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PATHFINDER Parenting:

Tools for Raising Responsible Children
By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.
R - Releasing Ourselves from Shame and Guilt Through Self-Forgiveness

Introduction

Pathfinder parenting is a system which recognizes that parents are human beings. Therefore they are subject to making mistakes and experiencing failures in their efforts to provide their children with optimal parenting. The tone of the principles and guidelines of Pathfinder is idealistic but yet it accounts for the human factor in its execution. In the introduction to the nine books of the Tools for Coping Series, this author highlighted the following statement: Our parents did the best they could knowing what they did at the time. We, as adults, must now take responsibility for our own lives and learn what "normal" is so that we can have healthier and more productive lives. If we can forgive our parents for what and how they parented us, then we must assume that someday our own children will be able to forgive us for our mistakes and failings as parents. Pathfinder Parenting is based on the assumption that we can only control and change one thing in our lives and that is ourselves. We can point out and guide our children down a healthy path to life but they are fee to accept or reject such direction. We cannot control how they will respond to our parenting. We need then to have tools in our parenting arsenal which will assist us to reach our personal potential while reacting to our "out of control state" as parents. To help us reach our fullest human potential we need to:

  1. Let go of the anger in healthy ways, when we experience anger over our children not doing what we want them to do;
  2. Let go of the need to control, fix or change our children, by manipulating them to be who we want them to be;
  3. Let go of the guilt over not being perfect parents;
  4. Let go of the shame over past parenting failures; and
  5. Forgive ourselves for mistakes made as parents.

1. LETTING GO OF ANGER IN HEALTHY WAYS

Anger Guideline 1: Recognize that you are angry
Anger Guideline 2: Get the anger out of your system in a healthy way
Anger Guideline 3: Identify the triggers of your anger
Anger Guideline 4: Develop healthier anger response patterns
Pathfinders recognize that it is unhealthy to take their anger out on their children. They recognize that they do get angry when their children do not do what they have been told or asked to do. They recognize that to unload their anger on their children is to be verbally and emotionally abusive and can have dire negative consequences on their self-esteem. Pathfinders do however recognize that anger is a healthy emotion as long as it is handled in a healthy way. They set out to deal with their anger in healthy ways. They believe that it is important to get their anger out of their system so that they do not use that anger on their children in injurious ways. Pathfinders utilize the following guidelines to let go of their anger.

 

Anger Guideline 1: Recognize that you are angry

It is important before you can let go of anger to recognize that you are angry. Pathfinders are able to monitor themselves well enough to recognize when they are feeling angry. They are able to recognize what it is that they are angry at and can name it. They are willing to accept that they are angry. They do not deny that reality when "called on" as being angry. They face their anger honestly even when it is painful to do so. They might not want to be angry but they recognize that as human beings they are subject to feeling so. They accept that anger is a feeling and as such is neither right or wrong. It only is wrong if it is vented on others in rageful, hateful and abusive ways. Often times parents act in passive aggressive ways with their children are do not recognize that this pattern of acting is a mask for anger they have against their children. Pathfinders work hard to self-examine their behaviors with their children to determine when their behaviors are shields or masks of the real anger they have for their children. Resentment, revenge and withdrawal are other masks of anger which parents must watch for in their behaviors towards their children. To help you work on recognizing the many faces of anger utilize Tools for Handling Anger by James J. Messina (www.coping.us, 2013).

 

Anger Guideline 2: Get the anger out of your system in a healthy way

Pathfinders need to get their anger out of their systems in healthy ways. They can use aggressive means to get their anger released by punching weight bags, pillows, cushions on chairs or mattresses. They can vent their anger by yelling in the car, in the shower, empty house, empty field etc. The goal of anger release work however, is to vent the anger not directly on people especially children. Many parents find doing healthy aggressive anger release work too silly. They prefer the write, read and burn technique.

Pathfinder Write, Read and Burn Technique

Take the same amount of time each day to do this work, preferably in 30, 45 or 60 minutes periods of time. On day one, write for 30, 45 or 60 minutes everything you are angry about that day such as: your children's unwanted behaviors; your role as parent; your role as spouse or ex-spouse; your role as being an employee or worker or supervisor; your role as caretaker of the house and kids or bus driver or shopper or gofer etc. On day two, read what you wrote on day one over and over again for the entire 30, 45 or 60 minute period. At the end of this session burn what you wrote. Begin all over on day three writing for 30, 45 or 60 minutes and on day four reading for the same amount of time with burning what you wrote at the end of the reading. Do this daily until you find you are in better control of your anger. In your writing, you need not be careful about what you put down. You will be the only one reading it, so let your hair down and let the fur fly. Don't hold back. Put down all of your negative thoughts, feelings, expressions, perceptions and rage. Do not be afraid to let out your hostility; blaming, resentments, revenge seeking feelings, pessimism, sarcasm and cynicism. Let it all out! On the reading days, read it out loud, yell it, scream it but read what you wrote over and over for the entire 30, 45 or 60 minute period. After you have read for the entire block of time set aside for the activity, you need to burn what is written. You can also tear it up, crumple it up, obliterate it with your hands or shred it in a shredding machine. Do with it what you want but get rid of it. By getting rid of it you are symbolically releasing yourself from what angers you. You will need to do Write, Read and Burn anger release work as long as you are troubled with anger in your heart and find that it interferes in your relationship with your children.

Healthy anger release work of yelling, screaming or hitting on inanimate objects or those anger release actions of writing, reading and burning are ways in which you can let go of your anger in healthy ways, which interferes in your relationship with your children. Getting your anger out in healthy ways allows you to have better emotional control in dealing with your children and lessen the possibility of you becoming offensive or abusive with your children in response to their actions which trigger your anger.

 

Anger Guideline 3: Identify the triggers of your anger

When you find that you are getting angry with your children, try to identify what is triggering your anger. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is what my children doing triggering anger about something which is not resolved from my past life? Is my children's behaviors bringing up similar feelings I once had in the past, either in my own childhood or in my children's earlier life?
  • Is the behavior, of my children which bothers me, similar to my own behaviors when I was young (reckless, not fearful of consequences, disrespectful, careless, irresponsible etc.) and do I not want my children to repeat the same mistakes I made back then?
  • Is the behavior, of my children which bothers me, similar to ways my parents or siblings treated me when I was younger (ie: ignored, put down, name called, yelled at, sarcasm, object or ridicule, angry outburst etc.) and do I not want to be treated the same way in my adulthood by my children?
  • Is the behavior, of my children which bothers me, similar to ways my children acted when they were younger (spoiled, bratty, selfish, egocentric, self-serving etc.) and do I want to see my children acting in more mature and responsible ways than they did when they were younger?
  • Is the trigger creating an emotional response disproportionate to what is actually occurring with my children?
  • Am I overreacting and losing my emotional control over something, which is "typical" child-like behaviors, which can be dealt with in a calmer, more peaceable manner?
  • What are the behaviors, attitudes and mannerisms of my children which are triggering my anger? Why do these behaviors, attitudes and mannerisms elicit such a strong response on my part?
  • What are the patterns of my anger response to my children which will assist me to identify the typical trigger behaviors for my anger for which I will need to use healthier forms of anger release work on?

 

Anger Guideline 4: Develop healthier anger response patterns

Once you have identified the trigger behaviors of your children which arouse your anger response, then develop new ways of coping with these behaviors. Such new behaviors could be:

Timing yourself out: Instead of putting your children in timeout, place yourself in a timeout position so that you can cool down and regain a rational, calm perspective. This might involve going to your bedroom or bathroom and doing anger release work there until you can gain a cooler composure. It might involve taking a walk outside or going for a drive until you cool down. It might involve counting to 100 until you can get emotionally stable and in control of your emotional response. Once you have completed your timeout period, you then come back and resume your interaction with your children.


Establishing an Unfinished Business Agenda: If you find yourself getting "hot under the collar" in a discussion with your child, ask to "stop" the discussion immediately and then go to the Family Meeting Minutes Book and write down the "heated topic" of the discussion in the Agenda for the next family meeting so it will be discussed at that time. This does two things: It first stops the heated interchange in which you might erupt into an unhealthy anger outburst. Secondly it provides the child reassurance that the topic will be revisited in the next family meeting in the Agenda for that meeting. Since the family meetings are to be held weekly this unfinished business item will be delayed no more than seven days before it will be discussed again. This scheduling of unfinished business into the next Family Meeting, gives the child a predictability that the unfinished topic will be re-explored. It also gives the child reassurance, that the next time it will be discussed, cooler heads will prevail or else it will be unfinished again and rescheduled again for the next family meeting after that and so on, until it can be successfully discussed and completed.


Taking a Break in the Discussion: When a discussion is going in a bad direction in which both the parent and child are getting over excited and heated, it is best to say: "Stop-let's take a break for 5-10 minutes." With this direction, both parties retreat to their respective anger venting place to get their anger out so that in 5-10 minutes they can return to the discussion, calmer and cooler to complete the transaction without an anger outburst. They will need to continue taking these breaks until they can resolve the item being discussed or else they might need to utilize the timing out or unfinished business formulas to cool the anger down before readdressing the topic.

In all three processes, the parent needs to identify the trigger for the anger and why the anger is so large or disproportionate to the topic being addressed. Once the trigger is identified then the parent needs to identify if the anger is current or remote. If current then the parent must do healthy anger release work on the "here and now" issue. If the anger is remote anger, then the parent must do anger release work on past issues either on the parent's family of origin or the history of the target child. Either remote or current triggers of anger must be vented and released thoroughly before a parent can successfully complete a communications transaction with the child once anger has interfered in the transaction.

2. LETTING GO OF THE NEED TO CONTROL, FIX, AND CHANGE CHILDREN

Letting Go Step 1: Admitting Powerlessness
Letting Go Step 2: Letting Go of the Uncontrollables and Unchangeables
Letting Go Step 3: Detaching from the Hooks of Our Children
Letting Go Step 4: Unconditional Acceptance of Our Children

 

Pathfinders recognize that they need to stop trying to control, fix and change their children to become what the parents want(ed) them to become. Pathfinders recognize that they can not determine the outcomes of whom their children will become no more than they can determine the outcomes for any other person, place, thing or condition. Pathfinders recognize that the only person or thing they can change is themselves. They recognize that they are only able to change their own Thinking, Emotions and Actions. Pathfinders recognize that they need to have an active relationship with their Higher Power or God as they define Him or Her. Once they have a clear definition of Higher Power, they then need to recognize that it is only through relying upon their Higher Power will they ever be able to release the need to control, fix or change their children. If their children are at the age of laying blame on their parents for whom they have become in life or if their children are at the age of wanting to break away and be independent, Pathfinders need to let go of the need to control, fix or change their children's attitudes or behaviors and leave the outcome up to God. Often times, the parents are overly protective and would prefer to keep their children sheltered in their own homes. It is not necessary for children to be overly protected, since by increasing their autonomy, it will assist them to accept the consequences for their own behaviors and will increase their sense of accepting personal responsibility for their own lives and taking their parents "off the hook" for "ruining or controlling their lives." To grow in the ability to let go of control; to let go of the need to fix and to let go of the need to change your children to your point of view you need to take four necessary steps in the Letting Go process:
 

Letting Go Step 1: Admitting Powerlessness

To effectively let go of the outcomes of what they want their children to become and to let go of their need to change their children to approximate as closely as possible their "idealized" image, parents need to admit that they are powerless. Pathfinders spend time in a healing their spirits by being open to the "reality" that they are powerless to control, fix or change other people, places, things or condition. Pathfinders accept openly that they are powerless in getting their children to change and become whom they want them to become (especially after they reach adolescence). Pathfinders admit they are powerless and accept that their adult children, who are blaming them for the negatives in their lives, will continue to harangue them. But these parents need to let go of the need to correct their children's perspective. They need to let go of the need to control the outcomes and to tell their nay sayer children that as a parent, "I did the best I could do know what I did at the time" and that now it is up to these children to take charge of their own lives and to accept the natural consequences for their own action or lack of action. To accept powerlessnees over your children and the outcomes which they become, requires an open and honest assessment about the current situations which feels so BIG that it often overwhelms you. If a parent does not admit powerlessness over the outcomes for their children, then they run the risk of becoming locked into "fantasy" or "magical" thinking that given enough time, energy, and resources they can succeed in changing and controlling their children to become what they want them to become in life. These parents can become so preoccupied in this task that they try to become the "savior" of their children. These parents can become so obsessed with this fantasy of control that they run the risk of ruining not only their physical but also their emotional and financial well being. The self-script which Pathfinder parents need to accept powerlessness is:

  • I am powerless over determining the outcomes for my children. I am also powerless to effect changes in how others, including my children, perceive or judge me on how well I have parented my children. I choose to not play God in my children's lives and to accept that they must play an active part in determining the course of their own lives. 

 

Letting Go Step 2: Letting Go of the Uncontrollables and Unchangeables

Once Pathfinders recognize that they are powerless over every person, place, thing or condition which is external to them, they are in a state of readiness to let go of these uncontrollables and unchangeables in their lives including their children. Pathfinder parents, after admitting their powerlessness to control, fix or change their children to become what they want them to become, next seek assistance from their Higher Power. They dialogue with their God about how powerless they feel about effecting change in or controlling their children. With the assistance of their Higher Power, these Pathfinder parents use the following self-script to acknowledge powerlessness and to begin a process of cooperation with the Higher Power to turn over all pressures and heartaches involving their children. The self-script needed to let go of the uncontrollables and uncertainty of the outcomes for their children is:

  • I can only change my thinking, feelings and behaviors. I am not able to determine or manipulate things to effect an outcome for my children which I most want and desire for them. I hand over my children to You, my Higher Power and leave it up to Your will God to give blessing and wisdom to my children to control their own lives. 

 

Letting Go Step 3: Detaching from the Hooks of Our Children

Our children can use a number of manipulations to "hook" us back into taking care of them. It is important to recognize that one of the "hooks" might be the blame they bestow on us for what we did wrong in the past. The hook might be to threaten not to do or become the outcome, which we stood up for and encouraged our children to achieve. The hook might be that they choose not to achieve as fully as possible what we had hoped, dreamed and planned for them. The self-script needed to develop detachment from our children's "hooks" is:

  • I no longer will be hooked by cues given me by my children which they hope will get me to let down my boundaries and get overly involved in their lives again. I do not have to fix or take care of my children so that they can become the people I had hoped they would become in life. I hand back to my children their own personal destiny. I hope and pray to God, in my handing over my children, that they will do the best job they can with all of their own talents, strengths and resources available to them. 

 

Letting Go Step 4: Unconditional Acceptance of Our Children

Pathfinders learn to accept their children just the way they are, rather than how they would like their children to be, act, think, feel or behave. They recognize that it is better in the long term to put aside the need for their children to fulfill their own fantasies, dreams, aspirations, and expectations. Pathfinders recognize that it is unhealthy to live their lives vicariously through their children's lives. Pathfinders recognize the value of unconditional acceptance in their own lives and how such acceptance is a healing balm on many broken or unhealthy relationships which have gone on the skids only to come back healthier and stronger in the process. The script needed for parents to forge an unconditional acceptance of their children is:

  • I will accept my children just they way they are and place no condition on them for them to deserve my acceptance. I will love and accept my children with no conditions, expectations, guidelines, or ideals for them to satisfy. I will accept my children just because they are alive and I will make every effort to not judge, criticize or reject my children just because they do no live a life just the way I wanted them to live.

Once Pathfinders accept Powerlessness; let go of all uncontrollable and unchangeables including their children; develop detachment so not to get hooked by their children and unconditionally accept their children for who they are rather than how they would like them to be, then Pathfinders have learned to let go of control and are ready to handle the other issues which will help them grow in self-esteem as parent and not allow their children to manipulate them. If you are having a difficult time in dealing with control issues then utilize: Tools for Handling Control Issues, by James J. Messina (coping.us, 2013) to help you clarify what are the blocks to your letting go of control. This is a very difficult process for people to master and it will require a lot of work for parents committed to becoming Pathfinders to their children.

 

3. LETTING GO OF GUILT OVER NOT BEING A PERFECT PARENT

Pathfinder parents need to accept that they are human and as such are not perfect. They are best served by developing a set of affirmations which encourage them to accept themselves as imperfect but still trying to be as good parents as possible to their children. Such affirmations could include the following:

  • I am a human being and as such am subject to making mistakes and not being perfect.
  • I will try my best to discipline and parent my children and I accept that I will not always be perfect or on target in the process, so I will be ready to correct my mistakes and ask my children's forgiveness for them.
  • I can be open with my children when I make a mistake with them and be adult enough to ask for their understanding and forgiveness of my bad judgment, mistaken perception, forgetfulness, imperfection and humanness.
  • Although I want to give my children the best, all of the time, every day of their lives, I recognize that I am human and will not always accomplish this lofty goal, that is ok and I accept the probability of this happening.
  • There is no need to feel any guilt or shame for the mistakes and errors I have made in the past with my children, because I have tried to do the best that I could do with the emotional and behavioral tools I had available to me at the time.
  • When I have really messed up badly as a parent I must be ready to openly admit it to my children so that they are not deluded into thinking that such unhealthy behavior is acceptable or worthy of duplicating in their own lives.
  • No one expects me to be a perfect parent, however my children have the right to expect me to be honest with them when I have failed them either through the commission or omission of specific actions which could have had a negative impact on their self-esteem and emotional or physical health.

When a parent is ready to be open and honest with their children about their mistakes, failings and errors made in their parenting, then there is no need for these parents to have guilt over their past offenses. However there are parents who have no conscious and who have character disorders for whom some guilt would be adaptive and necessary to insure that their children's welfare is better protected. This is especially true for parents who abuse their children, sexually, physically, emotionally or verbally. These parents need to make an honest inventory of their mistakes and failing and need to make open and honest amends with their children for the harm they have done to them. In making such amends hopefully the abusive parents will be able to gain the forgiveness of their children. Unless amends are made by abusive parents it is difficult to say what their children are learning from such heinous behaviors which they have witnessed or experienced. Guilt for mistakes and failing must be resolved so that parents can then do the next step which is to let go of shame.

4. LETTING GO OF SHAME OVER PAST PARENTING FAILURES

Parents who have made major mistakes or experienced major failings as parents in the past must let go of the shame which burdens them emotionally when dealing with their children in the "here and now." Such shame might lead the parents to over compensate or go over board when dealing with their children and undermine their being tough, consistent, a follow through person, and weaken their perceived power and authority as a parent. Shame based parenting is fraught with the danger of using too much inconsistency, procrastination, indecisiveness, wishy washiness, passivity, laxity, spoiling and over indulging with children. Parents who are fraught with shame over past parental offenses pay an emotional and oftentimes physical price with ill health. They have to re-parent themselves to let go of the despair they feel over their past offenses on their children. They need to let go of the past and live in the present. They need to recognize that they are expected to be the leaders of their children and must take on the mantle of authority. Leadership in the family means that the parent leads by serving the children and family with healthy role modeling of cooperation, timely accomplishment of tasks, structuring of their lives in healthy ways and maintaining a balanced lifestyle.

To assist themselves to let go of shame over past failures as parents, pathfinders need to give themselves the following messages:

  • Recognizing that I have made major errors and mistakes with my children, I have made amends to them and expressed my sincere sorrow and pain for any harm they experienced by my failure as a parent. Since I have made amends to my children for the failures I have made as a parent, there is no need for me to continuously beat myself over them anymore.
  • My shame over my failures is interfering in my current effectiveness as a parent to my children. My children deserve for me to be healthy and better focused in my dealings with them.
  • My shame over my past failures opens me up to be fully manipulated by my children and this undermines my effectiveness with them. I need to let go of the shame so that I can hold to my word with them and make them more accountable for their actions so that they can accept the natural consequences for their own behaviors.
  • I have blamed myself enough for my past parental offenses. I must stop blaming myself for my negative behaviors of the past which have messed my children up so badly. It is time I stop allowing my children to bring up the past offenses as the reason why they are not able to accomplish the current life tasks facing them now. My children must learn to accept personal responsibility for their own lives and stop blaming their parents for why they are so "unsuccessful" or not able to accomplish what they currently need to accomplish to be successful in life.
  • Yes, what I did was wrong and in some cases heinous. However as long as I have sought out professional help for myself and my children to counteract the impact of these negative behaviors on their emotional and physical well-being, then I no longer need to hold my head down in shame and guilt.
  • Since I have already made active amends by getting my children the professional help they need to overcome the destructive influence of my negative or abusive behaviors on them, I now need to get on with my life and stop being so passive, overly sensitive, gingerly and standoffish with my children.
  • My children need and deserve a strong parent who is a leader and not a wimp or pansy. I need to get on with my life. I need to stop being so afraid to state my parental thoughts. My children need my direction and love. If I am hiding from them then I am being no better for them now than I was when I was being negative or abusive.

Shame can be very debilitating to parents and there is a need for such parents to take control of their lives and get professional assistance to help them learn moderation in their parenting and to learn what effective pathfinding parenting is all about. If such a parent has read this book this far, then there is no doubt that they can let go of shame because they are open minded and willing to learn to be effective parents again. Now that they have put their parenting failures, mistakes and errors behind them, they can release the shame and guilt that binds and keeps them stuck. Once the shame is lessened, parents need to take the fifth and final task of self-forgiveness for the mistakes made as parents.

5. SELF FORGIVENESS FOR MISTAKES MADE AS PARENTS

Pathfinders work at accepting themselves as humans, who have faults and have made mistakes as parents. They are willing to let go of self-anger for their past failures, errors and mistakes in parenting their children. They recognize they no longer need to do penance, express sorrow or experience regret over their grievous, self-inflicted or personal offenses they committed as parents, once amends and restitution with their children have been made. They recognize that in forgiving themselves for the past offenses, they are growing in self-love by admitting the failure, mistake and misdeeds and moving on from there. Self-forgiveness is an act of spiritual self-healing of the heart which calms self-rejection, quiets the sense of personal failure and lightens the burden of guilt and shame for past parenting errors.

Pathfinders recognize that if they do not experience self-forgiveness for their past parenting mistakes they will suffer chronic depression, chronic hostility and cynicism, self-blame, self-destructive behaviors, lack of self-love, chronic suspicion of others motives, self-deprecation and loss of parental effectiveness in the "here and now."

Pathfinders recognize that they need to develop a new set of behaviors to effect their self forgiveness for their past parenting mistakes. Such new behaviors are: letting go of past hurt and pain; trusting in the one's ability to change and grow so as not to stay stuck in old behavioral patterns; and trusting in the Higher Power's goodness and mercy to accept the burden of guilt and shame over past mistakes which they hand over to this Power. Other new behaviors to grow in self-forgiveness are: letting go of fears for the future; accepting that recovery entails slight relapses or slips and that getting back on the wagon of recovery every time is a sign of true recovery and improved emotional health; developing an openness to the belief in their ability to experience personal change in their lives; and trusting in their own personal goodness and deservedness to be forgiven and allowed to have a new chance at being effective and responsible parents to their children.

Pathfinder parents in the process of self-forgiveness make a personal inventory of their own personal lives as children to determine what in their past life might have contributed to their own mistakes as parents. Pathfinders believe that most of us tend to recreate in our current lives patterns of living from our families of origin. Sometimes we think we are doing a 180 degree turn around from what our parents did to us, but often times we are surprised that we do the same things but the package of behaviors are just wrapped differently. Pathfinder parents accept the words of the following poem, by an anonymous author, as the reason why many of the old parenting mistakes made on them are repeated with their own children:

 

Children Learn What they Live
If a child lives with criticism,
he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule,
he learns to feel shy.
If a child lives with shame,
he learns to feel guilty.
If a child live with tolerance,
he learns to be patient.
If a child learns with encouragement,
he learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise,
he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness,
he learns justice.
If a child lives with security,
he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval.
he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
he learns to find love in the world

Parental Self-Forgiveness Script

To effectively work at self forgiveness, Pathfinders examine their personal history from their family of origin on and then they examine the history of each of their children to see the repetition of patterns of old behaviors in the new generation. By this personal inventory and self-history taking, Pathfinders are able to identify what issues they need to make amends for to their children and what issues for which they need to seek their own personal forgiveness. Once they have identified what they need personal self-forgiveness for they proceed to write a self-forgiveness script like the following example and then use it as a self-healing tool in mirror work or visualization or meditation work, for personal growth and personal empowering as a parent to their children. In this script the Pathfinder Parent visualizes speaking to him or herself either in the mirror or in the visualization:

  • I forgive you for --- (list each specific parental mistake here)
  • You are a human being subject to making mistakes and errors.
  • You do not need to be a perfect parent in order for your children to respect and love you.
  • You do not need to be a perfect person in order for me to love you.
  • These past parental mistakes are examples of the challenges which you have been given on earth by your Higher Power.
  • You will meet the challenge and grow by handing the pain and hurt from these parenting mistakes over to your Higher Power to take it off your shoulders.
  • You do not need to be so burdened by pain, hurt, shame and guilt because of your past mistakes.
  • You are a good person. You are in the process of becoming a good parent, because you have become committed to following and implementing the Pathfinder Principles of Parenting.
  • You deserve my understanding, compassion and forgiveness for your mistakes as a parent because much of the reason for the mistakes is traced back to your family of origin. In many ways you did not know any better how to handle being a parent than your parents did.
  • You deserve to come out from hiding from your children. You deserve to take back the leadership of your children. You deserve to no longer let your children manipulate your by guilt and shaming you to get their own ways.
  • Your children deserve a strong parental figure in their lives and I promise to help you grow to be a strong Pathfinder Parent by following the principles and practices involved in this healthy model of parenting.
  • There is nothing you have ever done or not done which cannot be forgiven by me and my Higher Power.
  • You did the best you could do knowing what you did at the time.
  • You have compulsive and impulsive habitual ways of acting which your are working to change and for that I am very proud of you for addressing and correcting.
  • You may slip-up again as long as you get back on the wagon of recovery and keep on trying to be the best parent you can be, is good enough for me.
  • You no longer need to condemn yourself for your past parental mistakes.
  • You are forgiven.
  • You and I will work together to become the best parent we can become.
  • You and I will hand over, to our Higher Power, all our old burden of pain, hurt, self-anger, self-hatred, self-loathing, guilt and shame over the past negative parental behaviors
  • I feel lighter as we talk because I feel the burden of hurt, pain, guilt and shame lifting from my shoulders.
  • I see you holding your head higher and standing taller as I forgive you for your past parental mistakes.
  • I know that our Higher Power has forgiven you and me. I feel the peace and serenity of letting go of the need to hold on to these past parental mistakes anymore.
  • I forgive you because you deserve to be forgiven. No one needs to hold onto such a burden of guilt and shame for so long.
  • You deserve to be a strong and solid leader as parent and I promise to help you achieve this status. I no longer will allow you to be passive, laid back and not involved with your children any longer.
  • You are a loveable, capable, special person, you are a Pathfinder Parent with great promise.
  • I will work with you to grow in inner healing and self-growth.
  • I will re-parent you to become a better parent and leader to your children.

Pathfinders will use this self-forgiveness process not only to forgive themselves for past parental mistakes but also for current ones as they arise. Pathfinders recognize they are not perfect and that there is no guarantee that they will not make mistakes in their parenting in the future,

Parental Self Forgiveness and Amends Making Assessment
Directions: Each parent of your child(ren) should respond to this questionnaire on his or her own, prior to sharing the responses to the other parent of the child(ren) in question. Please respond to the following questions in writing or on audio recording:

 

1. Describe your family of origin:
a. Describe your Father:
b. Describe your Mother:
c. Describe your Siblings:
d. What was your relationship with your father like?
e. What was your relationship with your mother like?
f. What was your relationship with your siblings like?
g. Did any problems exist in your family which influenced your family life?
h. How did your family relationships influence your raising of your children?
i. How similar or different was the family you provided your children from your own family of origin?
j. Have you and your children spoken about the similarities or differences of your two families?
k. What have you hoped your children would get out of being raised in your family which you have given them?
l. If you had a chance to talk with each of your children today, what would you like to tell them about how you feel about each child's role in your family and how each child conducted him or herself in your family? If each of your children is still available to talk with you, take the opportunity to share these feelings with them. If one or more child is no longer available due to death or some other unfortunate twist of fate then be sure to do some journal work in which you put these thoughts down in a letter format to your absent child(ren) by which you can free yourself of these feelings.

 

2. Describe your educational and school experience as a young person:
a. Elementary
b. Middle/Junior High School
c. High School
d. College
e. How well did you do in school?
f. What type of student where you?
g. How did your performance in school influence how you raised your children when it came to their school performance?
h. Did your children take after your or did they do radically different from you in their school performance?
i. Have you and your children spoken about the similarities or differences of school performance between you and them?
j. If you had a chance to talk with each of your children today, what would you like to tell them about how you feel about each child's way he or she handled his or her schooling? If each of your children is still available to talk with you, take the opportunity to share these feelings. If one or more child is no longer available due to death or some other unfortunate twist of fate then be sure to do some journal work in which you put these thoughts down in a letter format to your absent child(ren) by which you can free yourself of these feelings.

 

3. Describe your friendship and peer relationships you experienced as a young person:
a. How easy was it for you to establish a close relationship with same sex peers? and with peers of the opposite sex?
b. What was the quality of your relationships with your peers? How close were you and how many of your early friends can you call on today as being very close to you now?
c. Did you compete in any competitive sports and did you make friends there? How close were these friends?
d. Did you participate in extra curricular activities, likes clubs, band etc and did you make friends there? How close were these friends?
e. How important to you were friends and friendships when you were an adolescent? When you were in your twenties?
f. Did your children take after you in the way they made friends and handled friendships?
g. Have you and your children spoken about the similarities or differences of handling friends and friendships between you and them?
h. If you had a chance to talk with each of your children today, what would you like to tell them about how you feel about each child's way he or she handled his or her friends and friendships? If each of your children is still available to talk with you, take the opportunity to share these feelings. If one or more child is no longer available due to death or some other unfortunate twist of fate then be sure to do some journal work in which you put these thoughts down in a letter format to your absent child(ren) by which you can free yourself of these feelings.

 

4. Describe your marriage to your child(ren)'s other parent:
a. How did you meet your future spouse?
b. What about your future spouse led you to want to marry him or her?
c. What were some of the early highlights or lowlights of your early marital history?
d. What were some of the later highlights or lowlights of your marriage during your child(ren)'s upbring?
e. If you are divorced from your child(ren)'s other parent, what led to the divorce? How well did you and the ex-spouse handle the divorce? How well did you both keep the kids out of the middle of any anger, fighting or ill will between you two? How negatively did the divorce impact your child(ren)?
f. Have you and your children discussed your marital experience and what did you hope for your children to gain from such discussions?
g. Have you as a couple and the child(ren)'s natural parents, discussed your marriage (and divorce) with your children and what qualities they ought to look for in a future spouse?
h. If you had a chance to talk with each of your children today, what would you like to tell them about how you feel about your marriage (and divorce) with his or her other parent which he or she did not know before? If each of your children is still available to talk with you, take the opportunity to share these feelings. If one or more child is no longer available due to death or some other unfortunate twist of fate then be sure to do some journal work in which you put these thoughts down in a letter format to your absent child(ren) by which you can free yourself of these feelings.

 

5. Describe any other life experiences which you believe influenced and shaped you to become the person you are today:
a. What successes have you experienced in life which have contributed to your becoming the person you are today?
b. What failure experiences have you had if any which have contributed to your becoming the person you are today?
c. What other life experiences which you experienced influenced your shaping and molding to become the person you are today?
d. Have you shared, with your children, your insights into these above experiences and what lesson(s) did you intend for your children to gain from the sharing of these experiences?
e. If you had a chance to talk with each of your children today, what would you like to tell them about how you feel about how they have handled their own successes, failures and other life experiences? If each of your children is still available to talk with you, take the opportunity to share these feelings. If one or more child is no longer available due to death or some other unfortunate twist of fate then be sure to do some journal work in which you put these thoughts down in a letter format to your absent child(ren) by which you can free yourself of these feelings.

 

6. Describe your self-assessment as a parent of your children:
a. How would you rate yourself as a parent to each of your children?
b. What behaviors or incidents as a parent are you proud of and want each of your children to remember?
c. How successful have you been in rewarding yourself for your good parenting deeds?
d. What behaviors or incidents would you rather each of your children not remember?
e. Have you been able to speak with each of your children to resolve any past offenses you did as a parent which you hoped to gain forgiveness or make amends for? Have you been able to gain such forgiveness and have your amends been accepted? How do you feel about the resolution of your efforts to gain forgiveness and make amends to your children?
f. If you were able to talk with your son today, what would you like to tell him about your role in being his parent to him? If you had a chance to talk with each of your children today, what would you like to tell them about how you feel about how the way you handled being a parent to each one of them? If each of your children is still available to talk with you, take the opportunity to share these feelings. If one or more child is no longer available due to death or some other unfortunate twist of fate then be sure to do some journal work in which you put these thoughts down in a letter format to your absent child(ren) by which you can free yourself of these feelings.

Step 2: Life history on each of your children:

The second task is to take each of your children and do a life history on each one to identify issues needing amends making on your part and forgiveness of you on the part of the respective child(ren) involved. Once having completed this questionnaire you would then be best served by going directly to your child(ren) who need for you to make amends with.


My Child's Life: A Parental Forgiveness and Amends Making Assessment

Directions: Please respond to the following questions for each of your children. Respond to them in writing or on audio recording.

 

1. Describe your child's family of origin:
a. Describe the Father:
b. Describe the Mother:
c. Describe the Siblings:
d. What was or is the relationship of the child with father like?
e. What was or is the relationship of the child with mother like?
f. What was or is the relationship of the child with his or her siblings like?
g. Did any problems exist in this child's family which influenced his or her family life?
h. What were your parental goals in raising this child? Did these goals change over the years. How successful was your child in achieving these goals? How did you react to your child fully achieving or full not attaining these goals?
i. What discipline problems has this child presented and how have you handled them?
l. What have been the high points of this child's participation in the family? What have been the low points if any?
m. What do you need to tell this child about his or her role and function in your family?
n. If you had a chance to talk with this child today, what would you like to tell him or her about how you feel about how he or she has handled being a member of your family? If your child is still available to talk with you, take the opportunity to share these feelings. If your child is no longer available due to death or some other unfortunate twist of fate then be sure to do some journal work in which you put these thoughts down in a letter format to your absent child by which you can free yourself of these feelings.

 

2. Describe your child's educational and school experience:
a. Elementary
b. Middle/Junior High School
c. High School
d. College
e. How well has your child done in school?
f. What type of student has your child been?
g. How has your child's performance in school influence how she or he was treated in her or his family?
h. What has been the vocational goal your child while in elementary, middle, high school, college or technical school? How successful has your child been in achieving these different vocational goals? What happened if anything to help your child to change the vocational direction in his or her life?
i. What formal training, if any, did your child gain, which assisted him in fulfilling his latest vocational goal?
j. How have you responded, as the child's parent, to his or her school performance?
k. If you had a chance to talk with your child today, what would you like to tell him or her about how you feel about how he or she has handled his or her school experience and vocational development? If your child is still available to talk with you, take the opportunity to share these feelings. If your child is no longer available due to death or some other unfortunate twist of fate then be sure to do some journal work in which you put these thoughts down in a letter format to your absent child by which you can free yourself of these feelings.

 

3. Describe your child's friendship and peer relationships:
a. How easy has it been for your child to establish a close relationship with same sex peers? and with peers of the opposite sex?
b. What has the quality of your child's relationships with his or her peers been? How close has your child been with them and how many of his or her early friends are still considered as being very close?
c. Has your child competed in any competitive sports and has he or she made friends there? How close have these friends been to your child?
d. Has your child participated in extra curricular activities, likes clubs, band etc and has your made friends there? How close have these friends been to your child?
e. How important to your child have his or her friends and friendships been when he or she was an adolescent? Was in his or her teen? twenties? thirties? forties? etc.
f. What is the current quality of the friendships your child has today?
g. What characteristics make these friendships, healthy, wholesome and self-esteem enhancing?
h. What characteristics make these friendships, unhealthy, unwholesome and self-esteem hindering?
i. If you had a chance to talk with your child today, what would you like to tell him or her about how you feel about how he or she has handled his or her friendships and peer relationships? If your child is still available to talk with you, take the opportunity to share these feelings. If your child is no longer available due to death or some other unfortunate twist of fate then be sure to do some journal work in which you put these thoughts down in a letter format to your absent child by which you can free yourself of these feelings.

 

4. Describe any other life experiences which you believe influenced and shaped your child to become the person he or she is today(or the day he or she died or disappeared from your life):
a. What successes has your child experienced in life which has contributed to his or her becoming the person he or she is today?
b. What failure experiences has your child had, if any, which contributed to his or her becoming the person he or she is today?
c. What other life experiences has your child experienced which have influenced the shaping and molding of your child to become the person he or she is today?
d. If you had a chance to talk with your child today, what would you like to tell him or her about how you feel about how he or she has handled his or her life experiences which have had a shaping or molding effect on him or her? If your child is still available to talk with you, take the opportunity to share these feelings. If your child is no longer available due to death or some other unfortunate twist of fate then be sure to do some journal work in which you put these thoughts down in a letter format to your absent child by which you can free yourself of these feelings.

 

5. Describe your assessment of your child as a child to you:
a. How would you rate your child as a child to his or her parent(s)?
b. What behaviors or incidents as a child are you proud of and want to remember about your child?
c. How successful have you been in rewarding your child for his or her "good child" deeds?
d. What behaviors or incidents in your child's would you rather not remember?
e. Have you been able to speak with your child to resolve any past offenses he or she might have done as a child which he or she hoped to gain your forgiveness or to make amends to you for?
f. If you had a chance to talk with your child today, what would you like to tell him or her about how you feel about how he or she has handled his or her role in being a child to you? If your child is still available to talk with you, take the opportunity to share these feelings. If your child is no longer available due to death or some other unfortunate twist of fate then be sure to do some journal work in which you put these thoughts down in a letter format to your absent child by which you can free yourself of these feelings.
 

Step 3: Prepare a List of Parental Mistakes:

Once you have completed your own history and that of your child you now need to make a composite list of all of the parental mistakes for which you feel shame and guilt over. Have this list ready before you do the next step.

 

Step 4: Prepare a Self-Forgiveness Script:

Once your list of parental mistakes is completed then you need to proceed to write your own self-forgiveness script. Use the sample self-forgiveness script given in this , also use the affirmations and other statements used in this to assist you complete this script. You will need to complete this script prior to moving on to the next step.

 

Step 5: Do your Self-Forgiveness Work:

Once you have your self-forgiveness script written, now use it in mirror work or visualization activities on a daily basis for at least 30 days to grow in self-forgiveness for your past parental mistakes, failures and errors.

 

Step 6: Ongoing Self-Assessment if Need for Self-Forgiveness arises:

Once you grown in self-forgiveness you will be more relaxed with your children and they will be less likely to manipulate you into doing what they demand of you to do. Continue to monitor yourself in your relationship with your children. If you find yourself falling back into old habits of anger and controlling and/or you find yourself falling back into guilt and shame for errors and mistakes in your parenting then go back and start this over to get self-forgiveness working again in your life. This is an ongoing process one which parents will need to return to over their lifetime with their children.