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

11.1. Openness and honesty in communications

Pathfinders teach their children the importance of open and honest communications in their relationship. They are shown how being open and honest builds trust and a sense of security. They are also shown that lying and cheating builds mistrust and contempt between people. Pathfinders role model honest and openness by their frank admission of mistakes and failures when they occur. These parents utilize the family meetings, family meals and one on one contact with their children to enhance and promote openness and honesty.

Natural consequences:
  • If you are not open and honest in your communications with us, then we can not trust you and feel secure in our relationship with you.
  • If you make a mistake, the best policy is to openly admit to it so as to avoid lying which only builds up mistrust and lack of security in the relationship.
Logical consequences:
  • If you continue to lie to us, we will not be able to trust what you tell us and we will begin to believe only how we see you act.
  • If we find that you have been lying to us, we will confront you with it and discuss in the family meeting how we can turn things around so that you do not resort to lying in the future.

11.2. Anger and temper release

Pathfinders teach their children the importance of the healthy release of their anger and temper. They set aside a place in the house in which all family members can go to vent their rage, anger, and hatred. Such a place has a weight bag, pillows, or punching bag for hitting in the anger release. The children are encouraged to use this anger venting place as often as they feel the need. Their parents role model the importance of use of anger release by going to the anger venting space whenever they are boiling over into rage and ready to lose control on other family members. The family members are taught to time out other members who are about to go into a rage and remind them to go to the anger venting space to let it out before they continue to talk with the family. Pathfinders are not afraid of anger and encourage their children to see it as a healthy emotion as long as it is vented and expressed in healthy ways which do not hurt the children or others.

Natural consequences:
  • If you shower your anger and rage on people they will be less likely to want to be in your company.
  • If you do not deal with your anger in a healthy way and release it appropriately, you will stuff it until it finally bursts out in unhealthy ways.
Logical consequences:
  • If we see that you are building up into a fit of anger or rage, we will ask you to go to the anger venting place to get that anger out of your system before you return to be with us.
  • If you continue to show your anger in unhealthy ways, we will have you do a minimum of 5 minutes of anger work each day in the anger venting place until you can control your anger with us more appropriately.

11.3. Language used in family

Pathfinders encourage their children to use mature, clearly articulated, verbal expressions which crystalize how they are feeling and reacting to life. They are encouraged to expand their vocabularies and to include expressions which are expansive and challenging. They are encouraged to avoid the use of slang, incorrect grammar or lazy language which fills in space but says nothing. Family meetings are used to encourage the expansion, understanding and expression of healthy language usage in the family. Children are encouraged to write out messages, letters, and statements in these meetings to expand the breadth and depth of their written language. Families of Pathfinders have enriched feelings oriented language by which the family members are listened and responded to in empathic ways.

Natural consequences:
  • If you use verbally expressive feelings oriented communications, then people will have an easier understanding of how you are feeling and what you are saying.
  • If you use sloppy language and slang, then people will have a difficult understanding of what you are trying to tell them
Logical consequences:
  • If you use sloppy language or slang with me, then I will continually ask you to clarify what it is you are trying to tell me 
  • If you do not use feelings oriented language in telling me how you feel about something, then I will continually ask open ended questions to help you explore how you feel about it.

11.4. Foul language

Pathfinders teach their children the importance of the appropriate use of language without the use of dirty words, swear words, and scatology. This foul language is not encouraged around the house and Pathfinders role model this by avoiding its use. They do use logical consequences to discourage their children from using foul language. They however try not to personalize foul language of their children when they slip and use it. Rules and guidelines surrounding foul language are discussed and outlined in family meetings.

Natural consequences:
  • If you continuously use swear words, dirty words, and scatology, then people will be put on guard with you. The communications you have with them will become less honest and open. Your relationship with them might become impaired.
  • If you use this foul language, then you will be placing yourself to be judged by others as a person who has problems or a chip on your shoulder.
Logical consequences:
  • If you use foul language in your communications with me, I will ignore it as long as it is clear that it is a slip. If however, you continue to use it, then you will find me less hesitant to have open and honest communications with you.
  • If you continue to use foul language in the family setting, then you will find that you will be ignored by us until we see that you are reducing the use of such language.

11.5. Respect among family members

Pathfinders encourage their family members to show proper respect and consideration for one another. Mutual respect and consideration creates a sense of family safety for each member. This insures that open and honest communication and feedback can be shared with no fear of intimidation, "get backs", or criticism. Pathfinders role model by their treatment of each family member the type of respect and consideration desired. Logical consequences are enforced to insure that this norm is followed in the family. Family meetings are used to clarify any lack of understanding about what constitutes respect and consideration. The behavioral definitions are reviewed and built upon so as to help all members to comprehend what is desired. Pathfinders establish mutual respect as a hallmark of family relationships.

Natural consequences:
  • If you show respect to other family members, then they will respect you and there will be a sense of safety and security in the family.
  • If you do not show respect to other family members, then they may not show respect back and there will be a sense of mistrust defensiveness and insecurity in the family.
Logical consequences:
  • If you do not show respect to other family members, then your input into family matters will be harder to listen to and consider when we are setting family guidelines and rules.
  • If you do not show respect to other family members, then it will become clearer to us that you wish not to be considered a member of the family. You will be asked not to attend the next family meeting so that we can address the issues which your disrespect causes for the rest of the family.

11.6. Sibling rivalry resolution

Pathfinders work hard to reduce the impact of sibling rivalry among children. They mediate and intervene in sibling rivalry gone astray. They try not to take sides in such matters. They establish ground rules for handling sibling disputes. They make both parties responsible for fights, arguments, and skirmishes which crop out of such rivalry. They do not accept tattle telling or blaming other siblings as appropriate behaviors. They make all siblings involved in disputes suffer the natural or logical consequences which result for such negative interactions. Pathfinders establish family harmony as the solution to sibling rivalry. By frequent family meetings and open problem resolution they are able to develop the means to quiet the mayhem common in such rivalry.

Natural consequences:
  • If there is a fight between siblings in this family, then both parties will be held responsible.
  • If you are tattle telling on another sibling, then you will be the one who is seen as the party who has done wrong.
Logical consequences:
  • If you and another sibling are having a dispute, then our expectation is that you will resolve it between the two of you and leave us out of it.
  • If you proceed to blame another sibling for an offense around the house, then the blaming will be the first offense which receives negative consequences.

11.7. Family conflict resolution

Pathfinders utilize the win-win conflict resolution model with their children. They listen for the feelings of their children which are behind the conflict. They try to assertively let their children know their feelings about the conflicted issues. They propose a variety of alternatives to resolve the conflict. Pathfinders role model the use of compromise to come to win-win resolutions of conflict. In family meetings family conflicts are openly discussed and resolved with all the members brainstorming suggestions for alternative solutions. Family conflict is handled in an open communicative fashion in Pathfinders' families. All parties involved in the conflict come out of it unscarred emotionally, physically and spiritually when it is handled in a healthy way.

Natural consequences:
  • If we have a conflict in the family, then we will use open and honest feelings oriented communication to come to a compromise solution in which all parties feel like they are winners and no one feels like a loser.
  • If we use the win-win solution for all conflicts, then everyone in our family will feel respected and loved.
Logical consequences:
  • If you find yourself in conflict with us or another family member, then we will use the next family meeting to come to a win-win solution of the conflict. You will have to wait till then to discuss it with us.
  • If you are not able to contain the conflict you have with us or others in the family to discussions in the family meeting, then you will need to remove yourself from us until you vent your anger in the anger venting place or settle down enough not to bring up the conflict until our next family meeting.

11.8. Parental leadership and authority

Pathfinders retain the leadership role in their families. Their families are neither democracies or autocracies. They are rather the home of a beneficent leader who wishes to receive everyone's input prior to making decisions, mandating rules and regulations and establishing policies. Pathfinders are able to find the balance in their leadership role with their children. They do not play the role of dictator nor do they allow their families to degenerate into anarchy. Pathfinders are consistent in their roles as leaders of the family. They try to never lower themselves to the level of little kids arguing with others to get their way at all costs. Pathfinders recognize that they must let go of the need to control the outcomes for their children. They do not force or coerce their children to behave in ways which will result in them becoming just what their parents hope they would become. Leadership and authority of Pathfinders is earned by their rational demeanor and behaviors in their families. They utilize their talents and intellect to augment their role and function in families as mentors and catalysts for change.

Natural consequences:
  • If I lower myself to get down to your level to argue with you, to follow the rules of the family, then I would have lost my leadership and authority role in this family. Therefore, I will not lower myself to plead and beg with you to accept the rules of the family.
  • If I allow you to not accept my leadership and authority, then there is a risk that the family will collapse into anarchy.
Logical consequences:
  • If you do not accept my leadership and authority in this family, then it will be more difficult for me to respect and listen to your ideas and concerns about how the family ought to be run.
  • If you do not want to go along with what I am asking you to do, then you will need to do it until we have a chance to talk about it in our family meeting. Then maybe I will be willing to look at alternative options you are willing to present at that time.