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Tools for Raising Responsible Children

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.


Dedication of Pathfinder Parenting: Tools for Raising Responsible Children
To Melissa and Steven,

I have been working on this material for a long time. I have been unwilling to complete it until our nest was empty. Steven when you went off to the University of Florida in August 1994, the nest got empty and I was then able to put this material in final format. The reason I did not want to complete it before you left home was that mom and I were still testing out these concepts with you. I did not want to suggest or promote any principle of parenting which I disagreed with or found unproductive in our family life. Melissa, since you are the elder of the two, we learned how to be Pathfinder parents with you. Almost all of the principles and concepts contained in the book came from our first eighteen years together. Not because we knew them in advance but, by trial and error we came to a better understanding of what does and doesn't work, in helping children to grow in healthy self-esteem and increased personal responsibility taking. Steven, as our second child, fortunately or unfortunately, you were given more consistent parenting in line with the PATHFINDER model and I am sure that we did a GREAT JOB (just kidding!)!.

To my wonderfully bright, engaging, challenging and rewarding children, Melissa and Steven, I dedicate this material. You two have been an ever present motivator in my work on these words and ideas You two have been the heart, gut and soul of my own journey into becoming a Pathfinder with you. You both know that your mom and I love you very much and are so ever grateful that we have been able to establish a healthy intimate relationship with you both on your entering adulthood. You two are the reason for my persistence at "getting well" so that I would stop making the mistakes as a parent which could have robbed us of the chance to now have a healthy family life together. You two are people whom I am very proud to call my children. It is my hope that you will use this book, in the future, with your own families so that one day you will be called "Pathfinders" by your children.

Love,  Dad

Overview of PATHFINDER Parenting: Tools for Rising Responsible Children
Pathfinder was the tenth book in the Tools for Coping Series. I began writing these books in April 1985 after I completed a program for my personal recovery from low self-esteem, which was evolved from being raised in a dysfunctional family. The program assisted me to come to grips with the concept that: It is useless to blame our parents for what has happened wrong in our lives, because our parents

Why a SkillsBuilder Work Book on Parenting on this Website, when there are literally hundreds of books on parenting on the market today? Well that is a good question. But, I was not stopped in the writing of the Tools for Coping Series Books when there were hundreds of self-help books on the market. I wrote those books and this book because I needed to do so for my personal recovery first. What makes PATHFINDER a different book is that it is aimed at parents who, like my wife and I, are parents of a child with a special need and also are in recovery from low self-esteem. It is based on the twelve step philosophy of life which was given its birth in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Over the years the 12 step movement has evolved into an Anonymous group for every compulsive or addictive behavior you can think imagine. I wrote a 12 step program in 1990 called the Self-Esteem Seeker's Anonymous or the SEA's Program which I ran in my practice from 1985-1997. My clients formed a community of support with one another to work cooperatively to deal with negative behaviors which come from low self-esteem and to learn new and more productive ways of conducting their lives, relationships and family life. What was missing however in the tool box of our program was a comprehensive manual on how to parent children to help try to prevent them from having low self-esteem and the attendant problems which their parents in my program had suffered. PATHFINDER is a manual of how to assist children from birth until adulthood to grow in self-esteem and to accept personal responsibility for their own lives. This book is deeply rooted in the tools which I have developed since 1985 for myself and my clients to assist us to recover from low self-esteem which in the main was the result of being raised in some type of dysfunctional family. Myself and many of my adult clients were replicating in our own families the same parenting mistakes which our parents had made on us, even if we were doing it 180 degrees differently than what was done to us. Many of our children already had low self-esteem and what was needed was a tool to recognize what steps could be taken to remediate the current low self-esteem problem and then how to promote the enhancement and increase of self-esteem in our children from that point on.

Many of my young adult clients did not have children yet and were fearful of starting off wrong. What they wanted and needed was a road map they could follow to help them on the Path to creating and raising a family. I have also for 19 years conducted Parent Support Groups at United Cerebral Palsy of Tampa Bay and my client parents had children from birth until five years of age and were always needing tips on child management for their target children who had disabilities as well as for their siblings who did not have disabilities. On the other side of the parenting spectrum, I work a great deal with parents of adolescents and young adults who are a challenge to their parents. Because of the diverse and distinct groups of clients who work with me, I have written this manual to cover children from conception until they reach adulthood to capture in one book all that there is currently known about, how to encourage self-esteem and healthy mental health development of children in our stress filled society.

In the PATHFINDER workbook you will find the following in:
  • Introduction Part 1: Pathfinder Parents: Who are they? is an introductory self-assessment work out for parents to determine if they are already Pathfinders in their dealing with their children
  • Introduction Part 2: Pathfinder Parenting - A system of recovery for parents covers the system of recovery which is contained in the Tools for Coping Series and which is the basis for the parenting principles in this material. Parents are asked to assess if they hold to many Pathfinder beliefs
  • Pathfinder Parenting Principles covers the essential guiding principles of the Pathfinder Parenting Model
  • Activating covers self-esteem enhancement over the life span
  • Tracking is the meat of this material. It is a Birth to Adulthood Manual for parents to use until their children have their own grandchildren. This manual is based on the natural and logical consequence model as well as the concepts of the 12 Step model which encourages the use of the Higher Power's strength to gain serenity in life
  • Hugging is a lifespan guide on how to develop a health bond with children and how to avoid both overbonding or enmeshment and underbonding or detachment with children
  • Formulating explains the process of how to develop behavioral consequences with children
  • Intervening covers how to assist children with a variety of loses they might experience in life such as divorce of parents, adjusting to step-parents and step-families, death of a parent or sibling, surviving physical or sexual abuse, coping with a parent or sibling with a severe emotional or addiction problem, coping with a developmental disability or chronic illness and coping with disaster or failure
  • Negotiating focuses on how to be an advocate for children
  • Discussing Feelings which helps parents identify how effectively they are to tuning into the emotional life fo their children
  • Establishing covers how to establish healthy boundaries and limits with older children
  • Releasing finally covers how we parents need to forgive ourself and let go of shame and guilt over our mistakes we made in our earlier parenting of our children.

This SkillBuilder's work book is intended to be used as an independent study learning tool by parents who use this Website. For this reason each section has some form of activity and Journal writing exercise. This workbook expects you to keep a journal in which responses to the "Journal Exercise" can be responded to. It was hoped that you would be writing your own books about what is normal in your own life through your journal writing. They you could refer to this journals in the future when pertinent issues reappear in your life to see how you had come to grips with them in your earlier parenting efforts. You are strongly encouraged to keep a journal during your working of this workbook so you can refer back to it over the life span of your children to witness the miracle of growth and change in your life with your family.

It is my hope you will find this book a useful tool your life with your children. Best of Luck in your most important task of being a real Pathfinder to your children. I would enjoy getting your feedback on how helpful it is for you so send me a note at  

Sincerely  Jim Messina