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PATHFINDER Parenting:

Tools for Raising Responsible Children
By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.
T - Tracking Pathfinder Structures for Children
10.0 Structures for Managing Children's Relationships Outside of the Family

10.1. Peer group relationships

Pathfinders allow their children to choose their friends freely. They are always ready to support and help their children deal with problems that might arise as a result of peer relationships. Pathfinders never get into the middle of fights or arguments their children have with their peers. They do however contact the parents of the other peers to problem solve ways in which their children can get along in healthier ways. Pathfinders recognize that peer pressure will influence their children to challenge the rules and guidelines in their family if they conflict with easier ones of their peers. These parents allow the natural consequences of peer relationships to assist their children to recognize that they have a stable home life which is preparing them to be better prepared to accept personal responsibility in adult life. Comparisons with their peers' family lives will enable them to recognize that they are loved and cared for in unconditional ways and that they have healthier and more open communications with their parents than do most of their peers. Pathfinders let go of the need to select appropriate peer friends for their children recognizing that they can not control the outcomes of peer relationships for their children. Guidelines and procedures for peer involvement are detailed in family meetings. Children of Pathfinders have stable attitudes about their peer group and are able not to succumb to peer pressure to participate in or do things which are not healthy for them.

Natural consequences:
  • If you have problems with your friends, then you will have to work it out with them on your own.
  • If your friends have different values and family backgrounds than yours, then there is a good possibility that these differences will make it difficult to maintain your friendship and harmonious relationships with them.
Logical consequences:
  • If you get in trouble by hanging out with your friends, then you will have to suffer the negative consequences which you might get into at school, in the community and at home.
  • If you do not follow our rules at home by your involvement with your friends, then you will need to accept the negative consequences these violations bring with them.

10.2. Babysitter relationships

Pathfinders give the babysitters they hire full responsibility for the care of their children. They select babysitters based on apparent responsibility taking and maturity. They retain their sitters based on follow through with requested procedures and feedback from their children. If the children are fearful, anxious, or upset with a babysitter, then the parents read this as a negative reference for further employment. Babysitters are interviewed in advance of being hired and are given a full list of procedures and emergency guidelines. Babysitters are not given permission to work outside of the logical and natural consequences model used in the family. They are expected to comply with the structures and limits set in the family. If family members or older siblings are used as babysitters, they are given the full support of the parents to enforce the rules and guidelines of the house in a "in loco parentis" model of being surrogate parents for the time the parents are out of the house. The older siblings are viewed as "parenting children" and are involved by the parents in problem solving issues surrounding the younger siblings. Babysitters are given full respect and the authority needed to provide the home of Pathfinders a stable functioning in their absence.

Natural consequences:
  • If you are left with babysitters, then you are expected to comply with their directives as long as they are consistent with the rules of the family.
  • If babysitters are enforcing the rules of the family, then you are expected to comply with them. If, however, you feel nervous, frightened, anxious, tense, or upset with the babysitter, then there will be changes made with who sits with you.
Logical consequences:
  • If you do not follow the rules of the babysitter, then we will find a babysitter with whom you will comply.
  • If you are not able to babysit your siblings without a lot of trouble, then we will get us a babysitter who will take care of all of you.

10.3. Smoking, alcohol, and drugs

Pathfinders develop guidelines for their children around the issues of cigarette smoking, alcohol and drug use. They role model a healthy life style of a smoke free, alcohol free, and drug free home. They educate their children through family meetings of the health dangers of these activities. They deal with their children's concerns about peer pressure to engage in these habits. The negative consequences of these habits are freely discussed and explored. If the children choose to engage in these activities, they are strongly encouraged to be open and honest with their parents about it. They are not punished for these activities when they engage in them. The parents utilize the benefits of the natural consequences to motivate their children to choose to extinguish these behaviors. However, they are clear that the use of alcohol or drugs and the smoking of cigarettes, cigars or pipes is not allowed in their house. Logical consequences for these in house behaviors are decided upon in family meetings. Pathfinders recognize that it is only through their own personal responsible relationship with smoking, alcohol, and drugs will they be able to motivate their children to be responsible with them.

Natural consequences:
  • If you smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs, then you will experience the negative consequences of them on your health.
  • If you smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs and are under age, then you may have to suffer the negative consequences which the law enforcement personnel of the state have mandated for under age or illegal use of such substances.
Logical consequences:
  • If you smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs, then you will not be allowed to use the family car out of our concern that you might use them while driving.
  • If your group of friends smokes, drinks, or uses drugs, then we will have a hard time allowing you to go out with them unless we are assured that a designated driver is available to get you home safe and out of trouble.
  • If you get in trouble with the law enforcement personnel of the state for under age or illegal smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs, then you will have to suffer the full strength of the criminal justice system and pay for all legal costs, bail, fines, etc., on your own.

10.4. Sexual behavior

Pathfinders make every effort to provide sex education to their children over their entire life span. They make sure that their children are well informed in sexual matters. They utilize family meetings to openly discuss sexual issues with their children. They set a tone by which it is clear to their children that virginity is the best state for them to become married in. They, however, are realistic about the peer and cultural pressure their children face to engage in early pre-marital sexual experiences. For this reason they develop home guidelines around safe sex and birth control. They encourage their children to be open and honest about sexual questions and they answer all questions openly, honestly, and frankly. They seek out additional information if they are not clear about specific answers or issues. They encourage their children to be open and honest with them, if they are engaging in sexual experimentation. They work with their children to be free of guilt or embarrassment when discussing sexual matters. They do not judge or condemn the sexual experimentation of their children. They support and assist their children to come to grips with their sexual lives and handling the pressure of peers and society. Pathfinders are open with their children that they will not personally cover for the responsibility of their children who engage in unsafe and unprotected sex resulting in either disease or pregnancy. They place the burden of responsibility squarely on the shoulders of their children for such behaviors. Pathfinders are clear with their children from the time they reach middle school age that they will not allow a grandchild born out of wedlock to be raised in their household. This boundary or limit hopefully is a natural consequence which will be a limiting factor when their children consider sexually experimenting. Adoption and abortion issues are discussed openly with their children. Pathfinders are clear with their children that abortion is not an approved method of birth control in their family. Teen pregnancy is a rare occurrence in Pathfinders' families because the children feel unconditionally loved and accepted and are aware of the dramatic negative impact such an occurrence would have on them. Sexuality is an issue which is openly and honestly handled in the families of Pathfinders to insure their health and future.

Natural consequences:
  • If you do not practice safe sex with condoms and other form of birth control, then there is a good possibility of you getting AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases or a pregnancy occurring.
  • If you or your partner gets pregnant, then you must meet your obligations and responsibilities in addressing what you will do when, or if, the child is born.
  • If you masturbate, then you are releasing sexual and physical frustration. It is nothing you need to be ashamed of or hide from us as long as you are not obsessively involved in it.
Logical consequences:
  • If you have a child out of wedlock, then you will not be allowed to raise that child in our house nor will we accept the responsibility of raising it if you find that you cannot.
  • If you are engaging in sexual activity and are not practicing safe sex, then we will give you condoms and birth control measures and expect you to use them appropriately.
  • If you are not willing or able to be a virgin or practice chastity in your relationships with others, then you will be expected to purchase condoms and birth control devices to assist you to avoid disease or pregnancy.

10.5. Dating

Pathfinders allow their children to go on "dates" with children of the opposite sex when they reach senior high school age. The rules and guidelines about dating are decided in family meetings. The children are encouraged to bring each date to meet the parents. The dates' parents are put in touch with the children's parents to insure that the guidelines for dating are cleared between both sets of parents. This insures that there is clear communications between both sets of parents and establishes common expectations for the dates and their children's behaviors on them. Group dating which involves large groups of male and female peers are encouraged as the only allowable dates until the children reach at least 16 years of age. Permissible solo couple dating is allowed after 16, but is closely monitored with curfews, transportation guidelines, finances, and sexual activity guidelines firmly established with the two dating partners. Natural and logical consequences for not following the dating guidelines are the method of insuring compliance with the dating procedures and limits set. Children are allowed to use family or personal cars for dates as long as transportation guidelines are followed. Rules about no drinking, no drugging, and no sex on dates is rigidly enforced by Pathfinders who establish guidelines and consequences for lack of adherence to these rules.

Natural consequences:
  • If you follow the family rules about dating, then you will be allowed to continue to date as much as you want, within reasonable limits.
  • If you do not allow us to communicate with your date's parent(s), then we will not be able to allow you to go on the date.
Logical consequences:
  • If you insist on us not knowing the peers with whom you go on group dates, then we will not allow you to go out with them.
  • If you continue to break the family rules and guidelines over dating, then you will be restricted in the number and frequency of dates you are allowed to go on.
  • If you do not have enough money to do what you want to do on your date, then you will need to come up with the money on your own. We will not give it to you. They will help you to become realistic and responsible in your relationships with others.

10.6. Outside authority relationships

Pathfinders teach their children to show respect to authority figures in the community. They teach them to comply with the laws and rules of schools, community centers, civic clubs, sports teams, churches, police, and other law enforcement agencies. Pathfinders make their children accept the natural consequences for their violations of rules and laws of these authority figures so as to learn the importance of compliance to laws, regulations, and policies of people in authority. Pathfinders do not intervene to rescue or pull their children out of troubles with the "law." They, instead, encourage full compliance with the specific sanctions permissible for such violations. Pathfinders let go of the need to shelter their children from the full impact of legal sanctions so as to assist them to avoid any pre-delinquent or delinquent behaviors in the future. Knowing their parents will stand firmly behind the authority of the legal officials leads children to think twice before breaking any regulations, rules or laws. At family meetings the issue of compliance with outside authorities is fully discussed and guidelines for breaches of compliance are outlined.

Natural consequences:
  • If you violate laws and rules in society, society will give you negative consequences which you will need to satisfy to make up for such infractions and violations.
  • If you get in trouble with outside authorities, then we will not rescue you from them but instead will solidly support their efforts to impose their maximum penalties and sanctions on you which are reasonable in light of your infractions or violations.
Logical consequences:
  • If you continue to get yourself in trouble with outside authorities, then we will assist those authorities to enforce the sanctions and requirements they set for you to achieve.
  • If you chose not to comply with the rules, laws, and regulations in society, then you cannot expect us to plead your case with these authorities. We believe that the appropriate thing to do is to follow laws and regulations as best as we can.

10.7. Spiritual relationships

Pathfinders introduce their children to a spiritual relationship with their Higher Power or God as they know it. They conduct family spiritual reflection, meditation and prayer in the home. They involve their children in some form of organized religion at some point in their lives. They teach their children the difference between religiosity and spirituality. They do not pressure their children into attendance at church school or religious services. They do however make such participation a family norm by their own role modeling of these behaviors. Spiritual values and how to relate to their Higher Power are discussed in family meetings. Children are encouraged to let go and hand over to their Higher Power those problems and concerns which are uncontrollable and unchangeable in their lives. They are encouraged to relate to their Higher Power in their own ways with no judgement or criticism. Pathfinders emphasize the importance of a spiritual relationship in the lives of their children.

Natural consequences:
  • If you do not have a spiritual relationship with a Higher Power or God as you know it, then you will not be able to accept life as it is and find that you will get out of control in trying to make life be more like you want it to be.
  • If you become overly involved in the ceremonial, liturgical or mandatory aspects of religion, then there is a good possibility that you will not establish a rational healthy spirituality and realistic relationship with your Higher Power.
Logical consequences:
  • If you do not accept our spirituality or participation in our religion of choice, then you have the option of either seeking out a religion and/or spirituality of your own or not bad mouthing what your family and parents are currently involved in.
  • If you cause problems with your siblings over their spiritual or religious belief, then you will be expected to talk out your problems with us in the family meetings.

10.8. Marriage of children

Pathfinders are supportive of their children when they decide they want to marry. These parents do not interfere in their children's choice of spouse, knowing that to do so could conceivably set up a life long struggle of hard feelings and resentment. Parents allow their children the freedom to experience the natural consequences of their choice and are always willing to assist them to handle their emotional responses to the health or lack of health of the decisions. Pathfinders do not agree to provide their children with elaborate weddings, but rather work along with their children to share the costs and planning. Pathfinders do not interfere in the decision making of the engaged or newly married couple. They encourage their children to gain emotional independence in the engaging and marital process. They provide guidance and assistance, but do not take responsibility for major decisions affecting the new couple's lives. In family meetings with teen and young adult children, Pathfinders outline what they will and will not do once their children get engaged and married. The children are made aware early on what help they can expect to receive from their parents once they decide to get married. Pathfinders try not to have their married children re-enter the family house. They firmly require that their married children work out their own financial, marital and family problems on their own without them needing to rescue or get them out of binds. Pathfinders establish healthy boundaries between themselves and their married children so that there is no question who is responsible to make their new married life successful.

Natural consequences:
  • If you decide to get married to someone who is a bad choice for you, then you will experience negative consequences in the future as this bad choice becomes clearer to you.
  • If you are married, then you and your partner must solve all of the problems facing you two on your own and you cannot expect your parents to rescue you two in the future.
Logical consequences:
  • If you make plans to cover the costs of elaborate wedding or start up marital housing expenses by turning to us for assistance, then you must think out your goals since we will not support financially such elaborate plans.
  • If you two have relationships problems prior to getting married or after marriage, then you will need to seek out professional help for you both since we will not interfere or get involved in such problems.

10.9. Grandchildren

Pathfinders are supportive of their children in the rearing of their own families, they make every effort not to be interfering or meddling in the lives of their grandchildren. Pathfinders clearly define their limits and boundaries when dealing with their grandchildren. In family meetings with their teenage and young adult children, Pathfinders set out guidelines about future grandchildren. They are clear that they will not be responsible for the raising, discipline, or parenting of them. They will not be financially or legally responsible for them. They will not house their grandchildren in their homes. They will provide nurturing, loving care, and attention to their grandchildren when they visit in the children's or parents' homes. Limits are set on babysitting their grandchildren. They are cautious to follow the guidelines and structures of their children when relating with their grandchildren. Pathfinders try not to be over indulgent or spoiling of their grandchildren. Pathfinders enjoy the company of their grandchildren, but they realize the need to let go of them because they cannot determine their outcomes any better that they could determine the outcomes for their parents.

Natural consequences:
  • If you and your spouse have children, then you will be solely responsible for their being raised, disciplined, and parented and you cannot count on us to do it for you.
  • If you want our involvement in the lives of your children, then you must be clear with us what you want and you must be willing to accept the limitations we set on the requests you make of us.
Logical consequences:
  • If you appear to be taking advantage of our willingness to babysit and get involved in the lives of your children, then you must be prepared for our limiting our contact in the future and our refusal to do any future babysitting.
  • If you cannot financially support the children which you have brought into this world, then you will need to look elsewhere for help in this regard since we will not rescue you financially in this matter.