get an education in psychology, nursing, criminal justice, communications, and human sexuality no college can match.

  • In the eyes of a child, you rank right up there with God.


Psalm 127:3-5 "Lo, children are a heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate."

Author Unknown (A Pathfinder Parent for sure!)

Credits: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

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