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PATHFINDER Parenting:

Tools for Raising Responsible Children
By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.
D - Discussing Issues with Feelings Oriented Communications with Children

INTRODUCTION

Pathfinders utilize communications with their children which are feelings oriented to problem solve issues which arise. They emphasize the feelings over the content of what is being discussed with their children. They work harder processing how the children and parents feel about the issues than simply coming to solutions or closure for them. Pathfinders believe that discussions with children should be focused on feelings and emotions in order to come up with problem resolutions in which each participant feels like a winner. The win-win solution to problem solving is encouraged in feelings oriented discussions with children. Children feel respected, listened to, and supported in their discussions with their parents in the Pathfinder model. These discussions result in children feeling better about themselves, growing in self-esteem, and willing to accept personal responsibility for their own lives and actions. What follows are some Pathfinder Rules for Healthy Discussions with Children.

PATHFINDER RULES FOR HEALTHY DISCUSSIONS WITH CHILDREN

Rule 1: Try to focus on feelings and not content.
Rule 2: Try not to be a parallel listener to children.
Rule 3: Try not to jump to assumptions about how children feel or what they mean.
Rule 4: Try not to compete with children for who knows more.
Rule 5: Try to listen effectively to children.
Rule 6: Try to respond with understanding to children.
Rule 7: Try to use "I statements" instead of "you statements".
Rule 8: Try to clarify what children are saying.
Rule 9: Try not to belittle or make fun of children.
Rule 10: Try not to put your words into children's mouths.
Rule 11: Try to make time for discussions with children.
Rule 12: Try to maintain your sense of humor with children.
Rule 13: Try to describe behaviors and not children as unacceptable.
Rule 14: Try to stay focused on the "here and now" in discussions.
Rule 15: Try to control your temper in discussions with children.
Rule 16: Try to use "open ended" questions with children.
Rule 17: Try not to use "door closers" with children.
Rule 18: Try to be rational in discussions with children.
Rule 19: Try not to make comparisons to others with children.
Rule 20: Try to help children recognize when actions are inconsistent with words.

Rule 1: Try to focus on feelings and not content.

When discussing an issue, do not dwell on the specific items, details, and things connected with the issue; rather, focus on the feelings, emotions, and process involved in the issue and the discussion. Help open children to explore their feelings about the issue before coming to a resolution of the problem. If they are not allowed to ventilate their emotions over an issue, there is a greater likelihood that they will be less willing to accept a resolution or solution to the problem which is arrived at by their parents. Feelings are the lifeline to communications. They are the "process" behind the message. They are the "how" the message is being sent. Feelings are value-free. There are no right or wrong feelings. There is no "winning" or "losing" by focusing on feelings. When children experience their feelings being understood and listened to by their parents, they grow in a sense of being respected and cared for by them. Trust evolves in the relationship between parents and children when both senses that the other knows how they are feeling.

Don't say: This is wrong for the following reasons and I no longer expect you to do it again.

Do say: I feel this way about what you did and I would like to first know how you feel about it before we discuss it further. How you feel about it is very important to me.

Rule 2: Try not to be a parallel listener to children.

Pathfinders try to avoid being parallel listeners who ignore what their children say and how they feel on an issue. Parallel listeners are not listening but preparing in their heads a response or rebuttal to what the other is saying without really hearing what the other is saying. This is an extreme example of over focus on the content of an issue. It discounts the children by ignoring their input and feelings about the issue. It reflects the belief that only parents have the answers to all problems or issues. It over emphasizes the importance of knowledge about what is best in a circumstance and ignores the process and emotional tone between the children and their parents. This often leads to children feeling "tuned out" by their parents and results in them becoming "turned off" to the process of communicating with their parents.

Don't say: I don't care how you feel or what you say. The following are the reasons why this issue is wrong for you.

Do say: I hear you saying that this is how you feel about this issue and what you think should be done about it. Is this what you are saying?

Rule 3: Try not to jump to assumptions about how children feel or what they mean.

Discussing "things" with children, with no effort to clarify "feelings" and "meaning," can lead to disastrous results. It is imperative that Pathfinders clarify with their children what they mean by what they say and how they feel about what they are talking about. This helps to keep the discussions on track and productive. This prevents the children from feeling being taken for granted or ignored by their parents. It prevents them from feeling resentful and hurt because they are not being understood or respected by their parents. It keeps parents and children on track in their communications and prevents them from spending unnecessary effort on "non-issues."

Don't say: I know just how you feel. I know exactly what you mean.

Do say: Could you tell me more how you feel so that I can understand you better? Could you please clarify what you meant by that?

Rule 4: Try not to compete with children for who knows more.

Pathfinders do not get into a competition in their discussions with their children about who is smarter, more intelligent, has more common sense, or knows more facts. This is a trap of over emphasis on content and leads to the "Who is best?", "Who knows more?", and "Who is the smartest?" competition between children and their parents. This one-upmanship can lead to the discounting of children's intelligence, knowledge, and common sense, leading to them feeling alienated, isolated, non-trusting, and lacking in respect of their parents. Parents are the leaders of the family but do not need to compete for the control of knowledge and communication in the family with their children. Communication needs to be a two way street where each party feels listened to, understood, and respected.

Don't say: You are wrong and I am right.

Do say: Your point of view is interesting and has merit. I would like you to listen and consider my point of view on the subject. Then we could come up with a mutual understanding on the issue which includes both of our points of view.

Rule 5: Try to listen effectively to children.

Pathfinders try to listen carefully to their children so that they can understand, comprehend and evaluate what they are saying. It requires parents to make a conscious effort to be aware of the verbal and nonverbal messages of their children. To listen effectively, parents need to be mentally and physically ready to listen. They need to be able to put other thoughts out of their minds. They need to pay attention to what is being said and not trying to formulate their answers in advance. They can't listen well if they are doing all the talking so they need not to talk so much in discussions with their children. Parents need to think about the issue in advance of entering discussion with children so that they are better prepared to listen to what they have to say and how they feel. Pathfinders listen with empathy, by seeing the situation for their children's point of view. This results in their trying to put themselves in their children's shoes. It is important for parents to face their children when they are talking to them, making eye contact, leaning slightly forward showing interest, and using their body language to show concern and attention.

Don't say: That is all well and good, but this is what I want from you on this issue.

Do say: In other words, you feel this way about that issue. Is this right? Well, tell me more so that I can have a clearer picture of what it means and how it feels to you.

 

 

Rule 6: Try to respond with understanding to children.

Pathfinders try to avoid responses to what their children say in discussions which will close down or shut off communication. They try responses which are effective and supportive to healthy discussions and communications with their children. These responses convey sensitivity to what is going on with them. The responses convey a message to children that they are being understood as to how they feel and what they mean on the issue. The most effective responses imply to children that their parents are "reading" how they are feeling. These effective responses use empathy where parents try to accurately tune into what their children are feeling at the time. These responses imply that the parents are trying to listen beyond the words to the feelings and reflecting back the feelings.

Don't say: You don't have a right to feel that way about that.

Do say: It sounds like you are feeling this way about that.

Rule 7: Try to use "I statements" instead of "you statements".

When Pathfinders share their concerns with their children about their children's behaviors, attitudes, and demeanor they use "I statements" instead of "you statements". They try to avoid blaming children for their unacceptable or unwanted qualities and actions. They instead try to help their children recognize how these behaviors make them feel. This tends to reduce defensiveness and helps children listen to the parental concern. By concentrating on how "I feel" about the behavior, parents give children an opportunity to listen to the problem from the parents' perspective so that mutual problem solving can occur. This helps insure that the discussion about the problem will end up with a mutually owned solution to the problem.

Don't say: You shouldn't have done that.

Do say: When you did that, this is how I felt.

 

 

Rule 8: Try to clarify what children are saying.

Pathfinders work to clarify what is spoken verbally or non-verbally by their children to insure that the message received is the message sent and meant. These parents clarify what is talked about in order to insure that there is no long term misunderstanding or hurt feelings because things went unclarified. This encourages children to be free in their communications with their parents because they sense that their parents really want to know what they are trying to say.

Don't say: I know exactly what you mean. I know exactly how you feel.

Do say: Help clarify for me what you mean and how you feel.

Rule 9: Try not to belittle or make fun of children.

Pathfinders try not to resort to belittling or mocking what their children say so as to not hurt their feelings or put them on the defensive. These parents try to show their children respect for who they are and what they speak and feel. They try not to make light or ignore what their children tell them. This encourages children to feel respected and trusting of their parents.

Don't say: That was a silly thing to say. That was stupid.

Do say: I hear you saying this but is it possible that you meant to say something different.?

 


Rule 10: Try not to put your words into children's mouths.

Pathfinders try not to manipulate what their children say. They give them latitude and freedom to express themselves in their own words and expressions. Pathfinders make every effort to clarify what they mean to be saying and do not do the talking for them by putting words in their mouths. The children then recognize that their parents are not bullying them into becoming clones of their parents, but rather are being encouraged to be their own persons.

Don't say: I think what you meant to say is this...

Do say: What I hear you saying is this and is this what you mean to be saying?

Rule 11: Try to make time for discussions with children.

Pathfinders recognize that life is rushed and busy but that they need to take time out each week to hold discussions with their children. This is one reason why Pathfinders schedule family meetings, as well as individual sessions with each of their children. By making the time for each child available, parents role model the importance they place on communications to sustain the health of each family member.

Don't say: I don't have time to talk with you.

Do say: I will make time to talk with you. 

 

Rule 12: Try to maintain your sense of humor with children.

Pathfinders make every effort to maintain a healthy balance when they are communicating with their children. They try to maintain an openness of spirit and lightness of heart when dealing with serious issues with their children. They recognize that if they didn't laugh at these times they would always be crying, pulling out their hair, or worse. It has been said: "children say the funniest things." When Pathfinders find themselves in the heat of a serious discussion, they watch for the humor of the moment, even when there isn't any initially obvious to them. They reflect back on these times and find a humorous incident or vignette from the discussions. They share it with the children later, to lighten the mood and show that they are accepting of the humor of the humanness of the moment. They try to teach their children to put all problems into a healthy perspective and not to take each one as a potential end of the world. They try to maintain a rational perspective in their discussions and try not to catastrophize them as if the "sky were falling down."

Don't say: I will never be able to laugh or smile again.

Do say: Although our current problem is serious, there is no reason why, after we have fully discussed it, we can't laugh about ourselves handling it later.

Rule 13: Try to describe behaviors and not children as unacceptable.

Pathfinders try to be clear in their discussions with their children which of their behaviors or actions are needing to be changed. These parents highlight the behaviors as being unacceptable and unwanted. They try to be clear that only the behaviors are the topic of discussion. The children's integrity, personality, and identity are not in question or unacceptable. Rather it is their behaviors which need to be modified. Pathfinders make it a point to let their children know that they are accepted and loved unconditionally for who they are no matter what they do. They are encouraged to change and modify undesirable behaviors, but are at the same time given the choice to change or not and to accept the consequences involved in this choice.

Don't say: You are rotten, unacceptable, undesirable, and unwanted.

Do say: These behaviors of yours are rotten, unacceptable, undesirable and unwanted, but it is your choice to change them or not as long as you know the consequences involved if you do not change them.

 

 

Rule 14: Try to stay focused on the "here and now" in discussions.

Pathfinders make every effort in their discussions with their children to keep their discussions focused on the "here and now" issues being raised by their children. They try not to resort to such statements like: "Well, when I was a child, we were never able to do or say the things you can today" or "I always worked so hard and was so motivated when I was a kid." There is a time and place for parents to recount their childhood history to their children, but when children are seriously trying to wrestle with their own personal issues they do not benefit from their parents past recollections unless they are pertinent to problem solving the "here and now" issues. Children also are not helped with their current problems when their parents begin to tie the current issues in with past problems of the children which the parents seem to never let their children forget or live down.

Don't say: This problem is directly related to the past problems you have had and have never fully resolved" or "when I was a kid things were different."

Do say: This problem is important to be addressed right now and we need to problem solve it and if I have an example from my own life which pertains to this issue I might bring it in, if it seems helpful to the problem solving process.

Rule 15: Try to control your temper in discussions with children.

Pathfinders try to get their anger out of their system in healthy ways before they enter into discussions with their children over negative issues. They try to keep the discussions free of rage, anger, temper tantrums, etc. They rather use assertive confrontation telling how their children's negative behaviors made them feel and how they would like their children to choose to discontinue the negative behaviors. Pathfinders time themselves out when they find that their temper is flaring or anger is heating up. They remove themselves from the discussion and vent their anger in a healthy way, away from the children, using the ANGER system described in Section 2. When they feel in better control of their emotional response they come back to the children to finish the discussion. During their break in discussion, all parties concerned recognize that this is "unfinished business" needing closure once the intensity of emotions are better under control and reason can prevail. If the children are emotionally out of control, they are encouraged to go to their anger venting place in the house to release their emotions before the discussion and resume for closure.

Don't say: I am so angry that I could break every bone in your body. I wish I had never had you. I hate you.

Do say: I need to get my anger out of my system in my private anger venting space before we continue this discussion. For the time being consider this topic unfinished business which will be concluded once I get my temper under control.

 

 

Rule 16: Try to use "open ended" questions with children.

Pathfinders try not to ask their children to explain "why" they did something, or felt in a certain way. They encourage getting their children to openly express themselves by using open ended questions beginning with what, when, who, how. Tell me more about... etc. Pathfinders recognize the futility of getting children to explain their motives or subconscious drives for doing or feeling the things they do. They rather encourage their children to explore their feelings by answering questions which can not be answered with a simple yes or no response and yet challenges them to explore their thoughts and emotions for a response. Open ended questions help facilitate children's exploration of their emotional response to the issues being discussed.

Don't say: Why did you feel that way? Why did you act that way?

Do say:

  • What about it made you feel that way? What feelings did you have about it? What about the situation made you want to act that way?
  • When did you feel that way? When did it become a problem for you? When did you first realize that you acted that way?
  • Who influenced you to feel that way? Who did that to make you feel that way? Who influenced you to do that? Who else does things like what you did? Who else do you know that feels the way you feel about that?
  • How do you feel about that? How would you act if that happened again? How do you think others reacted to what you did? How do you think you could correct it? How did you act when that happened to you?
  • Tell me more about how you feel. Tell me more about what happened to you that led you to act that way.

Rule 17: Try not to use "door closers" with children.

Pathfinders try to help their children from becoming defensive in their discussions by being supportive. They try not to box their children into a corner as if they were on trial. They use open ended questions to keep them communicating and focused on feelings. They let them know that they are loved and accepted unconditionally. They allow them the freedom of choice as to the conclusions and decisions resulting from the discussions as long as they are willing to accept the consequences of their choices. Pathfinders are sensitive to when their children are shutting down or withdrawing in discussions and they make efforts to keep them active in the process. For this reason Pathfinders try not to use any of the following "door closers" in their discussions with their children:

 Discussion "door closers" with children

warning,  lecturing,  advising, labeling,  moralizing,  withdrawing, interrogating,  probing,  reassuring,  fixing, nagging, bullying, preaching, intimidating, begging, manipulating, buttering-up, directing,  ordering,  teaching, name calling,  guilt inducing,  analyzing, distracting,  sarcasm, commanding, bribing, blaming, judging, ridiculing, demanding, scolding,  and  threatening
Don't say: I would rather get my way in this discussion with you than make you feel like you have any say in it.

Do say: What can I do to help you feel supported and non-defensive in this discussion so that a positive outcome can occur for you and me as a result of our time together on this issue?

 

 

Rule 18: Try to be rational in discussions with children.

Pathfinders make every attempt to clarify how rational their thinking and feelings are, prior to entering into discussions with their children. They identify the fears they harbor which might interfere in their judgement with their children. They try to let go of their irrational fears, panic, and anxiety and make every effort to counter their irrational blocking beliefs with rational healthy alternatives. They try to be conscious of catastrophizing and becoming too stressed out over issues which are being discussed with their children. Pathfinders utilize the ALERT system outlined in Section 2 to help them be more relaxed and in emotional control when they are in discussions with their children. The ALERT systems helps them to organize their thinking and emotional response into a more realistic and healthy rational perspective.

Don't say: I am so stressed out, panic struck, and anxious over all of this that I don't think I will ever be able to recover from the shock and upset it has caused me.

Do say: I have this situation and the issues involved organized in a rational perspective for myself so that I can discuss it with you in a relaxed and calm way so that we can come to a joint decision or solution concerning it.

 

 

Rule 19: Try not to make comparisons to others with children.

Pathfinders try never to hold siblings, relatives, or other peers as role models for their children. They try not to make comparisons when the siblings, relatives or peers are more successful then they would like their children to be. They do not say things like: "Why can't you be like ...?" or "So and So can do this; why can't you?" Pathfinders accept their children as unique individuals who are different from everyone else and who must be recognized for their own individuality. This acceptance, with no comparisons to others, helps children to feel supported and non-defensive in their discussions with their parents. Pathfinders work hard to help their children to accept themselves for who they are, even if they don't seem to match up to others in academic, athletic, artistic, or social achievement. They help their children to recognize their individual worth and value for "being who they are" rather than for "what they do." Children who have not been made to believe that they need to live up to some other achiever role model have a better basis for self-esteem and self-worth and, thus, are more willing to accept personal responsibilty for their own lives.

Don't say: I see that you are not doing as well as So and So. It sure would be nice if you could learn a lesson from their book on how to be so successful.

Do say: I accept and love you for who you are and not what you accomplish or achieve. I hope that you will accept yourself in the same unconditional way.

 

 

Rule 20: Try to help children recognize when actions are inconsistent with words.

Pathfinders try to point out to their children when their actions are not consistent with their words. They call their attention to the non-verbal cues they get from them which are different from what they are saying. This helps their children to be more aware of their true feelings about the issue being discussed. It helps them to avoid becoming passive aggressive or people pleasers, who tell their parents what they think they want to hear from them. Pathfinders encourage their children to be their "own persons," with the freedom to take a different point of view from their parents' view.

Don't say: I am so happy that you see things my way.

Do say:

  • Although you said you were in agreement with me over this, you went ahead and did something different, which was what you originally were plugging for in our discussion. It would have been better for you to stand up for what you wanted in the first place instead of going along with my ideas and resenting it.
  • Although you say you are happy about this decision, your pouting around here the last week tells me that you really feel differently about the outcome of our discussion. Please let's talk about it so that we can get clear just what you are feeling about this.

The Pathfinder Effective Communications Rating Scale

Directions: Put a rating next to each of the Pathfinder's Rules for Healthy Discussions with Children as to how frequently you use it in discussions with your children. Use a separate sheet of paper so you can use this rating scale again in the future. Use the following rating scale:

1. Never use rule in discussions
2. Rarely use rule in discussions
3. Sometimes use rule in discussions
4. Frequently use rule in discussions
5. Almost always use rule in discussions

 

Rule 1: Try to focus on feelings and not content.

Rule 2: Try not to be a parallel listener.

Rule 3: Try not to jump to assumptions about how children feel or what they mean.

Rule 4: Try not to compete with children for who knows more.

Rule 5: Try to listen effectively to children.

Rule 6: Try to respond with understanding to children.

Rule 7: Try to use "I statements" instead of "you statements".

Rule 8: Try to clarify what children are saying.

Rule 9: Try not to belittle or make fun of children.

Rule 10: Try not to put your words into children's mouths.

Rule 11: Try to make time to have discussions with children.

Rule 12: Try to maintain your sense of humor with children.

Rule 13: Try to describe behaviors not children as unacceptable.

Rule 14: Try to stay focused on the "here and now" in discussions.

Rule 15: Try to control your temper in discussions with children.

Rule 16: Try to use "open ended questions" with children.

Rule 17: Try to not use "door closers" with children.

Rule 18: Try to be rational in discussions with children.

Rule 19: Try not to make comparisons to others with children.

Rule 20: Try to help children recognize when actions are inconsistent with words.

Total Score

 

Interpretation of scores

Add up all of the ratings you have given the 20 rules for discussions for your total score. The following is the interpretation of the scores.

 

Score Rating Interpretation

20-30 Very Poor You have a long ways to go in order to conduct healthy discussions with your children. You may even need some professional help in order to accomplish the changes needed.


31-50 Poor You are closer to being able to conducting healthy discussions with your children, but you need to practice these rules more before you can be successful in this.

51-60 Fair You are somewhat successful in conducting healthy discussions with your children, but you are inconsistent and this can be confusing to your children. You need to practice these rules more to become more consistent. 

61-80 Good You are conducting healthy discussions with your children most of the time. You need to watch for when you fall into bad habits of communication with them. Use these rules to keep you focused.

81-100 Excellent You are always on guard to conduct your discussions with your children in a healthy way. Many of these rules have become habitual ways of communicating with them. Like most parents there are times when you may fail or not be on target. Keep up the good work and use these rules to keep you fresh.
The Pathfinder's Door Closer Assessment

Directions: Read the title and example for each of the "door closers" listed in Rule 17 and rate it on the following scale as to how often you have used it in discussions with your children. Put the number of your rating on the line provided. Use another sheet of paper so you can return to do this assessment again in the future.

1 = Never
2 = Rarely
3 = Sometimes
4 = Frequently

5 = Almost Always

 

1. Warning: You had better do this or else...

2. Judging: You are a very bad person for doing this...

3. Directing: You need to do this, then this and then...

4. Lecturing: This is what is needed and why you have to do it...

5. Probing: Give me the reasons you did this...

6. Analyzing: I believe that the reason for your being the way you act are...

7. Bribing: If you do this for me I will give you...

8. Interrogating: Tell me what you did, when you did it, why you did it, with whom you did it...

9. Ridiculing: You were so stupid to do think that way...

10. Ordering: You need to follow my instructions to the T if you expect to be successful...

11. Advising: If I were you I would do this because it will be good for you...

12. Reassuring: Don't worry about it you will feel better about it as time wears on...

13. Distracting: Let me tell you a funny story to get your mind off your problems...

14. Intimidating: I am in charge around here and if you don't do what I believe is best for you I will do the following...

15. Preaching: The best right and just thing for you to do is...

16. Demanding: I demand that you...

17. Teaching: This is how this fits into this and relates to that...

18. Labeling: You are neurotic to feel that way about...

19. Fixing: You will be much happier if you do...

20. Sarcasm: You look like the family dog when you act that way...

21. Begging: Please do this for me, please, please...

22. Buttering up: You are so cute when you look that way. How about helping me out with...

23. Scolding: You are wrong for what you did and I never ever expect you to, again, do...

24. Name calling: You are a stupid s.o.b.; a disgusting child and a rotten liar for...

25. Moralizing: The correct, moral and virtuous thing to do is...

26. Nagging: I have been asking you to do this over and over again and it is still not done. Now go do...

27. Commanding: I expect you to do the following...

28. Manipulating: I know you know that this is the right thing to do so do...

29. Blaming: You were wrong when you did...

30. Threatening: I will do what ever it takes to get you to change and do what I expect you to do about...

31. Withdrawing: I would rather not talk about it anymore...

32. Bullying: I just dare you to do...

33. Guilt inducing: You know what it will do to me if you do...

Total score

 

Interpretation of Pathfinder's Door Closers Assessment

Add up all of the ratings you gave on the 33 door closers and put that number on the total score line. The following is the interpretation of the scores on this assessment:

 

Score Rating Interpretation

33-49 Excellent You work very hard to keep your communication's door open to your children. Although you may not be successful all of the time you keep on trying.


50-66 Good You put a lot of effort in keeping your communication's door open to your children. You have a tendency to be lax about some of your door closers and you need to put more effort into reminding yourself of this.


67-99 Fair You need to spend more effort in opening your communication's doors with your children.


100-132 Poor Your children are being shut out by your closed communication's door. Sometimes they are able to slip input most of the time they feel closed out. You need to do a great deal of remedial work to rectify this problem between you and your children.


133-165 Very Poor You have completely closed your communication's door with your children. You need remedial assistance to open the doors with them. You may need professional help from a professional to help you get these doors open.

The Pathfinder's Discussion Making Quiz

Directions: Read the following parental quotes. First, identify if it is a healthy response or not. Second, if it is healthy, leave it alone. Third, if it is unhealthy, write on a piece of paper a healthy replacement response. Fourth, identify which Pathfinder Rules for Healthy Discussion with Children is involved. The answer Key is at the end of this section.

 

1. I see no humor in this situation.


2. You are loved and accepted for who you are and I don't care what the other kids got on the test.


3. I am going to beat the living tar out of you for what you did.


4. Why do we have to go over this time after time?


5. Let me tell you what your grandmother did to me when I did the same thing you did.


6. I don't care how you feel about it. I just want you to change it.


7. Your getting a traffic ticket is an unfortunate stroke of bad luck for you but you will have to accept the 

consequences for what it will mean for you in the future.


8. I am older than you and I know more about this than you so listen to what I have to say before you go off half cocked and get it wrong on your own.


9. I see that you are withdrawing from what we are discussing. What is happening to make you turn off.


10. Please do not say what you think I want to hear just to please me. Tell me how you feel about it.


11. I know exactly what you are going to say and my answer is no.


12. There is no need for the two of us to get all anxious and upset over this issue. Let us both keep cool level heads as we discuss it.


13. The reason you are the way you are is because you were breast fed too long.


14. I am not clear on what you meant. Could you please help me understand.


15. Feel free to let me know what is involved in all of this so that we can problem solve it and come up with a "win-win" solution were we both feel like we are successful, listened to and accepted.


16. It really looks like it is going to be a rainy day. That's going to put a damper on things don't you think.


17. I am very upset over how you have reacted to the family meetings we have been conducting. The purpose of those meetings is to improve our family functioning. Please tell me what about those meetings turn you off. How could we do improve them? When are you most upset with those meetings? Who in those meetings upset you? Tell me more about how you feel about them.


18. You have really gotten worse since we have tried to institute the policy manual with you. You are just going to have to straighten out and go along with this, if you know what is good for you.


19. As you were talking, I realized what the problem is and I have come up with an answer to everything. Now just listen to what I have come up with.


20. I am a very busy person and in the last few months I have been spending a great deal of time talking and working with you about how to improve the way we get along. I am believing I am wasting my time with you, since I don't see many changes.


21. I have really enjoyed the jokes you share with me every morning before I go to work. I tell all the people at work and they get a kick out of them.


22. What you really meant to say is that you do not want to follow any of the rules around here. Is that right?


23. Why is it that all the other kids on this block get home on time and you are always late?


24. The important thing is that you get this thing turned around and stop causing so much trouble around here.


25. I am very angry over what you have done, but you are responsible for the choices you make in life. You will have to suffer the negative consequences involved in this and it is my hope that you will be able to make better choices in the future. Tell me how you feel about what has happened?

Journal Exercise

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

1. Which of the Rules of Healthy Discussions with Children do you follow on a regular basis with your children? How easy is it for you to follow the other rules in your communications with your children? How do you feel about the rules you have a difficult time using?

2. What do you need to change in your dealing with your children so that you can be more successful in applying these rules of communications with your children?

3. How do you think your children will react if you begin to apply the rules of communications which you are currently not following?

4. What are some obstacles to your following those communications rules which you have not utilized much at the present? What were the obstacles in the past keeping you from using them then? Are the obstacles from the past the same as in the present? What do you think accounts for this?

5. What do you need to change in yourself so that you can be a more productive communicator with your children? What do you need from others to assist you in this change?

6. How important do you feel it is for feelings to be focused on in discussions with your children? What are some reasons for your feeling this way?

7. How well do you communicate with other people, aside from your children? Do you feel that there is a legitimate reason why you might be a better communicator with other people and not with your children? Conversely, if you communicate better with your children than others, is there something in your communications style with your children you could apply to your discussions with others?

8. How well does your partner in raising your children communicate with them? How would this Section help that person? How willing are you to suggest to that person to read and work on this Section? How important is it that the two of you have healthy discussions with your children? What obstacles exist making it difficult for you both to be effective communicators with your children.

9. How open is your door of communications with your children? What is the reason for this? What needs to be changed to open the door wider for more productive and healthier communications with them?

10. How important is communications in being a Pathfinder parent? How productive and useful was this Section to assisting you to becoming a Pathfinder to your children? What do you need to work more on in order to become a more self-confident and successful Pathfinder in your children's lives?

 
Answer Key to The Pathfinder's Discussion Making Quiz

1. Healthy alternative: There is some humor in what has happened and we will be able to laugh about it as time goes on. For the moment let us try to discuss what happened.

Rules Involved:

Rule 12: Keeping a sense of humor is important to keep things in perspective.

Rule 15: It is important to keep control of your temper and anger so as to not close off communications.

Rule 17: This quote looked like a door closer due to it being threatening and intimidating.

 

2. This is a healthy quote.

Rules Involved:

Rule 19: This parent accepted the child unconditionally without making a comparison of the child to others.

 

3. Healthy alternative: Until I can get my temper under control, let us stop discussing this right now. But keep this as unfinished business to which we will return when I am better under control.

Rules involved:

Rule 15: This parent needs to get the temper under control before continuing.

Rule 17: This parent is using the door closers of: threatening, bullying, intimidating, and warning.

 

4. Healthy alternative: Let us take the time to discuss this so that we can solve our problem together. What about the solutions we came up with last time; are they no longer effective in solving this problem at this time?

Rules involved:

Rule 11: It is important for parents to be willing to spend time in repeating a discussion held earlier if the solutions developed earlier are not working.

Rule 14: It is important for parent to treat every problem in the here and now and not bring it back to the past.

Rule 16: Parents need to try not using why questions but rather use open ended questions to begin the discussion over a heated unresolved problem.

 

5. Healthy alternative: What you did is important and we need to discuss it so that you are settled about what needs to be done about it.

Rules involved

Rule 14: It is important to keep the discussion on the here and now and focused on the child, and not on the parent.

Rule 17: The parent was using the door closer of distracting and possibly buttering up.

 

6. Healthy alternative: It is important for us to discuss how you feel about it so that we can come up with a win-win solution by which it can be changed.

Rules involved:

Rule 1: This parent needs to focus on feelings and not be so concerned in solving the content of the problem.

Rule 6: This parent was unwilling to understand how the child felt about what happened.

Rule 17: This parent was using the door closers of ordering, directing, intimidating, threatening, scolding, blaming, and commanding.

 

7. This is a healthy quote.

Rules involved:

Rule 6: This parent reflects understanding to the child but is yet firm in having the child accept the negative consequences.

Rule 18: It is clear that this parent did an ALERT and got rational enough to talk about the ticket with the child.

Rule 15: What helped this parent get rational was to do an ANGER workout to release the rage and anger which the ticket might have stimulated.

 

8. Healthy alternative: I want to hear how you feel and what you think about this. I want to take our time so that you can fully inform me about your point of view. I hope you will take time and listen to my point of view as well. Two minds working on the same problem are more effective and efficient than one.

Rules involved:

Rule 1: This parent was not focused on the feelings at all. The parent was in the head and only focused on the content.

Rule 4: This parent was competing for the control of knowledge with the child and both would lose in the game.

 

9. This is a healthy quote.

Rules involved:

Rule 5: This parent was listening effectively in order to recognize when the child was withdrawing.

Rule 16: This parent used an open question, in an effective way, to open up a withdrawing child.

Rule 17: This parent was supportive and did not use any door closers.

Rule 20: This parent was trying to point out, to the child, the inconsistency between the words of willingness and the withdrawn behaviors.

 

10. This is a healthy quote.

Rules involved:

Rule 1: This parent was willing to focus on the feelings and not just on the content.

Rule 10: This parent was checking to be sure the child was not just saying words the parent had put there.

Rule 20: This parent was trying to get the child not to be a people pleaser who would say what the other person wanted to hear.

 

11. Healthy alternative: Let me hear what you have to say about it, then I can tell you how I feel so that we can problem solve it together and reach a win-win solution.

Rules involved:

Rule 2: This parent is a parallel listener.

Rule 3: This parent jumped to an assumption about how the child felt and was closed to discussing it.

Rule 17: This parent used the door closer of withdrawing and intimidating.

 

12. This is a healthy quote.

Rules involved:

Rule 18: This parent is encouraging them both to stay rational, relaxed, and focused on the issues.

Rule 15: Most probably, in order to get rational, this parent needed to release some anger before entering the discussion.

 

13. Healthy alternative: You and I need to spend some time together exploring why you are the way you are when it comes to this issue. Let us be sure we take the time to discuss it fully.

Rules involved:

Rule 9: This parent was poking fun and belittling the child.

Rule 14: This parent was not in the "here and now."

Rule 17: This parent was using the door closers of analyzing, ridiculing and sarcasm.

 

14. This is a healthy quote.

Rules involved:

Rule 1: This parent was willing to focus on feelings in order to get to a better understanding of what the child meant and felt on the issue.

Rule 6: This parent was trying to get to a better understanding with the child.

Rule 8: This parent was trying to clarify what the child meant and felt.

 

15. This is a healthy quote.

Rules involved:

Rule 1: This is an example of focus on feeling, not just on the content in order to solve problems.

Rule 2: This parent was not parallel listening and was open to hearing what the child had to say.

Rule 4: This parent was not competing for who knows more in the relationship.

Rule 5: This parent seemed to be open to listening effectively to the child.

Rule 10: This parent was not willing to put words in the child's mouth.

 

16. Healthy alternative: Although it is uncomfortable to talk about this, let us go ahead and discuss this issue so that we can problem solve a solution on which we both can agree. I know that days like today, which is dreary, can make such discussions tougher to handle, but let's try to give it a go.

Rules involved:

Rule 17: This parent was using the door closers of distracting. buttering up, manipulating, and possibly withdrawing.

Rule 18: This parent was not yet rational enough to hold a discussion with the child.

 

17. This is a healthy quote.

Rules involved:

Rule 7: The parent used an I statement so as not to put the child on the defensive.

Rule 16: The parent was using a series of open ended questions to stimulate a discussion with an oppositional child.

Rule 17: As long as the parent used an accepting tone of voice the questions were supportive; but if they were said in a door closing threatening way they could have been the door closers of interrogating, probing, threatening, and intimidating.

 

18. Healthy alternative: I feel bad because I don't feel comfortable around here since we instituted the policy manual procedures. Could you spend some time with me today to help me figure out what needs to be changed so that things can be more relaxed around here?

Rules involved:

Rule 7: The parent was using a "you message" and put the child on the defensive.

Rule 18: This parent was using the door closers of lecturing, preaching, intimidating, fixing, nagging, scolding, blaming, and bullying.

 

19. Healthy alternative: I hear what you have been saying. Let's write it down and compare it with what I have said. Then let's see if we can come up with a list of alternative solutions and come to some form of compromise so that we can generate a win-win solution which we both own.

Rules involved:

Rule 1: This parent was a content freak only interested in coming up with a solution.

Rule 2: This was a classic case of parallel listening where the parent was preparing a response without really listening to what the child was saying.

Rule 4: This parent was competing to know more than the child.

Rule 17: This parent was using the door closers of judging, lecturing, preaching, teaching, analyzing, and fixing.

 

20. Healthy alternative: I am feeling frustrated in our efforts to correct the way we interact with one another. I was hoping that you would spend some time with me today to look at what we have done to see what we need to change in order for us to be more productive with one another.

Rules involved:

Rule 7: This parent used "you statements" which put the child on the defensive and insures that the time spent up to this point will be wasted unless the parent becomes more supportive and non-blaming.

Rule 11: Parents cannot regret the time they spend with their children discussing issues. It is important that they put in the effort to address the needs of their children.

Rule 17: This parent was using the door closers of blaming, ridiculing, guilt inducing, manipulating, scolding, threatening, and intimidating.

Rule 18: This parent was irrational with the child because the expectation of instant change is unrealistic and idealistic. The child and parent are humans and as such it will take a great deal of time and effort to improve their relationship once it has gone sour.

 

21. This is a healthy quote.

Rules involved:

Rule 11: This parent makes time each morning prior to going to work, no matter how busy the day, to touch base with this child.

Rule 12: This parent maintains a healthy sense of humor and seems to enjoy having fun with the child.

 

22. Healthy alternative: What I see is that your words are saying one thing to please me and to settle this issue, but your pouting and frowning tell me that you are not ready to agree on this matter.

Rules involved:

Rule 10: This parent was putting words in this child's mouth.

Rule 17: This parent was using the door closers of analyzing, probing, interrogating, judging, bullying, manipulating, demanding, and intimidating.

Rule 18: This parent was not rational nor realistic about the time it takes for things to change. The parent cannot control the child to make the changes desired.

 

23. Healthy alternative: We need to discuss what is making you come home late every day after school.

Rules involved:

Rule 16: This parent did not use a healthy open ended question.

Rule 17: This parent used the door closers of interrogating, probing, ridiculing, sarcasm, scolding, nagging, and blaming.

Rule 19: This parent made comparisons with other kids and did not focus solely on the child.

 

24. Healthy alternative: I feel lost and confused. I can't seem to get a handle on what is happening around here. I find that I am getting more and more upset when you act that way. Would you please spend some time with me to problem solve what we could do about this frustration of mine?

Rules involved:

Rule 1: This parent was too focused on the content of the problem and disregarded the feelings of the child.

Rule 2: This parent is a parallel listener and disregards the feelings and input of the child.

Rule 7: This parent used "you messages," putting the child on the defensive and closing off communications.

Rule 17: This parent used the door closers of judging, warning, analyzing, demanding, commanding, fixing, and blaming.

 

25. This is a healthy quote.

Rules involved:

Rule 9: This parent did not belittle the child for what had happened.

Rule 15: This parent had to release a great deal of anger before this discussion could be conducted in such a relaxed way.

Rule 18: This parent worked at being rational and probably needed to do an ALERT to figure out what was real about the situation.