Robin's Mentoring Matters Blog

Tips, ideas, thoughts and opinions to motivate and inspire all who guide young people as they journey through adolescence to adulthood.

How you can always be a seed sower in your relationships

Have you ever felt totally helpless when you have tried to assist someone struggling with personal issues to move into a better head space? What hope do I have in all reality working with sixteen-year-old Max (not his real name) when he comes from such a dysfunctional family? I know I cannot be a savior, nor a rescuer and my teaching, mentoring or coaching role is not about ‘fixing’ families or people. I have found over the years that working with adolescents is considerably more challenging when the family is not functioning well. Drone parents I have seen what I call ‘drone parents’ getting in the way, protecting their children because they have their own agendas for their children, thus contributing to the emergence of a ‘powderpuff’ generation of young people who will struggle in an increasingly entrepreneurial, innovative world where one might have to risk failure to achieve dreams. I have seen parents with their own mental health issues becoming a mixture of drone or helicopter parents. They hover and interfere, and much depends on their own mood swings with regard to how they react to situations involving their children. Wearing my education and mentoring hats, as well as reflecting on years of experience working with young people, I can see the potential damage the parent’s suffocating love will cause, but I have to pull back, as I am unable to save a child, fix, or rescue a family. Be a seed sower So, all I do is try and sow lots of positive seeds of HOPE, trusting that one day the young person will remember the discussions,...

“I am too busy!” Whose voice are you listening to?

“Be always willing to tell others about the One whom to know is life eternal.” (Michael Cassidy*) “I am too busy!” “[Name} does not respond to all emails as he or she is too busy.” “If you don’t hear from me or us during the next [time period] …” These are increasingly common responses I seem to bump into when I am trying to contact people of influence especially. Of course, they will have huge demands on their time. This is something I respect and accept. Michael Cassidy was never one of these people and for that I am truly grateful. However, when I look at the life of Jesus as my role model, He never seemed to turn people away. Indeed, he sat in the dirt with some of them – humble, selfless, totally focused on the person or people who approached Him – empathized and gave them His time. There were occasions when His disciples tried to protect Him from the crowds, yet somehow He always knew there was someone who needed His words of encouragement. He was the master of effectively managing His time. How do you encourage others? Do you set out to encourage just one person each day? This is what I am doing,as I learn how important it is to be available to others. 7 Key Qualities of Effective Teachers – Encouragement for Christian Educators 7  Key Qualities of Effective Teachers – Encouragement for Christian Educators aims to value, motivate, encourage, re-energize and inspire Christian teachers in their critically important role as transformative educators, in the hope that they will continue motivating and...

When last did you say: “Hey Teacher! You ARE Amazing?” – A true story

Do you ever wonder what you will do when you retire? Will I spend time babysitting my grandchildren? Or, will I look at ways of contributing to the education debate? Perhaps I can become involved in a program at church or in the community? I have this sense that, despite all the technology around us, positive human relationships are the key foundation to our future and must be championed, yet how do I champion that? Or, should I ….? And so the questions continued as I drove out of school for the last time as an employee, and entered the world called ‘retirement’ at the end of March 2017. What next? Little did I know what would unfold in the months ahead. Conflicting thoughts “You never retire. Always something to do.” “You will find that you will be even busier when you retire. Well, at least that’s what I have found out.” “It is easy to stagnate. I don’t want you getting bored.” “I’ll never be bored. I have always found something to keep me occupied.” Voices! Voices! Words of well-meaning advice, caution, encouragement, even concern about my future well-being. And, I am seeking words of wisdom and discernment beyond my years as I move away from a world that has embraced my life and about which I shall always be passionate. The call? Then, one morning, while on my daily walk along the seafront, March 16, 2018, a nudge, a voice in my head: “Write a book specifically to encourage Christian teachers. Short, easy to read with lots of tips and strategies to help teachers …” The journey...

How to carry a message of HOPE into the future

Do you think there is HOPE for the future? That’s a challenging question to ask a young person, though you’ll probably be surprised when most answer in the affirmative. Do you remember living in HOPE as a teenager? Why was this? Do you still hold those thoughts? Did anyone inspire you with positive and hopeful possibilities when you were young? So many questions … “What if _____?” I wonder how many times I have asked this question over the years? I have been an idealist chasing dreams throughout my life. Some of these dreams have been attained. Others – I HOPE I am still on that journey to achieve them, as most involve reaching out in some way to those less fortunate than I am or developing a new resource to encourage young people to reach their potential. Hope! I remembered Mike’s story.Mike (not his real name) contacted me over 20 years after I had coached and taught him. All he wanted to say was thank you for believing in him during a challenging time of his life. His parents had separated and he was struggling with the implications of that as a 14 or 15-year old. I had given him responsibility for opening and locking a meeting room. I had no idea at the time that this incredibly small task – in my eyes – had proved a life-changing moment for him. Someone had trusted him, given him a responsible task to undertake and he had been truly appreciative of the impact that had had on his self-belief. A message of HOPE! Retirement encourages a time for reflection...

7 Life Lessons from ‘fossils’ in the age of instant gratification

Can you remember a time when you worked hard for something and enjoyed success or victory? Or, you didn’t quite make it? How did you feel? What life lessons can you share with others as a result of those experiences? Or, do you sometimes feel like a ‘fossil’, passed your ‘use-by-date’? While enjoying my daily beach walk, I have been reflecting on questions like these. I have enjoyed a variety of successes over the years – many sporting achievements and awards, becoming a school principal, developing youth mentoring programs in New Zealand and Australia, author of a number of published books and lots more. And now, as I embrace retirement, I am wondering if I am becoming a fossil and am passed my use-by date or whether there is one more chapter of my life story to write prior to the Epilogue? This was until I reflected on some wonderful life lessons from the ‘fossils’ in the 2019 New Zealand Silver Ferns World Championship Netball team. Overcoming adversity The Silver Ferns, against all odds, defeated the defending champions, Australian Diamonds, in a cliffhanger world cup final earlier this week by the narrowest of margins, one goal! The Silver Ferns, once one of the powerhouses of women’s netball, had faded in recent years and, after a disastrous Commonwealth Games in 2017, a new coach was appointed and the captain, Katrina Rore, was stripped of the captaincy and then dropped. However, as I have often shared over the years, there is a solution to every problem or challenge. New coach – fresh thinking New Coach, Noeline Taurua, overlooked in the past...

12 ways you can be the best parent and mentor

Have you ever feared the unknown future? Have you ever been through a really tough and challenging situation? A relationship breakdown? Failed an important test or exam? A family crisis? A time you felt you were being unfairly treated? A financial loss? Just missing out on a dream goal? The recipient of an unfair decision? Bullying of any sort? It seems as though these are some of the issues that many of today’s young people are grappling with. They are seeking meaning and purpose for their lives, want to feel cared for and valued and are struggling with other questions like: What jobs will still be around when I finish school? What jobs will there be available to me when I graduate from University or Tertiary Study? How will robotics and Artificial Intelligence impact my career prospects? These are all legitimate questions and our young people need to be encouraged and supported as they journey through adolescence to fulfil their potential, so let’s consider 12 qualities you can nurture to develop resilient teenagers. Lou Thompson, who has worked extensively in New Zealand and Australia in the areas of education psychology, behavior management and Special Needs, has written books on developing self-esteem in young people, as well as mentoring youth. 12 qualities to nurture resilient teenagers The following 12 points include some of the ideas Lou has shared over the years to help anyone working with young people develop their resiliency and a healthy self-esteem and which I have taken the liberty to expand upon in places. On further reflection, most of these points could be adapted and applied to anyone...

30 practical tips for the BEST life!

What advice were you given about striving to have the best life when you were a teenager? Who had the most influence on you with their thoughts? What have you remembered? What 5 tips would you share with a teenager? I have been spending time reflecting on the interactions I have been having with a variety of people in recent months. Thoughts and ideas spring to mind. As adolescents journey to adulthood and their brains are still developing, here are 30 tips which will assist them to become the best they can be – come to think of it, they should probably be called 30 Tips for the Best Life, as they can probably be adapted to the lives of adults as well. 30 Tips for the BEST life There will be many more tips than these, so regard this list as a start. Attitude – never ever forget that you choose your attitude and how you respond to all that life throws at you. Live in hope and work hard at taking a positive, constructive attitude into everything you do and into all your meaningful relationships. Ask – never stop asking questions no matter how trivial you might think they are. When others share their stories with you, you will gain knowledge which could significantly impact your life decisions. Apologise – no-one is perfect. When you make a mistake, say the wrong thing, forget to do something you promised to do … whatever it might be, front up and be genuinely sorry. Celebrate – celebrate the small and large victories; the times you achieve a relatively simple goal...

Why you should never quit on a teenager – Billy’s story

Have you ever wanted to give up mentoring a teenager? Or just felt you were getting nowhere? Or felt totally frustrated about being a mentor? Maybe a combination of all these thoughts and more? This relationship seemed tougher than climbing the highest mountain? “I’m  ….. uh ….. in trouble again!” That unmistakably negative 15 year old voice in my ear as I drove across the Auckland Harbor Bridge to my North Shore home. Monday evening. Could the day really get any worse?  I had lost two potentially major business deals and now Billy. “What’s the trouble, Billy?” I asked, desperately trying to remember some mentor training tips. Disapprove of the behaviour, but love the child. “It’s that peach-head Mr Squires. Says I cheated in the Maths test, but I didn’t, Tony, I swear …….” “I believe you, Billy.” “No-one else does!” A hint of anxiety in his voice. A short silence. “My dad’s going to murder me when he hears I’m internally suspended.” I pictured a terrified Billy, shoulders drooped, looking up to his dad, a brute of a man, owner of a building construction company,  hesitatingly breaking this news. Would this be the last straw in an already fragile relationship? “Where are you, Billy?” “The Mall.” “Okay, meet me at the Food Court in 15 minutes.” “What’s the point? This whole program sucks. My friends were right …… I’ll always be a loser! Stuff school!” “Hey, Billy, meet me …….. please?!” Did he detect my concern or the feeling of irritability, the result of a tough day in the office? Both probably. Billy didn’t miss much. “Uh …...

How can we develop more resilient teenagers in this fast-paced world?

What can you remember about your childhood? What were the fun activities you were involved in? How did you keep yourself occupied? Who were your friends? Any special friends? What made these friendships so special? I remember we climbed trees, created our own games indoors and outdoors, rode our bicycles, without helmets, to the local Park where we played on the variety of playground equipment available – jungle gyms, seesaws, swings, roundabouts – and caught tadpoles in the stream running through the Park, all without any adult supervision. We walked or rode to school without adult supervision and caught public transport, even in the evenings, without adult supervision. We jumped into a teacher’s car or another parent’s car if we were going to a sports match without any need of permission slips signed by our parents. We listened to the Top 20 hits of the week on a Sunday night from Radio Lourenco Marques (I was raised in Cape Town) on a transistor radio; we watched the international sports teams practising and mingled with them before and after matches, with no security guards evident; we listened to the radio, as we did not have Television – Kit Grayson Rides the Range or something like that was  daily special at about 5.00 pm; Pick-a-Box, a Quiz Show; Squad Cars, a Detective program; Mark Saxon or something similar …….  yes, those were the days and how different from life today. The rare Computers were massive machines in large office areas with punch cards …. and so I could go on. These thoughts occurred after I read an interesting Blog by Occupational...

And you think your child might be addicted to the Internet?

“If they fail, we fail together, so it’s our problem not their problem and one we can solve together – children should not feel left alone with failure?” (Jennifer Fox Eades) Can you remember, as an adolescent, how you dealt with self-doubt or friendship issues? What did you do to feel you belonged? Or, did you never feel you belonged to a peer group? Why was that? Were you able to turn to anyone you trusted to guide you through that challenging time? How did things work out? I remember building a wall around myself for a while, not wanting to communicate, except at a superficial level, with my peers, even my family, faking illness because I didn’t want to go to school, trying unsuccessfully to be ‘cool’ so I could join a peer group and have that important sense of belonging that all adolescents crave, occasionally wishing I was someone else and not liking myself. There was no internet in those days. I wonder how I would have responded if I could have done some browsing? When psychologists and neuroscientists describe the adolescent years as confusing, I can easily identify with that word from my own adolescent experiences and, of course, having been a teacher for so many years and mentored hundreds and hundreds of adolescents in that place of confusion, observing the highs and lows of their journeys through adolescence to adulthood, I probably have many stories to share. Brittany’s story 16-year old Brittany (not her real name) shared with me issues she was having with her best friend. Brittany was confused and also said she was finding all the...