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PATHFINDER Parenting:

Tools for Raising Responsible Children
By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.
T - Tracking Pathfinder Structures for Children
9.0 Structures for Academic Needs of Children

9.1. Academic achievement in school

Pathfinders make their children responsible for their own achievement and progress in school once they reach 5th or 6th grade depending on their level of maturity and appropriateness of the academic program in which they are enrolled. Pathfinders do not fight with their children once they reach middle school age to achieve in school. They allow the natural consequence of low grades or failure to teach these children the importance of applying themselves to class work, class participation, classroom behaviors, attention to studies, completing homework, and studying for examinations, tests and quizzes. In the elementary grades Pathfinders utilize logical consequences at home to encourage improvement in academic behaviors. They also can use logical consequences in the later years. They recognize that by middle school, academic motivation comes from within the students. These parents let go of the problem of under achievement or scholastic behavioral acting out and cease trying to fix and change their children leaving it to the students to handle on their own. Pathfinders recognize that they cannot control the outcomes of their children's performance in middle school, high school and college. They wait for their children to initiate requests for assistance and guidance on how to better their performance. They utilize family meetings to discuss the natural consequences of academic performance and non-performance with no lecturing, preaching or directing. High achievement and success is naturally reinforced in school by honor rolls and academic awards and scholarships. Pathfinders do not bribe their children with financial or material rewards for good grades in school. They do not pay for good grades. They allow the natural affect of the inner sense of accomplishment and personal success to motivate their children to continue to want to excel in school. Pathfinders discuss with their children the positive and negative impact of receiving a good education in school. They allow the natural consequences to affect their children's intrinsic motivation to succeed in school. Pathfinders emphasize that their children's primary work in the family is to be a student and to achieve a worthwhile education which prepares them for adult life.

Natural consequences:
  • If you do not do the work necessary to achieve well in school, then you will do poorly, get low grades, and possibly fail.
  • If you do not behave in the school setting, then you will get in trouble with the school authorities who will use their forms of negative consequences such as detention, suspension, and expulsion.
Logical consequences:
  • If you get in trouble in school due to academic non-achievement, lack of effort or disciplinary problems, then we will inform the school official to use their negative consequences to the fullest to assist you to realize the importance of your need to improve and to become more personally responsible in school.
  • If you do not meet your primary obligation in the family which is to be a good academic student who works to your fullest capacity, then you can expect us to make greater demands on you to meet the financial obligations of feeding, clothing, and sheltering you. You can expect no extras being made available for you in the family budget.

9.2. School placement

Pathfinders work closely with their children's schools to insure that their children are in an appropriate placement. They watch for signs of cognitive or intellectual deficits, slow learning skills, perceptual difficulties, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, distractibility, hyperactivity, language delays, visual or hearing impairments, emotional and behavioral problems, boredom, and inattentiveness due to work being too easy or not challenging enough, and other physical reasons for their children's problems with academics or school life. They intervene as soon as problems arise and request formal screening and testing from the school to better define why their children are having problems. They advocate for appropriate placement and monitor that their children are receiving what they need from the schools to insure them reaching their optimum potential. Once they have their children in as appropriate a school placement as possible, then they work along with the teachers to develop appropriate programs of natural and logical consequences to motivate them. If their children are in exceptional educational programming, they work on an annual basis with the teachers to develop an individual education plan(IEP) which will detail the goals for their children for the next academic year. They monitor this plan throughout the year and intervene with the teachers when it appears the IEP needs to be revised, altered, or discontinued. Pathfinders recognize that when their children are appropriately placed in school that they have an easier task of motivating them to succeed.

Natural consequences:
  • If you are in an appropriate placement in school, then you will have a greater probability of reaching your optimum potential in school.
  • If you are floundering in school, then the work is either too easy or too hard for you due to some physical or cognitive attribute which needs to be tested and clearly defined.
Logical consequences:
  • If you are not doing well in school, then we will seek out assistance from the school officials to test out why this is so.
  • If you are in an appropriate placement in school and are still not achieving up to your optimal level, then we will coordinate with your teachers to develop a plan of action to help motivate you to succeed.

9.3. Study location in home

Pathfinders designate the private rooms of children as their appropriate place to study and do homework. They emphasize with their children that if work is done in public rooms they have to accept the natural consequence of the distractions of the noise and activity. Pathfinders make an effort to provide their children with a desk or table to study on. They also make an effort to provide this space with a study lamp, comfortable chair, and enough supplies and equipment to accomplish the academic work to be done. Pathfinders encourage their children to recognize their own limitations as to if they can listen to music while they study. At family meetings guidelines for setup and maintenance of study space are drawn up.

Natural consequences:
  • If you study in a public area of the house, then there is a greater risk of your being distracted and not able to fully concentrate on it. You will have difficulty in accomplishing what you need to.
  • If you have a private place which is set up to optimally allow you to study and do your school work, then you will have a greater probability of succeeding in the academic work you do there.
Logical consequences:
  • If you continue to fool around or act distracted in public areas while you are doing your school work, then you will have to do it in your private study area.
  • If you continue to get grades in school below your capability, then you will be required to do all of your academic work in your private study location for the next term until your grades improve.

9.4. Study time in home

Pathfinders designate specific quite hours in home during which the expectation is that the children will be doing their studies and homework. These times are distinguished by the television and other electronic media in the public rooms being turned off. Children at family meetings help their parents to designate these study times. On an annual basis as the children grow older the times will vary in length and placement in the daily schedule. Pathfinders recognize that designated study times in the home provide their children with a structure around which they can plan their completion of homework, studying for tests and doing their required readings.

Natural consequences:
  • If you use the designated study times in the house, then you will be able to accomplish all of your homework, studying, and readings necessary to assist you get the grades which you are capable of achieving.
  • If you do not spend enough time on your homework, studying, or readings, then you will most probably do poorer in school than what you are capable of doing.
Logical consequences:
  • If you insist on playing and goofing around during the designated family study hours, then you will need to spend that time in the house away from everyone else so as not to distract them.
  • If today, you goof off and play during the designated family study times, then you will not be allowed to use the electronic media in your private room or public areas for the rest of the day.

9.5. Parental assistance with homework and studying

Pathfinders recognize that they cannot be intrusive in their children accomplishing of homework, projects, and studying for tests. They are reluctant to over do for their children. They resist giving the correct answers for the homework so that their children do not become dependent on them doing their work for them. Pathfinders maintain that they can consult and give advice, but that their children must do their own work. These parents do not overly intrude. They might ask to review the nightly homework but do not correct it. They leave the accuracy of the homework, and studying to the natural consequences in the classroom. They allow their children to earn their own grades on homework and projects so as to assist them to have realistic expectations about grades and academic achievement. Pathfinders resist contributing to grade inflation for their children by limiting the amount of assistance they give them in their studies. Children of Pathfinders never have it said about them, that "their parents got their grades for them."

Natural consequences:
  • If you do the work on your own, then you honestly earn the grade for it on your own.
  • If you become dependent on me to assist you to do your homework, then you will not able to do it independently when you are in school without me.
Logical consequences:
  • If I find that you are expecting me to do more than just look over your homework, then I will cease looking it over.
  • If you have a long term project, then you need to begin to plan for it right away by involving me to assist you to get the materials you need. I will not help you get what you need to complete the project on the day or two before the project is due nor will I help you finish the project to get it in on time.

9.6. Academic equipment

Pathfinders make every effort to provide their children with the most adequate equipment and supplies necessary to accomplish their academic work. This includes paper, pencils, pens, notebooks, book bags, and folders. They also provide calculators, laptops, IPads and desk top computers and printer. The home has appropriate reference texts including dictionary, thesaurus, atlas, globe and encyclopedia. The children are encouraged to share the expensive equipment which is often stored in the parents' private rooms or public rooms of the house. At family meetings guidelines for use of the shared equipment are worked out. Pathfinders make appropriate academic equipment available for their children so that they can get the most out of their academic efforts in the most efficient way possible at home.

Natural consequences:
  • If you do not have the necessary academic equipment to complete your homework and studying, then you will not be able to succeed in school to your fullest potential.
  • If you are not able to share with the rest of the family the academic equipment which is expensive, then they will find that their own academic or work progress will suffer. You will then not be allowed to use the family owned equipment.
Logical consequences:
  • If you misuse, waste, or destroy the academic equipment we give or share with you, then you will be expected to purchase your own equipment in the future out of your own money.
  • If you are running out of specific equipment, then it is your responsibility to let us know as soon as possible so that we can get replacements on our next shopping trip. However, we will not run right out on the night that you run out just to get you these supplies which could have been gotten at a more reasonable time.

9.7. Academic problems

Pathfinders make every effort to cooperate with school officials when their children are presenting problems in the school. Until their children reach middle school age they set up logical consequences in the home to address the school based problems. However, when their children are having problems in middle school and high school they do not necessarily set up logical consequences at home unless the wellbeing of the home life is being threatened; i.e. a student being kicked off a bus, being suspended, or being kept after school in detention. When children reach middle school age on, Pathfinders inform the school personnel that if their children are in trouble to please use everything in their power in school to make the natural consequence for the problem so severe that the children will have second thoughts of repeating it. They encourage the school not to use suspension to home because often times it is just what the students wanted. It ceases being negative except to the parents who must supervise the children who are out of school. Pathfinders recognize that often times their children need their support to understand the importance of the school's action. These parents do not rant and rave over the problems which their children get into at school. They allow the natural consequences the children are experiencing to sink in and hopefully to motivate them. Often times there are personality conflicts between students and teachers. It is a difficult judgement call to make when this is real or not. However, Pathfinders do advocate once they meet the teachers in questions and sense a bias or prejudice against their children. They will not hesitate to request a change of class assignment when such a bias is obvious. They, on the other hand, will not do this lightly if this event is a continuing pattern for their children. They will instead request assistance from the school to determine what is going on with their children that they are consistently have problems with teachers. Need for a more appropriate class placement might be the real issue underlying these problems. Pathfinders intervene in the problems their children have in school very cautiously so as not to lose their effectiveness as advocates for their children.

Natural consequences:
  • If you get into trouble at school, then you will have to suffer the negative consequences which the school officials decide upon.
  • If you have problems with discipline in school, then your academic grades and learning will suffer.
Logical consequences:
  • If you are suspended from school or the school bus, then this will create negative consequences in the family and we will seek to have the school officials come up with alternatives which punish you more than us.
  • If you do not improve your behaviors at school, then we will have to restrict the privileges we give you at home until your behaviors improve.