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.

Do you think there is HOPE for 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. “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. Hope! I remembered Jason’s story.Jason (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 and many of those “What if ___?”  questions. While I have a few regrets, that’s for sure, I remain eternally grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way, most especially those involved in working with young people as a teacher, coach and mentor. Behind all this...

15 proven signs of mentally strong teenagers you can nurture

How much support did you have around you when you were a teenager? What did that scaffolding look like, feel like and sound like? While working in my home office recently, I looked out to see a painter – probably in his 30s – sitting on the scaffolding opposite our apartment taking a selfie! A quick adjustment of the T-shirt, fingers repositioning the hair, seated upright – mobile phone at the ready, a smile and click! Great selfie which was quickly sent to a friend, a loved one?Four storeys up. Beautiful sea view with that perfect autumn day framed by a cloudless, brilliant blue sky. The scaffolding was secure, strong, supportive, enabling this special moment in a painter’s day to occur. He felt safe. That got me thinking about the signs of a mentally strong teenager and the scaffolding that supports him/her so that he/she would always feel safe and secure. I have spent many months collating years and years of adolescent research and, more recently, linking this research to the latest adolescent neuroscience research. This research has reiterated how important it is for youth to have significant adults as their non-judgmental Cheerleaders to walk alongside them during a critically important season of their lives while their brains are developing. As these meaningful relationships are developed and the significant adult takes on an encouraging and nurturing role, here are 15 proven signs of mentally strong teenagers to look out for. Youth: Know the importance of feeling lovable, capable and competent and the power of positive peer pressure. Know how to positively manage their time and remain active and involved,...

The 6 Senses of Resiliency to Inspire your Mentoring Journey

Can you remember a time, as an adolescent, when you bounced back from adversity? What did you do? Who assisted you? Your answers to those questions will tell you something about your resiliency, a topic I think about a great deal when working with young people. It’s a topic I am currently focusing on as I co-author The Self-Learning Coaching Handbook: for Parents, Teachers and Mentors with Dr Jeannette Vos. The series of books will be available later in the year. Resilience research clearly reveals some key points to all who work with youth, highlighted by resilience expert Bonnie Bernard. These key points are: Most youth ‘make it’; All individuals have the power to transform and change; Teachers and schools have the power to transform lives; It’s how we do what we do that counts; Teachers beliefs in innate capacity start the change process. I remember playing a sport’s match when I was about 17-years old and my team was being hammered. It looked like just a matter of time before we were defeated. I was Captaining the side and had to make some tactical decisions, after consulting with my deputy, which paid off, the team pulled together in an amazing way, the opposition hit the panic button and we ended up winning an exciting match. A memorable victory, one I still read about today when I look for some inner strength and motivation. My one Coach had taught me how important it was to persevere and NEVER to quit. He believed in me and saw the potential that I was not yet seeing. That day taught me that one of...

6 reasons why mentoring is for you too!

Have you ever thanked the people who have mentored you? It’s a question I ask when I do mentor training, as there are so many people who have mentored others and they often have no idea how powerful their impact was on someone’s life. What is a mentor? This, too, is an important question to ask, so let’s consider some definitions.“A mentor is defined as a ‘trusted counselor or guide’. Thus mentoring is a relationship by which a person with greater experience and wisdom guides another person to develop both personally and professionally.” (Oregon Mentors) “Mentoring is a structured and trusting relationship that brings young people together with caring individuals who offer guidance, support and encouragement aimed at developing the competence and character of the mentee.” (MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership) “Mentoring is a purposeful conversation that offers a safe, supportive place to tell one’s story, achieve greater clarity, solve a problem and get feedback from a more experienced, wiser colleague, friend or family member.” (Sharing Wisdom; Robert Wicks (Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Victoria, British Columbia) “Mentoring is a lifelong relationship, in which a mentor helps a protégé reach her or his God-given potential.” (Bobb Biehl) “Mentoring is not a matter of skills and behavior; it’s a matter of the heart. The heart of mentoring is to help people to reach their fullest potential in life … It’s a journey that requires great patience, persistence, and perseverance. It also is  a relationship that often endures for a long time – even many years – because when the mentor and the mentored engage in a life-to-life exchange, they learn and benefit from...

How well are you connected to others?

How important is connecting with others to you? Can you remember how important this was to you when you were an adolescent? I can remember having friends mostly grouped around the different sports I played at school, so sometimes they were seasonal groups. From those years, I have my closest friend with whom I am still in touch. We connect from time to time via Skype and will happily chat for an hour about our news, how we are pursuing our dreams, working on a new project and so on. We are able to be totally honest with one another and have lots of humorous moments too! Not that long ago I was reminded of how important connection is for young people who are having to deal with peer pressure at different levels each and every day.I was watching school sport one Saturday morning. “I need to give my watch to my mum, can someone come with me?” I overheard a young teenage girl saying. The students were in an Indoor Sports Centre and her mum was sitting less than 100 metres from her, yet she had to have some company when she left her team mates for a couple of minutes. The power of connection! There will be reams and reams of research showing how important adolescents feel it is to connect with one another. My own research over many years suggested that one of the key points about adolescents is that they would like to be cared for and loved. It is the unconditional love that will allow them to move out of their comfort zones, risk...

Introducing you to my mentor I never met!?

Perhaps you are surprised by the title of this Blog? Well, while sitting in the sun of the deck of our apartment, enjoying a cup of coffee – the joys of retirement! – I was reflecting on all the people who have influenced my life in positive ways. I was thinking of the many people who have been my mentors during different seasons of my life journey and names like Peter, John, Pieter, Dave, Tony, Shelagh, Mike and Chris came to mind. However, I want to share one of the people who continues to have a significant influence on my life, yet is someone I have never met.The film Chariots of Fire rates as one of the best films I have seen and it introduced me to a mentor I shall never meet, Eric Liddell, the ‘Flying Scotsman’. Eric was born in China to Scottish missionary parents, was schooled in London, attended University in Edinburgh and became a duel international sportsman, representing Scotland in Rugby and Athletics. Eric was regarded as the fastest man in the world over 100 metres before the 1924 Paris Summer Olympics, yet, on a point of principle – he would not run on a Sunday because of his strong Christian faith – he was unable to participate in that race at the Olympics. Instead, having come third in the 200 metres final, he also ran the 400 metres final and, not only won the race, but also set a new world record, which would last until 1936 when it was broken at the Berlin Olympics. His strange running style saw him running for the...

Choose these 10 Habits to Become the Best You can Be

Have you ever felt that your life had no purpose? Maybe you were drifting? Especially when you were an adolescent? Jack, a talented sportsman, Sarah, revealing signs of antisocial behaviour, Mike, disengaging from school, Kelly, feeling overwhelmed with life’s challenges and Anne, facing the real prospect of failing, were young people I worked with over a period of time, encouraging them to become the best they can be. Although these are not their real names, each one of them made significant choices and now some years later, to the best of my knowledge, they are all achieving great things, because each of them followed the overwhelming majority of the 10 Habits to Become the Best You can Be.The 10 Habits were developed over many years of coaching and mentoring young people. When a young person feels unconditionally cared for, that their opinions are listened to and valued and they begin to start seeing some meaning and purpose in their lives, they are well on the way to becoming the best they can be. These 10 Habits to Become the Best You can Be will provide young people with important choices. When they have a significant adult walking alongside them – a parent, teacher, coach, volunteer adult mentor – as they choose their future pathway, more often than not you will witness significant, positive developments occurring, as well as the emergence of a more resilient person able to bounce back in challenging times. 1. Surround myself with positive friends and be a positive person of influence, becoming a great listener, respecting the viewpoints of others and a team player. 2....

The 10 most important 21st Century Emotional, Entrepreneurial and Employability Skills to become the Best you can Be

We can all probably remember our times at school when we asked why were studying a certain subject? How was it relevant to our lives beyond school? Then, we might have sought further understanding and asked, ‘Why is this particular skill important for the world of work?’ I have thought about these questions a great deal, read relevant books and articles and worked with hundreds of young people, during which time we would have discussed these questions as we explored hopes and dreams. I have collated all my information under 10 skills as an encouragement to anyone working with young people, though they are as relevant to anyone of any age seeking meaningful work in the 21st Century.Author Tony Wagner, in his challenging book, Creative Innovators – The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, writes: “The Millenials are our future. They are the generation who can and must create a healthier, more secure and sustainable way of life. While some might not care to admit it, they also need us in order to succeed. They need our expertise, guidance, mentoring and support, but we have to offer help in new ways …. to actively encourage the Innovation Generation to create an economy and a way of life based on innovation – one that cultivates habits and pleasures of creative adult “play”, rather than mindless consumption.” With these thoughts in mind, let’s consider 10 of the most important 21st Century skills that most employers would be looking for and all young entrepreneurs will need, along with other financial skills, as well as skills specific to the particular...

Your 10 Hot Tips for effective Parenting and Mentoring of Teenagers

If someone asked you what tips you would pass on to them to help them be an encouragement to young people, what would you say? This is a topic I have researched for many, many years and have gathered all that research to produce some short tips to encourage parents and mentors as they journey with young people through adolescence. Indeed, these tips would be relevant for anyone working with young people. So, here are the 10 Hot Tips for effective Parenting and Mentoring of Teenagers. 1. Listen! Listen! Listen! Listen more than you speak. 2. Love unconditionally and NEVER quit! 3. Empathise and genuinely affirm their EFFORTS (so you are not seen to be judging character). 4. Negotiate boundaries and be consistent. 5. Apologise sincerely when in the wrong and never publicly humiliate them. 6. Walk alongside them as they explore their career options, always encouraging them to chase their dreams. 7. Catch them doing good and celebrate! It is so important to keep a sense of humour and have some fun. 8. Journey with them through failure to make this a positive learning experience without trying to enforce your values on them. 9. Support their idealism and let them know you believe in them and are their greatest, non-judgmental Cheerleader! 10. Keep envisioning the people they can become. NEVER let go of that vision. Keep reminding yourself that the young person in front of you is trying to find their way during the most confusing time of their lives, while their brains are still developing and they are so conscious of how they look. Be their rock and...

12 qualities you can nurture to develop resilient teenagers

Have you ever feared the unknown future? It seems as though this is an issue that many of today’s young people are grappling with. What jobs will still be around when I finish school? What jobs will there be available to me when I graduate from University? 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 become the best people they can be, 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 adolescents. 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: React calmly and constructively to mistakes, errors and disappointments; Overcome setbacks and adversities; Display confidence in their interpersonal relationships – their ability to make friends and maintain friendships; Have greater belief in their ability to achieve their goals; Set themselves realistic goals; Persevere at striving for their goals in both the good and the bad times; Are prepared to take ‘acceptable risks’ ie, engage in tasks they haven’t attempted before; tackle old tasks in novel ways; engage in tasks that there is a good chance they might fail at; Are more likely to actualize or use the top 10% of their performance potential; Are less likely to be...