Helping you become all that you are capable of becoming!




Tools for Raising Responsible Children
By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.
N - Negotiating to Advocate for Children's Needs
Introduction to Negotiations Strategies for Children

Pathfinders advocate to insure that their children's rights are respected, protected, and defended. In order to do this, Pathfinders become seasoned in the art of negotiating. They recognize that children need to be spoken for when they are too young to be listened to by others in their lives. The negotiating and advocacy with others is intended to insure that children are provided resources and services in their home, school, and community life which insure self-esteem enhancement and personal responsibility taking.

Pathfinders negotiate and advocate to address all aspects of the needs of their children. They advocate for the survival, security, relationship, and self-esteem needs of their children. To advocate for these needs, Pathfinders involve themselves in open communication and cooperation with people involved in all aspects of their children's lives. The involvement and intervention of these parents is based on the principle or assisting children to become fully responsible for their own lives and to have as high self-esteem as possible. In their negotiations with the community care takers of their children, Pathfinders distinguish themselves as being supportive and sympathetic with the constraints facing institutions, agencies and community facilities. They try not to interfere in the routine of the child-serving group. They stand ready to assist with volunteer time or support in order for the group to accomplish its goals which will benefit their children.

  • Survival needs include the most basic needs. The survival needs of children include having: enough food to eat, an adequate house to live in, enough clothes to wear, an adequate place to live, necessary medical and dental care, and sufficient safety precautions maintained in home and community.
  • Security needs are the insuring that the basic needs are met not just today, but for tomorrow and days beyond. The security needs of children include: accessing and utilization of public and private transportation resources, learning appropriate nutritional planning, maintaining adequate diet, securing housing for self in adulthood, securing preventive medical and dental care, receiving adequate education and training to secure sufficient employment in adulthood to become self-sufficient, learning to access legal assistance when needed, and utilizing sufficient leisure and recreational opportunities for self healing.
  • Relationship needs arise once individuals experience their own uniqueness, secure from threats to their own survival. These needs are expressed as individuals reach out to others, both in groups and on a personal level. The relationship needs of children include: involvement with the extended families of natural and step parents, developing and maintaining networks of peer support, participating in an organized religion and church community, involvement in community service, volunteer organizations and club activities, receiving adequate communication skills training in order to provide appropriate, adequate input and feedback in social relationships and training and support in developing and maintaining relationships with significant others in dating, engagement, and marriage.
  • Self-esteem needs result from individuals experiencing the supportive energy of reaching out to others. It comes from feeling empowered as unique and independent people in their own right. Autonomy and being valued as a person are characteristic self-esteem needs. The self-esteem needs of children include developing a sense of: self-sufficiency, self-reliance, self-deservedness, self-confidence, healthy self-concept, self-worth, unconditional self-acceptance, self-love, self-fulfillment, and self-advocacy.

Pathfinders negotiate and advocate for their children utilizing the strategies of linkage, brokering, mobilization, and activating systems change.

 1. Linkage

The objective of the linkage strategy of advocacy is to connect children with appropriate sources of help for their needs and identified problems. This involves communicating to children information about what agencies and institutions exist. This enables them to utilize the resources available to them to meet their needs. This also involves giving children tips on how to negotiate the systems involved in their lives. It helps them to be political so that their needs can be met as optimally as possible. It also involves parents identifying their children to the appropriate resources so that their needs can be met. This involves applying for admission and paying appropriate fees to enable their children entrance into these services.


Example of linkage strategy:

Worker says:

The following (name of program) seems to be the most appropriate for your needs. To apply for entry into the program, contact (name of person) at (telephone number). You will need the following information to make your application.

Parent says:

I would like my child to be enrolled in your program. I will fill out whatever forms and applications are needed to insure my child's admission. I also am willing to pay any fees or tuition required for ongoing enrollment in the program.

2. Brokering

The objective of the brokering strategy of advocacy is to facilitate the physical connection of children with appropriate services by resolving and reducing obstacles. This involves finesse and political savvy in dealing with delivery systems which are unaccommodating and unreceptive to the children's needs. This might involve discussions, negotiations, bargaining, win-win problem resolution, and compromise to gain the desired end. Children are not always able to advocate for their own needs and non-receptive systems often require more powerful brokering on the part of parents to be open to them. This might involve confrontation or the use of formal appeal procedures such as due process hearings, based on the legal and human rights of children. Brokering often results in a change of organizational policies to meet the needs of the children they serve.


Example of brokering strategy:

Worker says:

If you are not willing to provide the services my child needs, then I will pursue due process and legal means to insure that these services are provided.

Parent says:

My child has met the criteria for services and benefits of your program and yet I believe that you are discriminating against my child by refusal of further services. Please help me understand why my child is being excluded so that perhaps we can problem solve a solution which keeps my child enrolled in services and addresses and corrects the reasons why you want to exclude my child.


3. Mobilization

The objective of mobilization is to work to fill gaps within the child-serving delivery system by developing or creating resources. This involves the adaptation and accommodation of services, programs, and organizations to meet the needs. This often involves lobbying and political pressure to change inequitable or discriminatory practices, regulations, and policies which exclude categories of children or impede the development of healthy self-esteem and personal responsibility taking of children. Mobilization often results in the creation of new services or programs by the coordination and cooperation of existing children resources.


Example of mobilization strategy:

Worker says:

Currently your program excludes children like my child. I would like to work with you to change your policies and procedures to open your program to children like mine. I will volunteer my time and efforts to see that this change occurs.

Parent Says:

What can I do to help your program to change and grow so that the specific needs of children like my child can be addressed in your program? I will lobby personally, write letters of support, and testify at any hearings necessary to insure this change comes into being.


4. Activating

The objective of activating is the development of new services, resources, and programs for children. This involves Pathfinders in coordinating their efforts with other parents to define and communicate the specific needs of their children to the appropriate agencies. They establish themselves in the form of a self-help group to become catalysts to: clearly defining the problem, alerting public opinion, motivating other interest groups to the cause, creating a consensus of public response, and developing and creating new services as an organized community solution. Activating leads to consensus solutions to community problems facing children.


Examples of activating strategy:

Worker says:

I am joining a newly formed group of parents of children like mine to lobby for a change in our community in terms of treatment and services to children like ours.

Parent says:

I am working with a group of parents to establish a new program to serve our children. I am volunteering time, resources, and my expertise to be sure that this program comes into existence for our children.
Pathfinders are parents who negotiate and advocate by linkage, brokering, mobilization and activating systems change in order to meet the survival, security, relationship, and self-esteem needs of their children. They do this with (1) Teachers and other school officials; (2) Leaders and coaches of sports and other activities and clubs; (3) Community officials; (4). Grandparents and other extended family members; and (5) A non-supportive non-pathfinder parent.

4.1. Negotiating with teachers and other school officials

Pathfinders enroll their children into educational programs which they believe have the best chance of giving them what they need to be successful in adult life. These parents monitor the class placement and adequacy of the educational programs. They schedule conferences and meetings with school personnel and teachers to learn more about their children's progress and to address problems as they arise. They work with the schools to insure that their children receive adequate educational programming which is designed for lifelong self-sufficiency and employment.

If the children have special needs, these parents become knowledgeable of state and federal laws, statutes, policies, and procedures involving exceptional education. They participate in Individual Education Program (IEP) staffing on their children. They work hard to insure that their children receive their education and training in the least restrictive environment by being mainstreamed and integrated into normalized classroom settings.

Pathfinders monitor the school's pre-vocational and vocational guidance counseling and training of their children. They work to see that their children receive: career planning, guidance concerning post-secondary college, training opportunities, realistic career education and job opportunity counseling. These parents encourage the schools, teachers, and other academic personnel to utilize the Pathfinder philosophy with their children. They inform their children's teachers, once children reach 12 years of age, that they are held personally responsible for their discipline and academic progress in school. The school personnel are encouraged to utilize the natural and logical consequences they have at their disposal to assist their children to become more personally responsible in their own education. These parents make it a point to let the school personnel know that they will not add additional consequences to those outlined by the school officials when their children run into problems in school once they reach junior high school.

Pathfinders intervene in to the school life of their children when they recognize that their children's rights are being violated. They seek out conferences and meetings to investigate what lies at the bottom of the problem resulting in their children's rights being violated. They may utilize linkage, brokering, mobilization or activating to address a resolution to the problems identified. Pathfinders are not hesitant to assertively address school personnel when their children are being unfairly treated or ignored. Solutions from such negotiating might range from a: change of teacher, change of class placement, change of school setting, or change in grade level to a: creation of a new school program, redefinition of criteria for entry into a program, clarification of disciplinary policies and procedures, or establishment of new educational curriculum offerings.

 4.2. Negotiating with leaders and coaches of sports and other activities

When necessary, Pathfinders negotiate and advocate with their children's sports coaches, scout leaders, craft and hobby teachers, community center leaders, club sponsors, chaperons, church school teachers and youth ministers. The goal of this advocacy is to insure that these activities are supportive of their children taking personal responsibility for their own lives and enhancing of their self-esteem.

Pathfinders make every effort to insure that the outside activities in which their children participate are fun and relaxing. They encourage their children to experience competitive activities. They do not support activities which emphasize competition nor the belief "that winning is all that matters, so win no matter what it costs." They watch to make sure that their children do not suffer from undue pressure to perform in these activities. They intervene when the process becomes too perfectionistic, critical, or judgmental of their children's performance. They encourage their children's participation in these outside activities and intervene when they recognize that their children are not being given a chance to participate as fully as the others on the team or in the class are.

Pathfinders inform the leaders and coaches of their children's outside activities of the Philosophy of personal responsibility taking which is encouraged in their home. They encourage these leaders to utilize the natural and logical consequences at their disposal to encourage their children to accept personal responsibility for their involvement in the respective activity. The leaders are also informed that the children's participation in the activity is a natural or logical consequence for their behaviors at home as outlined in their family policy manual (outlined in T-Tracking Structures for Children).

4.3. Negotiating with community officials

Pathfinders are willing, when necessary, negotiate, and advocate for their children with officials of community law enforcement and social service agencies and professionals in the medical, dental, and mental health fields. They negotiate when their children's rights are in jeopardy. They do not stand by while their children are being mistreated or misjudged by agents of the community.

Pathfinders provide their children with appropriate preventive and rehabilitative medical, dental, and mental health services. They bring their children to professionals in these fields when their children have acute needs. They bring previously written out questions when they visit these professionals so that they can have all their concerns about their children's treatment clearly stated to enable the professional responses to be explicit and understandable. They question when treatment plans outlined do not seem reasonable or rational. They insist on having input on treatment prior to it being given their children. They accompany their children to visits with these professionals at all times to insure that there is nothing done to them without parental consent and approval. Pathfinders do not expect magical solutions and cures when their children need treatment. They monitor the impact of treatments. They provide feedback to the respective professionals about the progress of treatment when the children are home. Pathfinders function as the "experts on their children" and the "24 hour a day eyes and ears" of professionals who treat their children. Pathfinders let the professionals know that they know their own children best and expect to be asked when any new treatment plans are to be implemented. Pathfinders learn the language of the professionals treating their children and become team members on their children's treatment team in the medical, dental and mental health services.

When children become known to law enforcement or social service agencies, Pathfinders advocate with these professionals to insure that their treatment is reasonable and rational. Pathfinders do not try to rescue their children from the natural consequences of breaking laws. They instead inform the appropriate officials of the truth about their children. They encourage these officials to make their children as accountable as possible. They encourage them to enforce their consequences to the fullest to teach their children the need to become more personally responsible when it comes to abiding by the law. Pathfinders do not rationalize away, ignore, deny, or make excuses when their children do break the law. However, if they have proof that their children are being wrongly or falsely being accused, they will come to their defense and advocate for their charges to be dismissed. Pathfinders work cooperatively with the law enforcement and social service personnel involved legitimately with their children. They make every effort to insure that their children responsibly follow the guidelines of the requirements outlined for them by these professionals. They do not do the required tasks themselves and often do not remind their children of timeliness for the requirements. Pathfinders inform the law enforcement and social service personnel of the philosophy under which their children are being raised. They encourage full compliance with the natural consequences prescribed by the agencies for their children so that their children learn to become more personally responsible for their own lives.


4.4. Negotiating with members of the extended family

Pathfinders inform all grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins of their children of the Pathfinder philosophy of child rearing which their children are being exposed to in their homes. They request their relatives to abide by these policies and procedures which are contained in their family policy and procedure manual (outlined in T-Tracking Structures for Children). They use the win-win problem solving model to work out differences of opinion with these relatives when differences in child rearing arise. If the differences are benign, Pathfinders feel free to leave their children in the care of these relatives. However, if the difference are black and white and can do harm to their children, then Pathfinders do not allow their children to stay alone with those oppositional relatives.

Pathfinder parenting does not involve corporal punishment, verbal or emotional abuse, name calling, severe criticism, belittling, etc. If relatives insist on using these behaviors with the children of Pathfinders, then these parents advocate for a change of behavior on the part of the relatives or refuse to allow their children to stay alone with these relatives. There is little room for compromise when the emotional or physical well being of children is at stake. If their children have been physically or sexually abused by a relative, then, they report this relative to the appropriate law enforcement agency to insure that this person is never allowed to do these behaviors to any other children in the future.

Pathfinders give their extended family members a chance to read relevant entries in their family policy and procedure journal so that their children are given consistent direction when staying in the relatives' homes for any extended period of time. Pathfinders are willing to detach and disengage from relatives than expose their children to unhealthy and irresponsible people and their environments.


4.5. Negotiating with a non-supportive non-pathfinder parent

It is possible for a Pathfinder Parent to raise children within the philosophy of Pathfinder Parenting Principles when the other parent does not believe in or ascribe to its tenants. However, it is easier when both parents become Pathfinders. This is true even when both Pathfinder parents are separated or divorce. If one of the parents does not believe in the Pathfinder Principles but is still supportive of the Pathfinder parent, then the chances of children being raised personally responsible and having enhanced self-esteem is possible. The least positive scenario is when the non-pathfinder parent is openly non-supportive of the efforts of the Pathfinder and defiantly undermines and openly ridicules the efforts of the Pathfinder.

With oppositional parents, Pathfinders need to negotiate clearly and regularly to insure the needs of their children are advocated for and addressed. Non-Pathfinder parents who are revenge seeking or "sick" due to emotional or addictive diseases are difficult to negotiate with. Pathfinders need to pursue them as long as they do not hinder or negatively impact the welfare of their children. If the children become pawns in a battle between Pathfinders and non-Pathfinder parents, then Pathfinders need to reconsider the negotiating and advocacy efforts. It would be healthier to unconditionally accept the impossibility of achieving any progress with non-Pathfinder parents and let go of the efforts of advocacy with them. In this case, Pathfinders must be open and honest with their children about the reality that there will be two different and divergent methods of parenting and discipline which they will be experiencing. They also need to let their children openly express their negative response to the differences and to encourage their children to become detached from the over-control or neglect they experience with the non-Pathfinder parents.

Pathfinders strive not to be over competitive or revenge seeking when dealing with non-Pathfinder parents who are oppositional, non-cooperative, and non-supportive of their efforts in raising personally responsible children with healthy self-esteem. Pathfinders need to practice letting go of the need to control and change these people. They need to role model tolerance, detachment, and acceptance of them as long as they are not abusive of their children. However, if they become physically or sexually abusive, Pathfinders need to report them to the appropriate authorities and advocate for their children's rights. Pathfinders need to take the risk to courageously stand up for their children in these circumstances, even if it means that the children might be place in alternative home environments until the legal and social issues are resolved.

Pathfinders recognize that their children might not fully benefit from their efforts at parenting when they are simultaneously being exposed to other forms of parenting. They recognize that they can only do the best they are capable of doing considering the circumstances with the non-Pathfinder parent. They do not hold it against their children and are understanding when they are less than enthusiastic about following through with Pathfinder strategies such as the family policy manual, family journal, natural and logical consequences, and open and honest feelings based communications. Being with non-Pathfinder parents causes cognitive confusion and distortion for children. The lack of consistency is a source of undermining of the Pathfinder principles in their homes. Pathfinders are capable of letting go of the need to raise their children perfectly within the Pathfinder's principles when they are involved with parents of opposing or non-existent principles.

Pathfinders work hard at having their principles adopted by their children's schools, activities, programs, relatives, and other parents. They work at linking, brokering, mobilizing, and activating to advocate for these principles to be in place in all aspects of their children's lives. They advocate for the survival, safety, relationship, and self-esteem needs of their children, so that the Pathfinder principles are involved in every aspect of these needs being met. Pathfinders negotiate and advocate for reasonable, reality focused, and rational approaches for their children's welfare.


Pathfinder's Negotiations Game

Directions: For each example given, decide if the strategy used is linkage; brokering; mobilization or activating. Also decide if the need being negotiated for is a: survival; safety; relationship or self-esteem need. Write in your answers for each example. The correct answers are given in the answer key at the end of this Section.

1. I want my child to be placed in a specific learning disability class to address her visual and auditory perceptual problems as identified on this testing we had done by a private psychologist.



2. I am recording for you all of the procedures and policies which the kids and I have come up with in our family meetings. I would like you to consider using these procedures and policies with the kids in your time with them.



3. We are writing letters to our legislators about the need for increased funding to education so that our kids can have the best public education possible.



4. I have joined a group at church who are working to open a drug and alcohol free community center for teenagers in our community.



5. I talked with my parents last week and asked them to limit their christmas presents this year to one gift per child not to exceed $10 each. Last year they spent close to $500 on each child which I feel is exorbitant and unhealthy.



6. You have in my child's IEP that she will be given allowed to be exempt from time limits on all classroom and standardized tests. Last week her science teacher told her that he did not have to give her an exemption from the time limits he set on the rest of the class on the test he gave. She was not able to finish the test in time and she failed the test. She had all the items she answered correct. But he took off for all of the questions she did not have time to finish. I believe that this is wrong. It goes against the IEP. This problem needs to be corrected before too much time goes by and my daughter is discriminated against in this class. This is in direct violation of my child's due process rights. It is not only unfair, but against the spirit of Public Law 94-102.



7. Last week you gave our son a whipping for saying a cuss word. I would like you to use the consequence which we have come up with in our family meeting to address his cussing. I am afraid that if you continue to whip him the way you did that you will cross the line into physical child abuse. This is not only unacceptable parenting but also illegal.



8. During the game today, I noticed that six girls did not get a chance to play. I also noticed that you only played your senior players like my daughter. It appears that the goal of this game was to win at all costs. The girls who did not play are learning the message that the goal of this team is to win and it makes playing this sport less fun for them. I would appreciate if you would hold a parent's meeting so that we can openly decide if the team should play all the players or do like we did today. If the team is just a win at all costs team and all the other parents agree then I will take my daughter off the team. I believe the goal of the team is to give all of the girls a chance to perform as a team member and learn to have a good time no matter who wins.



9. I am upset because my child has been on a waiting list to enter your program for over a year and a half. I believe that there is something that can be done to correct this inequity. I have gone to our local TV station and given their crack investigative reporter all of the information on this situation. Perhaps by getting public attention to this problem you will be able to shorten the time children are on such a waiting list.



10. My child has broken the law and I ask you to please make him suffer the full impact of the negative consequences which the law allows you to give him.



Journal Exercise

Directions: In your journal answer the following questions:

1. How do you feel about the need for you to advocate and negotiate for your children's rights?

2. What current needs of your children are currently unmet our undeserved?

3. With what people do you need to negotiate with to advocate for your children? With these people be specific as to what the needs of your children are which need to be advocated for?

4. What prevents you from being a successful advocate for your children? What obstacles prevent you from successfully negotiating for them?

5. How well did your own parents negotiate and advocate for you when you were a child? How do you think this impacts the way you advocate and negotiate for your own children?

6. What is the difference between being an advocate and a "kiss upper" in your opinion? Is there a difference? If you cannot see a difference between the two, does this explain why you hesitate to be and advocate for your children?

7. How do you feel when you feel like you have been ignored when you negotiate for your children? Does this impact you in a negative way to avoid future negotiating and advocating?

8. How do you feel about spending time in advocacy for your own children which results in benefits being given to other children

but not your own because the results of the advocacy come way after your children outgrow the need for what you advocated for?

9. When do you feel silence is as good an advocacy strategy as talking is? What could justify your silence on behalf of your children?

10. How does negotiating and advocacy fit into the Pathfinder Principles of Parenting? Do you believe you can be a Pathfinder without negotiating and advocating for your children?


Answer Key to Pathfinders Negotiations Game

1. Strategy: Mobilization

This parent arranged private testing to insure that the child got the services needed. The public school by Public Law 94-142 must test all children suspected of having exceptional education needs. The parent took personal responsibility to have the testing done to mobilize resources to insure the child got the appropriate services in the school.

Need: Safety

This insures that the child's educational needs are identified. This protects the child from failing due to the presence of learning disabilities which could impede academic achievement.

2. Strategy: Brokering

This parent presents to the other parent information about Pathfinder strategies to insure that the children have a healthy relationship with the non-Pathfinder parent.

Need: Relationship

The need to have a healthy and productive relationship with a parent is being addressed.

3. Strategy: Activating

This parent is lobbying for increased funding to public schools to insure that sufficient educational opportunities are available to children.

Need: Survival

This lobbying effort if successful, will insure that sufficient and adequate funding exists for schools and teachers to provide adequate education for all children.

4. Strategy: Activating

This effort creates a new program for children.

Need: Safety

This new program will provide children with a secure facility where they can associate and have fun without the need for drugs and alcohol.

5. Strategy: Activating

This parent is lobbying with the grandparents to change their over-indulging and spoiling of their grandchildren.

Need: Self-esteem

This will help the children not to grow up with a sense of entitlement. They will not be spoiled and pampered. They will not grow up believing that things ought to be given to them without any effort or work on their part.

6. Strategy: Brokering

This parent is knowledgeable of the public law which guarantees free and accessible education to children with exceptional educational needs. This forces the school officials to face and accept their responsibility in the law. If a procedure to assist the student is written in the IEP then the school must see that it is followed through. The exemption from time limits on testing is an acceptable and reasonable procedure for children with exceptional educational needs.

Need: Survival

Without the exemption from testing time limits this girl would not be able to demonstrate what she has learned. The exemption helps prevent her from unfairly failing in school.

7. Strategy: Brokering

This parent stood up for the legal and moral rights of the child.

Need: Safety

The child could eventually be physically abused which could breakdown his physical and emotional health.

8. Strategy: Brokering

This parent is looking out for the welfare of all of the girls on the team. This parents is asking the coach to become less competitive and to incorporate the Pathfinder principles on the team.

Need: Self-esteem

If the coach changes the approach on the team it will teach the girls that sports are for learning team play, having fun and spending healthy leisure time together and not just for winning.

9. Strategy: Mobilization

This parent is requesting that all children's right to services be respected and protected.

Need: Safety

This insures that necessary services for children are being provided in a timely fashion so that they can benefit from then when they really need them.

10. Strategy: Linkage

This parent is linking the child to the existing natural and logical consequences which the law dictates.

Need: Survival

By "throwing the book" at the child hopefully he will learn never to repeat the unacceptable and illegal behaviors again so as to avoid another run in with the law.