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 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...

You’ll get noticed when you listen to this teenager

Do you ever wonder why a teenager you are trying to communicate with seems to be on another planet? Most of us have probably asked ourselves that question from time to time. As teenagers journey through their adolescent years and their brains are still developing, they, too, are confused and trying to respond to so many questions they are asking themselves, examples of which might include: Who am I? Where am I going? What do others think of me? Well, perhaps, it’s a good time to pause and allow a teenager to share her thoughts with you which may or may not help your relationships with these young people.I encourage young people to become the best they can be, so their goals and tasks are set by themselves. They then don’t have to compare themselves with anyone else and can simply measure how they are doing against those personal developmental goals. It’s a wonderful self-empowering journey. Like the Kite surfer, many of whom develop their skills in the sea close to where I live, it’s all about practise, practise, practise and persevering so that, in the end,, as neuroscience educator Judy Willis, said, “practice makes permanent”, ie, in this case, the skills are embedded in the brain and so, when the Kite surfer is battling the ocean, he or she reacts instinctively to circumstances as they have trained their brain through practise. As a mentor, parent, coach or teacher, whatever your role might be, the one non-negotiable requirement these days is the importance of face to face communication. There are plenty of reasons for this, most especially because of...

If you value teenagers, then read this!

Do you have teenage children? Do you teach teenagers? Do you work in any way with teenagers? I have been thinking about the power of mentoring, though mostly in relation to students who crossed my path over the years, and wondering what they are doing with their lives today, what ‘might have been’ had they had the opportunity to be mentored when they were 15 or 16 years of age? Unique gifts and talents to be nurtured and encouraged by a non-judgmental Cheerleader.I was reminded of the positive results of an Online Student Performer that one of the early GR8 Mates student participants had completed at the end of their school-based mentoring program. The students had completed this task at the beginning of the mentoring journey and again, six months later, when the program officially concluded, though some 11 years later, some of those adolescents, now adults, are probably still in touch with their mentors from that time, as often lifelong friendships are forged. Research clearly states – and it’s obvious why – that mentoring relationships that last for 12 months or more tend to have more positive outcomes than those lasting less than this time. No-one can argue with that, though I have learnt over the years that, when a volunteer adult mentor and a teenage mentee connect for a season, even if that season is only 6 months in a school-based mentoring relationship, so much can be achieved. In addition to comments from the GR8 Mates Mentees and mentors, what emerged from a deeper analysis of the Online Student Performer were the following key points: when mentors...

Secrets to Inspire you to encourage teenagers to become the best they can be

Have you ever felt like quitting on your teenage child or a young person you have been working with? I certainly have, though my passion to encourage teenagers to become the best they can be has led me to try ANYTHING to encourage them to become the best they can be. I hope that Jacky’s true story will serve as an encouragement to you and you might be motivated by some of the secrets I am sharing in this journey I undertook with her.Jacky (not her real name) was a young girl I mentored a few years ago. She had a volatile temper, which students knew and many were the times her peers pushed that anger button to get a reaction.  And, when she reacted, the language was vile, a fairly sure sign of a young girl lacking in self-confidence. Underneath this angry and tough exterior though, I was quick to discover, was a wonderfully caring individual who would make sacrifices for others and expect nothing in return. An example of this was the way she purchased a snack for a peer she did not know well who had left their money at home and was attending an event at the place where Jacky did casual work. Jacky refused point blank to see a Counsellor, was absolutely shocking at her management of time, did not believe in setting goals because she had convinced herself she would never achieve them and was a great procrastinator! I was approached by a colleague and asked if I would have a chat to her, as the situation was becoming serious, her ant-social behaviour...

A tribute to my Mentor

Have you personally thanked your mentor or mentors for the encouragement and support they gave you, for investing time in your life? That’s the question I ask at the end of an activity when I train volunteer adult mentors before they embark on the unknown mentoring journey with a teenager. It’s a question that led me to contact Dave many years ago to thank him for being the wise guide on the side, my mentor, during some of the most formative years of my life. His reaction surprised me.Let me explain. Dave was a Cricket Coach of mine for a while and then taught me History for the final two years of my school career, during which time my sporting interests took priority over my academic endeavors. I was getting away with the minimum amount of work and hoping to get by. At some point early in my final year, Dave walked past me one day at school and simply said, “Robin, if you don’t do some work, you’ll fail.” I was a Student Leader at the time, expected to be a role model to the younger students. I smiled, felt embarrassed and rather sheepishly responded, “Yes, sir.” That one sentence spoken into my life by someone I respected, and was also a little afraid of, became a turning point in my academic journey. Not only did I set out to prove Dave wrong, but I had also heard his message loud and clear and knuckled down to some serious work, developing more effective planning and organisation, as well as management of my time. I passed at the end...