Do you think young people, especially teenagers, need volunteer adult mentors to guide them through the challenging years of their adolescence?
I was close to completing my daily morning walk a few hours ago and passed two groups of students on their way to school. The first group was about 13 years of age or so, a couple of boys trying to grab the attention of the girls, nothing unusual about that. The second group was a year or two older and this time two girls were trying to attract the attention of three or four boys. Listening to the banter going on between these young people, the impact that peer pressure was having on each of them, probably in different ways, underlined for me how important it is for young people to have non-judgmental trusted adult Cheerleaders in their lives.
The value of connection
What was clear from these two groups of students was that every one of them, without exception, valued a connection with peers, that sense of belonging. How that plays out during the day, weeks and months, I have no idea, though some relationships will probably be strengthened and others might become wobbly, even fall apart.
Who do these young people turn to for encouragement, support and guidance, I wondered?
The power of mentoring
I was browsing the internet yesterday wondering if there are any organisations in New Zealand that run mentoring programs for School Principals and Senior Leaders in schools, as I thought that is something I could become involved in now that I am retired. I am still incredibly grateful for the former School Principal who mentored me during the final couple of years as an Assistant Head, someone not associated with the school in any way, a confidant and wonderful encourager.
Whether one is mentoring those young people or teachers in management positions, there will be some key qualities all effective mentors should keep developing and nurturing.
Well known author, Ted Engstrom, shared these thoughts: “What kind of mentor impacts the world world? I think it would be a person of VISION who has the ability to see potential in his mentee, a person not intimidated by difficulties … a person with COMMITMENT to go the distance and make a difference in the life of another … a person who gives PRIORITY to the Kingdom of God and His righteousness … one who understands ACCOUNTABILITY, and one whose life is open to a few trusted confidants and who demands of mentees the same appraisal.”
Herman Horne suggests that a mentor has a good heart which implies qualities such as ‘GOOD HUMOR, CHARITABLENESS, CANDOR, SYMPATHY, EARNESTNESS, EMPATHY, SINCERITY and MODESTY’. The good conversationalist, he goes on to say, is one who can not only talk but also LISTEN well.
5 Key Qualities of a Great Mentor
Author, Bob Biehl, in his superb book, Mentoring, shared 5 Key Qualities of a Great Mentor, which contain some wonderful and helpful mentoring tips for mentors of young and old. I have added some extra comments in some places:
- LOVE: Love your mentee … express that love with care eg, using expressions like, “I feel some of what you are feeling.” “I care that you are hurting.” “I care that you are struggling right now.” When this unconditional care is expressed it can create life-changing moments in the lives of mentees, especially teenagers.
2. ENCOURAGE: As a good mentor, be an encourager, affirmer, recognizer and cheerleader. Be the person in your mentee’s life that keeps giving her or him the message: “You are going to make it and I’ll be with you every step of the way or for as long as you want me to walk alongside you.”
3. BE OPEN: Share with your mentee. Tell him or her about your failures as well as your successes. Young people, especially love to listen to true stories – they can inspire and motivate them to have the courage to step out of their comfort zone and start chasing dreams.
4. CHECK YOUR MOTIVES: Your role is to build up your mentee, to nurture, guide, encourage and support. Never use the mentee for your own purposes…
5. RELAX: Young people want mentors. Be comfortable in the relationship. Care for them and when you meet, simply ask two mentoring questions: “What are your priorities?” “How can I help you?” Then relax, have plenty of fun, keep a sense of humor and enjoy the relationship.
So many words of wisdom from these experienced leaders and mentors, a reminder yet again how special all volunteer adult mentors are when they step up to guide adolescents and, most especially, follow one of the golden rules of mentoring: NEVER quit on them!
Have you ever thought of giving up the time to invest in the life of a young person? If not, I am sure there will be a youth mentoring program near you – check it out 🙂
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in New Zealand and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook (where you are able to join a closed mentoring group) or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website Robin’s free Mentoring Minutes daily podcasts (each podcast between 1.5 and 3 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here.