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Tools for Raising Responsible Children
By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.
T - Tracking Pathfinder Structures for Children
2.0 Structures for Environmental Issues for Children

2.0.   Environmental issues

2.1.    Infant nursery

Pathfinders recognize the need to set up a separate infant nursery for newly arrived family members. It is important that the infants be kept in their own rooms separate from their parents. This establishes for the new infant the reality that there is a special place in their home for them. It assists  children to adjust to this new surrounding and to learn to feel comfortable and safe in it. Parents seek to move babies into their own room by 2 months of age. The establishment of their own rooms creates physical boundaries which the children can call upon as they develop a sense of self-reliance and self-determination. The nursery is the first site of self-caring and self-comforting which will carry these children on in their quest for responsible living and self-esteem.

Natural consequences:

  • If infants are not able to develop self-reliance and self-determination in comforting themselves to fall asleep alone in their own rooms, then they will become dependent on their parents to assist them to fall asleep in rooms other than their own.
  • If infants do not experience the existence of physical boundaries between them and their parents, then they will become over-bonded with their parents which will be a hard problem to overcome between them and their parents.

Logical consequences:

  • If you are not able to settle yourself down on your own in your own room, then I am going to leave you here on your own and not talk with you the rest of the night.
  • If you come to my room any time during the night, then I will bring you back to your own bed in your own room and put you there without talking to you. I will continue to do this until you learn to stay in your own room.


2.2.  Baby proofing

Pathfinders baby proof their homes once their children reach the age of self-mobility. To insure their children have the freedom to explore their environment, the home is made safe for them. These parents do not resent putting up fragile artifacts. They see no problem is putting stereos, video cassette players, tape players, televisions, and other electronic gear out of reach of children. They move all poisons, cleaners, and other dangerous materials into safe places out of reach of children. They put child-safe latches on cupboards and dresser drawers. They lock all closets and storage rooms which are unsafe for children. They remove rifles, guns, and knives from the reach of children and place them in locked containers or out of the house. Pathfinders encourage the adults in their lives whom they visit to likewise baby proof if they are to visit their homes with their young children. They do not visit homes which are not babyproofed so as not to place the children into an environment which is either unsafe or will result in them being overly anxious and watchful. By baby proofing homes, Pathfinders make it possible for their children to feel free to be themselves and explore at their own will. As children reach elementary school age the parents are less cautious and begin to allow their children to recognize their responsibility to respect the property of others.

Natural consequences:

  • If we do not baby proof our home, then our children have a greater chance of being hurt.
  • If we do not baby proof our home and we consistently stay on our child's back to stay out of things, then we will become nagging parents who take on the responsibility of our children creating their over-dependence on our correcting.

Logical consequences:

  • If you are persistently going to go after that object which is unsafe for you, then I will have to put it out of your reach until you are old enough to leave it alone.
  • If our friends or family members are unwilling to make baby proofing accommodations in their homes for our child, then we will not visit them until our children are old enough to stay out of things which are dangerous for them.


2.3.  Room assignments

Pathfinders assign rooms for each of their children according to their house size and financial capability. The bedroom assignments are based on giving older children their own rooms so that they can have privacy and insure a sense of modesty for them if of opposite sex than their younger siblings. If rooms are shared, they are by siblings of same sex at any age and opposite sex when below 11 years of age. In shared bedrooms, rules and guidelines are set up which insure the children in the room are  responsible for the cleanliness and orderliness of their sections of the room. Along with bedroom, the bathrooms are also assigned. The bathrooms are typically shared and rules are set up to insure cooperation and cleanliness. Schedules are set up to insure open access and timely use of the facilities. Pathfinders set up guidelines and rules to insure room assignments are handled in a responsible way to insure the children are fairly treated and respected.

Natural consequences:

  • If you do not keep your room or part of your room orderly, neat and clean, then you will not be able to find the things you need when you want them.
  • If you do not cooperate in respecting the rights of others by staying out of their private places, then you may have your own rights of privacy violated by those whose rights you violate.

Logical consequences:

  • If you do not handle your room assignment in a responsible way, then we will have to change it so as to insure that you do not affect the physical welfare, hygiene, or health of others.
  • If you abuse the privilege of having your own room, then we will have to consider having you share it with one of the others in the family or give your room to a more responsible member of the family and make you share one with a younger member.


2.4.  Private rooms

Pathfinders declare bedrooms and bathrooms private after they are assigned to only one child or to be shared by two or more siblings. They also declare the parents' bedroom and bathroom if available as private. Private rooms are declared off limits to the other family members who are not assigned to these rooms. This sets up a family rule of respect for each other's physical boundaries and privacy. It sets up the expectation of mutual respect and harmonious living. Children learn soon that if they do not respect the privacy of others they will lose their trust in them. The homes of Pathfinders are clearly defined by designated spaces which are public and private and this gives the inhabitants a sense of safety and security in this arrangement.

Natural consequences:

  • If you do not respect the privacy of others, then you will lose the trust of your family members.
  • If you do not respect the privacy of rooms in the family, then the family members will feel a lack of security and safety in their own space and you will be looked on as a violator of their trust.

Logical consequences:

  • If you persist on going into other's private spaces, then those spaces will be locked in order to keep you out.
  • If you persist on violating the privacy of others, then you will be restricted in your freedom to come and go in the house on your own.


2.5.  Public rooms

Pathfinders designate kitchens, living rooms, family rooms, dining rooms, play rooms, laundry rooms, patios, porches, and guest bathrooms as public rooms. They set up rules and guidelines about the cleanliness and orderliness of these rooms. All of the family members are held responsible to follow these guidelines. The public rooms rules and guidelines are often much stricter and more tightly enforced than those for the private rooms. The delineation of public and private rooms assist children to learn the importance of respect for others' property and respect the needs of others who desire cleanliness and orderliness in their lives. This assists children to learn the concept of social responsibility.

Natural consequences:

  • If cleanliness and orderliness is not adhered to in public rooms, then they will become uninhabitable and threaten the emotional serenity of the family.
  • If public room rules and guidelines for conduct and orderliness are not responsibly followed, then these room will succumb to chaos and disarray.

Logical consequences:

  • If on any day you do not make an effort to keep the public rooms of the house orderly, neat, and within the family guidelines, then you will not be allowed to use the public rooms on that day.
  • If you do not do your share to keep the public rooms within the prescribed guidelines for the family, then you will be expected to spend more of your time in your private room.


2.6.  Cleanliness and orderliness of rooms

Pathfinders establish specific rules and guidelines on the cleanliness and orderliness of both public and private rooms in the family home. Typically these parents require that the public rooms be neat and orderly. This means that things are picked up and put in their appropriate place. The cleanliness of the public rooms becomes the responsibility of the family. The dusting, vacuuming and polishing get assigned as chores. The public bathrooms are cleaned and picked up as family jobs as well. The children begin to be assigned the dusting and vacuuming jobs when they reach elementary school years. The picking up of public rooms usually is a daily routine and cleaning once a week or as needed. The real test for Pathfinders is the setting guidelines for private rooms.  Private rooms are the domain of the inhabitants and the children are taught at an early age what the standards for cleanliness and order are for private rooms. The natural consequence of not picking up and cleaning private rooms is the "unsightly and uncomfortable" state they can become. If children do not find this "mess" uncomfortable enough to be internally motivated to clean the room, often the parents will determine a logical consequence to get them motivated. However, a good rule of thumb is to keep the doors of private rooms closed at those times when parents are ready to yell, scream, rant, and rave. Since the rooms are private, Pathfinders leave it up to their children to determine when they need to be cleaned. To insure public hygiene, parents do not allow food or drink to leave the kitchen or public eating rooms. Also in geographic areas in which homes are sprayed for bugs, the parents require the private rooms readied for the bug exterminator to insure family health and safety. Dirty clothes, wet towels, and garbage are frequent visitors of private rooms. Pathfinders allow their children to cope with the smells, distress of having no clean clothes or towels, and piles of mess to walk over to encourage them to keep up with the tasks of cleanliness and order.

Natural consequences:

  • If rooms are not kept clean and orderly, then they will become unsightly and uncomfortable for the people using the rooms.
  • If your private room is not kept orderly and clean, then you will experience discomfort at some time or other due to odors, stench, disarray, bugs, clutter, or inability to walk on the floor.

Logical consequence:

  • If, one day, you do not keep your private room clean and orderly as outlined in our guidelines, then please keep the door closed. If you leave the door open, then you are inviting us to comment on what we see.  Then we will require you to correct it to meet our guidelines before you do anything else on that day.
  • If you do not follow guidelines for public and private room hygiene, then you will not be allowed to bring friends over to the house until the guidelines have been met.