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Tools for Raising Responsible Children

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

A - Activating Children's Self-Esteem Over The Lifespan

Encouraging Self-esteem over the Life-span
Pathfinders need to be conscious of the developmental parenting tasks which they need to do for their children. These need to be accomplished over children's life-span in order for them to acquire a sense of personal responsibility and self-esteem. These tasks are divided into categories by specific stages in children's lives. Children differ from one another and it is important to understand that these developmental parenting tasks are being presented here with the acknowledgment that not all children will be able to accept certain tasks until a later stage or may need and be ready to accept them in an earlier stage. The important point being, parents need to accomplish these parenting tasks in order to insure children develop a sense of self-esteem, personal responsibility taking, and productive lifestyles. It is also important that parents recognize that there are some tasks which need to be continuously provided in every developmental stage in children's lives. What follows is the Pathfinders list of developmental parenting tasks necessary to activate self-esteem in children.

Pathfinder's Parenting Tasks


1.0         Conception

Pathfinders make sure that the child is being conceived:

1.1         By a couple who are in a committed permanent relationship

1.2         As a product of a planned pregnancy

1.3         As a child wanted by both parents

1.4         In the body of a physically healthy mother

1.5         As a cooperative project of two mentally healthy parents

1.6         In a tender, loving fashion, and in a moment of love exchange between loving partners

1.7         By two personally responsible people with healthy self‑esteem

1.8         By parents who have the financial means to provide for the survival and safety needs of their child

1.9         By parents who will seek out medical attention during the pregnancy


2.0         Pregnancy      

Pathfinders make sure that during the pregnancy the child is being:

2.1         Provided a healthy womb environment

2.2         Provided adequate nourishment in the womb

2.3         Monitored and attended to by medical professionals with both parents' participation

2.4         A shared event by two loving, excited, and caring parents

2.5         Spoken to and touched by both parents while in the womb

2.6         Provided an emotionally sound and stress-free womb

2.7         Prepared for by both parents working together to set up space in the house for the new arrival

2.8         Anticipated by both parents who are jointly learning about  and exercising for the birthing process

2.9         Cared for to insure a full term birth


3.0         Birth

Pathfinders attempt to make sure that the birth of the child is one where:

3.1         Labor and delivery is a shared parental experience which has been previously dress rehearsed

3.2         Labor and delivery is an event in which steps have been taken to avoid surprises or medical       crises for both parents and child if possible

3.3         It is a result of a medically healthy delivery

3.4         There are good APGAR scores and normal birth weight

3.5         Child is at full gestational age

3.6         It is a welcomed, joyful, and greatly relished event for both parents

3.7         It is a welcomed, joyful, and greatly celebrated arrival into  the extended families of both parents

3.8         All costs of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and nursery stay are pre-paid or covered by date of      birth, so that no large medical bills remain once child comes home

3.9         It is followed by arrival to the home, which is fully prepared and waiting for new family member


4.0         Birth to 2 years

Pathfinders make sure that the infant experiences the following:

4.1         Welcomed and accepted into new family by all siblings and other extended family members in        home

4.2         Sibling rivalry exhibited by older siblings, addressed, and handled in a healthy way

4.3         Self-awareness of self, body, and needs encouraged

4.4         Healthy and harmonious relationships with others reinforced as important skill to acquire

4.5         Identification as self as different from others encouraged

4.6         Characteristics which account for differences between people pointed out

4.7         Accurate identification of body parts and other identifying characteristics encouraged

4.8         Read to and surrounded in an envelope of verbal sounds to encourage expressing verbally, and non-verbally, wants and needs

4.9         Receive verbal and non-verbal messages of recognition and  positive acceptance

4.10       Allowed to express feelings openly and taught words and gestures to assist in their expression

4.11       Limits set in a babyproofed home as to where exploration and  free play are allowed

4.12       Harmonious relationships between parents and other family members exhibited

4.13       Adequate physical touch provided to give warmth, acceptance, and cared for messages

4.14       Adequate mutual emotional attachment between child and both parents

4.15       Experience of unconditional love from both parents

4.16       Sense of security and trust developed between child and both parents

4.17       Emotional intimacy and closeness established between child and both parents

4.18       Development of a sense of belonging in family

4.19       Development of sense of being wanted in family

4.20       Establishment of bonding with parents and family


5.02 to 5 years

Pathfinders encourage the preschool age child to experience the following:

5.1         Acquisition of skills of self-care including: feeding, grooming, toileting, personal hygiene, and       clothing

5.2         Acquisition of communications skills to verbally explain and describe self needs, reactions,                feelings, and desires

5.3         Recognition of appropriateness of actions in relationships with others

5.4         Acceptance of personal responsibility for own actions in all spheres of life

5.5         Provision loving direction and guidance as to what are acceptable and non-acceptable behaviors or actions

5.6         Identification and explanation of human feelings

5.7         Identification and explanation of roles in human relationships

5.8         Identification, exploration, and reinforcement of the place of accomplishment, productivity, and       industriousness in life

5.9         Encouragement to describe self in positively esteeming terms

5.10       Identification, enhancement, and reinforcement of personal talents, skills, and abilities

5.11       Permission, encouragement, and reinforcement to be unique, individualistic, and distinct from       other members of family without negative comparisons

5.12       Acceptance and recognition of search for personal autonomy with no parental resentment, rigidity, or obstruction

5.13       Establishment of healthy physical and emotional boundaries

5.14       Introduction to concepts of natural and logical consequences

5.15       Adjustment and adaptation made on entering systems, organizations, and settings outside of       home

5.16       Learning to comply with demand environments such as pre-school, church nursery, day care, play groups, clubs, athletic teams, etc.

5.17      Continuity of Pathfinder philosophy of responsibility taking  and self-esteem enhancement            advocated within the organizations serving the child

5.18       Recognition of difference between fun and work activities and how to adjust to the different             requirements of each

5.19       Support and compassion provided to adjust to reactions of the harshness of outside world            pressures

5.20       Reinforcement of creativity, imagination, and intellectual capabilities

5.21       Recognition of capability of being a choice maker

5.22       Recognition of personal sexuality and difference between sexes

5.23       Introduction to concept of Higher Power and spirituality

5.24       Provision of healthy physical affection hugs, cuddling, and  cradling


6.0         5 to 11 years

Pathfinders encourage the elementary school aged child to experience the following:

6.1         Identification with peer group

6.2         Achievement of optimal potential

6.3         Intrinsic motivation to succeed at school

6.4         Sense of security in presentation of self to others

6.5         Sense of altruism and service to others

6.6         Acceptance of individual sexuality and difference between sexes

6.7         Ability to share reasonably well with others

6.8         Enforcement of respect for others

6.9         Compliance with social norms, rules, and regulations

6.10       Openness in communicating of feelings

6.11       Participation in and leading family meetings

6.12       Realization that sexual stereotypes are poor determinants for roles individuals take in society

6.13       Acceptance of physical changes in body soon to take place

6.14       Acceptance of warm hugs, physical affection, and caring

6.15       Acceptance of personal role in family, peer group, school, and community

6.16       Acceptance of responsibilities expected at home, school, and other outside activities

6.17       Conflict resolution, sibling rivalry reduction, and mutual cooperation in family

6.18       Recognition as being a person capable of determining own future in life

6.19       Career mindedness

6.20       Appropriate information on realities of world issues and problems to develop a sense of personal place in world

7.0         11 to 21 years

Pathfinders encourage the pre-adolescent, adolescent and young adult child to experience the following:

7.1         Acceptance, understanding, and recognition of autonomy seeking behaviors 

7.2         Support and guidance on how to resolve interpersonal conflicts in relationships

7.3         Independence of action within responsible guidelines encouraged

7.4         Acceptance and open discussion of responsible sexuality

7.5         Accomplishment of career oriented educational experiences

7.6         Entrance into world of real work to gain insight into meeting personal survival needs

7.7         Acceptance and open discussion of personal sexuality, sexual identity and sexual orientation

7.8         Entrance into career oriented academic and training with clarity of intended career goal

7.9         Adoption of healthy lifestyle to promote personal physical and mental health

7.10       Taking charge of own physical and mental health promotion

7.11       Promotion of personal self-esteem by responsible living

7.12       Capability to be honest with self and others in assessment of personal skills, abilities,                  competencies, and talents

7.13       Ability to openly explore personal problems, concerns, and worries with helpers to resolve resulting emotional unbalance

7.14       Responsible attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors displayed in terms of experimentation with alcohol, smoking, and drugs

7.15       Responsible sexual behaviors with others

7.16       Ability to take over personal nutritional planning and balanced diet control

7.17       Ability to recognize stressors in life and how to overcome them

7.18       Recognition of the appropriate use of recreational and leisure activities in life

7.19       Ability to be a Pathfinder and teach others about responsible living based on personal experience

7.20       Willingness to take personal responsibility for own life without manipulating or hooking others to        take over


8.0         21 years and on

Pathfinders encourage their adult children to display the following:

8.1         Ability to live financially independent from family of origin

8.2         Ability to live emotionally and psychologically independent from family of origin

8.3         Ability to handle relationships with significant others independently and responsibly

8.4         Ability to handle career and work problems independently of family of origin intervention

8.5         Ability to raise a family on own independent of family of origin financial and physical support

8.6         Ability to meet personal and own children's and family's survival, security and affiliation needs on       own

8.7         Ability to raise own children in a responsible way

8.8         Ability to be Pathfinders to own children

8.9         Ability to maintain healthy personal and family lifestyle

8.10       Ability to not blame parents for personal failings in adult life

8.11       Ability to sustain personal self-esteem and seek support of others when it falters

8.12       Sense of healthy deservedness developed as a result of personal accomplishments,                 achievements and success in life

8.13       Sense of altruism to share with others in need

8.14       Sense of generativity, productivity and self-mastery as family and work life progresses

8.15       Willingly and responsibly accept and execute leadership roles in family, work, and community

8.16       Conduct life with appropriate coping skills to handle life's stressors

8.17       Ability to be a creative problem solver in face of the challenges of family, work, and community life

8.18       Ability to make an honest assessment of concept of self so as to feel personally valued, accepted,  and loved

8.19       Ability to feel worthwhile and "good enough" in facing all of life's challenges

8.20       Sense of optimism and hope by letting go of uncontrollables and unchangeables in life over to       Higher Power

8.21       Unconditional self-love and self-acceptance

8.22       Ability to sustain a balanced and healthy lifestyle


The Pathfinder's parenting tasks are only effective in enhancing children's development if they are performed by parents. Pathfinders recognize that it is parental actions, role-modeling, and handling of children which have direct impact on their responsibility taking and self-esteem. There is no definitive delineation of a stage when a certain task must be accomplished. However each task must be accomplished by parents at some time in children's lives. Each task once accomplished must be sustained over the remaining life span if it will have a positive impact. The tasks of parents in the adulthood stage are all aimed at encouraging adult children to exhibit behaviors on their own. The goal being complete independence from and non-enmeshment with their parents. Knowing developmental parental tasks helps parents gauge what is currently not accomplished by them with their children so that remedial or proactive actions can be instituted.

Pathfinder's Parenting Task Assessment


Directions: For each of your children review the Pathfinder's Parenting Tasks which cover each child's life span up to present age and chronological stage. Use a different colored ink to respond for each child. Put a plus in front of those tasks which you have accomplished for each child at least 75% of the time. Put a minus for each task which you have not accomplished at least 75% of the time. The minus designated tasks are then in need of either your remedial attention if they are in a stage of life preceding the child's current one or your proactive attention if they are in the child's current chronological stage.


Journal Exercise

Directions:  In your personal journal respond to the following questions:

1. What is your impression of the Pathfinder's Parenting Tasks list?  How realistic is it?  How idealistic? 


2. When you were putting minuses in for your children in stages of their life that have long since past, how did you feel? What can be done to make up for those tasks which were not accomplished in earlier life? What do you need to do to change this?


3. When you were putting minuses in for your children in their current chronological age stage, how did you feel?  What do you need to do to insure these tasks are met? Do you have the tools to assist your children accomplish these tasks?  What more do you need to accomplish them?


4. In reviewing your results with your partner's, how much did you agree or disagree?  What impact will this have on future parenting?  How easy will it be to agree on a joint plan of action to remediate non-accomplished tasks and facilitate tasks needing to be accomplished?


5. How much guilt or shame is generated by reviewing these tasks for children's self-esteem and personal responsibility taking? What do you plan to do with this guilt? How will resolving this guilt assist your children accomplish the tasks to develop into  healthy adults?


6. If your children are adopted or step children, how did reviewing these tasks affect your understanding, compassion, and empathy for their current functioning in your family? What remedial steps need to be taken to help them experience parenting tasks which their natural parents did not achieve with them?


7. Children do not ask to be born into this world. How significant do you believe the conception, pregnancy and birth stages are in children's self-esteem development? What drives your beliefs in this matter?


8. How comfortable are you with the development of children who are independent from their parents? How comfortable are you with them solving their own problems and not turning to their own parents to rescue, fix, or take care of them when they are adults?


9. What has reviewing these parenting tasks told you about your Pathfinder role with your children?  What Pathfinding Principles do you still need to implement in your life to enable you to complete these parenting tasks with your children?


10. How will your home life change as a result of using these tasks as outlines for encouraging your children's self-esteem? How comfortable will your partner be with these changes? How do you think your children will respond to them?