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Tools for Raising Responsible Children
By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.
T - Tracking Pathfinder Structures for Children
8.0 Structures for Family Recreational and Leisure Needs

8.1. Family vacations

Pathfinders take the time to have vacations with their families. These vacations are held often and over short spans of time. The children when they get older are given a voice in selecting the destination and activities of family vacations. The costs and mechanics of getting to the vacation spot are fully discussed in family meetings prior to the trip. The itinerary is fully planned prior to departure with adjustments to schedule built into the planning. With younger children, parents keep the vacations simple, informative, and reasonable. Adult or older child points of interest are avoided so as not to bore or tire younger children. Schedules are accommodating to little people's energy levels and interests. Pathfinders avoid making vacations a burden for their children and themselves. As children get older and more responsible they are allowed to work on the itinerary and scheduling. Most vacations do not need to be elaborate the importance is that they be a break from the normal routine and give the family members a chance to enjoy each others company. Pathfinders avoid planning elaborate vacations on which so much time, effort and money is spent that the family members do not really get to enjoy it due to the pressure, anxiety or wallet or watch monitoring going on. Family vacations are not visiting relatives or going to family reunions. They are rather times in which the families get a chance to recreate and have fun with one another in a different circumstance from the home.

Natural consequences:
  • If you do not take a break from the normal routine with your family on a family vacation, then the children will be given the message that they are to work hard all the time with no break for rest and fun.
  • If you do not take family vacations, then the children will learn that they are not worthy to be associated with in fun and relaxing environments.
  • If the family vacation is not well planned, then the experience will cease being fun for the whole family.
Logical consequences:
  • If you cannot decide to agree on a vacation which is reasonable in expense, time needed, and things to do, then we will have to forego our family vacation this year.
  • If you insist on complaining about things on this vacation and/or if you continue to act in such an unacceptable way, then we will be forced to cut this vacation short.

8.2. Individual vacations

Pathfinders make it a point to allow every family member to have at least one separate vacation a year from the rest of the family. For children this often means going to camp, going to visit a grandparent or relative out of town, going with a club or sports team on an extended trip or taking a trip with a friends family. For parents this means the couple takes a vacation or trip without the children. A second honeymoon is essential at least once if not more often a year for Pathfinders. Pathfinders also take time off for themselves without spouse or family at least once a year for self regeneration. This can be in connection with some professional conference or retreat. Or it can be with other adult friends or club pursuing a common interest such as a fishing trip, scuba diving excursion, boating trip, skiing trip or big city shopping or theater going. Pathfinders encourage individual vacations for family members to assist them to have time to refresh and come back into the family refreshed and eager to pursue the goals of the family.

Natural consequences:
  • If individuals do not take time away from the family to rest and recreate, then they will not be able to sustain the energy, motivation and enthusiasm necessary to help the family function in healthy ways.
  • If some but not all family members, get a chance to go off on their own for an individual vacation, then the rest of the family members will be given the message that they are not worthy of such benefits.
Logical consequences:
  • If you would like to do something on your own for a vacation and there is not enough money in the family budget to do so, then you will have to come up with your own money to help pay for it.
  • If your behaviors do not improve, then you will not be allowed to go on your individual vacation since these vacations are earned by full cooperation and involvement in the affairs of the family

8.3. Family members' hobbies and outside interests

Pathfinders encourage their children to develop hobbies and outside interests which will give them a sense of purpose, direction, productivity, and accomplishment. These parents supervise their children's involvements in these hobbies to insure that they indeed accomplish these desired goals. Hobbies and interests are pursued in accordance with the family budget and time constraints. Parents do not allow their children to participate in activities which, although entertaining and interesting to the children, exceed the financial resources and time availability of the family. Parents also make it a point to insure that the competitive aspect of these activities does not overshadow the fun and recreation available in it. Inside the home hobbies also need to be monitored so that they do not overwhelm the family with restrictions or unreasonable costs. Having and caring for a pet which is a hobby for one family member is acceptable as long as the other family members do not have to step in and cover the responsibility of the pet owner. Pathfinders provide guidance to their children on how many interests are reasonable to manage and handle in a productive way. Pathfinders role model a rational and reasonable approach to hobbies and outside interests by their own involvement in them.

Natural consequences:
  • If you engage in hobbies, then you will allow your imagination, creativity, and intellect to expand and blossom.
  • If your hobbies become too expensive or time demanding, then they will cease being relaxing and fun.
Logical consequences:
  • If you do not contribute to the well being of the family by being responsible and cooperative, then you will be restricted in the number of hobbies and your level of participation in them.
  • If you become so preoccupied with your hobby that you drop your reasonable involvement in your academic and/or house work, then your participation in that hobby will be restricted.

8.4. Children's participation in outside activities

Pathfinders make it a point to limit the number of activities each of their children participate in. They try to avoid over-choice for their children. They also try to avoid pushing their children into too many varied activities. They do not encourage their children to become harried over achievers who run the risk of burnout on all of these interests. They try not to live their lives vicariously through their children. They refuse to run a limousine service for their children which carts them from one activity to another on a daily basis. Pathfinders try to avoid the peer pressure among parents to enroll their children in enough activities to make their children "well liked and popular." At family meetings the number, timing and cost of these activities is discussed openly with decisions made on restricting choices and commitments to allow enough time for family life and home work and academic studying. Children are free to choose the outside activities but in line with family need, resources and appropriateness for their life long development. Participation in these activities is considered a privilege and natural consequence to be earned by the children in their efforts to complete the household chores and their academic responsibilities.

Natural consequences:
  • If you are involved in too many outside activities, then there is a good chance that you will become burned out in one or more of them and that you will not be able to do any of them well enough to enjoy your involvement in them.
  • If you are pressuring yourself or feel outside pressure to perform well in an outside activity, then there is a chance that you will become too achievement oriented and become "workaholic" in your approach to the recreational activity.
Logical consequences:
  • If you do not perform your academic and household responsibilities reasonably well, then you will not be allowed to participate in your outside activities.
  • If the expenses of your outside activities exceed that allowed in the family budget, then you will be expected to cover the additional costs on your own.
8.5. Family holidays

Pathfinders teach their children to have sensible, rational, and realistic expectations for holidays in the family. They do not go all out to set extravagant expectations for their children. They recognize that from Halloween until Valentine's Day is the "Holiday Blues" time of the year. They make it a point to set the tone for the holidays which does not arouse the anxiety of their children. They talk it over in family meetings the meaning of each of the holidays especially, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years, Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. The emphasis on each holiday is not the things they get or give but rather the significance of its meaning, tradition and ritual. Pathfinders avoid the "Glut of Gifts" at Christmas time and try to limit the number of gifts for each family member. They try to set the stage for the season to avoid over expectation and the "is that all there is" feelings after the excitement is over. They develop with their children family traditions which involve them in activities which do not result in self-serving but rather in self-giving behaviors. Pathfinders utilize holidays to instruct their children in their altruistic foundation so as to develop a sense of family giving and sharing.

Natural consequences:

  • If you are given the wrong message about holidays, then you will have expectations which are unrealistic, irrational, and not possible to be achieved and will experience a let down when these expectations are not met.
  • If you are allowed to accept holidays as regular events in the year without undue fanfare, then you will be able to handle them in a calm, cool, and relaxed manner.
Logical consequences:
  • If you create tension in the family by exerting undue pressure over how you want a holiday to be observed, then you need to be prepared for the rest of the family to back off from the holiday and its observance. It would be better not to observe a holiday than to be stressed, anxious, and tense because we are not going to perform at the level of your extremely high expectations.
  • If you are not willing to accept the family's definition of how they want to celebrate a holiday, then you will have to step back and keep quiet about it because they will not be willing to hear your complaints.

8.6. Family entertainment

Pathfinders provide their children guidance as to what is appropriate entertainment. They monitor the movies to insure that violence and explicit sexuality is avoided when the children are in their impressionable years. They monitor the music they introduce into the home to insure their children have an appreciation for musical form, construction, and presentation. They preview the concerts, clubs, meeting places and activity centers their children attend to insure that they represent the values taught in the home. Pathfinders role model appreciation of healthy entertainment outlets for their children by bringing them to a variety of for pay and free concerts, plays, movies, exhibitions, museums, athletic games, amusement and theme parks. Pathfinders openly discuss the merits and failings of various entertainment offerings with their children in family meetings. They agree to disagree with their children when their difference are merely based on taste rather than on potential personal harm from involvement. Pathfinders allow their children to pursue their own tastes in music, literature, theater, and the arts. They allow their children free expression of their interests as long as they do not place the family's or their own welfare at stake.Pathfinders avoid utilizing the television as the sole source of entertainment in the family. They encourage their children to get out of the house and to be exposed to a wide variety of entertainment options in their lives.

Natural consequences:
  • If you are exposed in entertainment media to values different and less healthy than those encouraged in our family, then there is a possibility that you will be swayed by them especially if they are more appealing than our values.
  • If you are exposed to a whole variety of entertainment media as a child, then you will have a greater appreciation for them when you grow into adulthood.
Logical consequences:
  • If you insist on pursuing involvement in entertainment media which is offensive and unhealthy, then you will not be allowed to go to it outside of the home or bring it into the home.
  • If your tastes differ from ours as to what is good art, then you are free to pursue it as long as it is not unhealthy, morally offensive, or damaging to your development.