When you think about any adult who motivated and inspired you as a teenager, what do you remember about them? Why did they have such a positive impact on your life?
Dave was one of my teachers, also my Cricket coach at one point and later my mentor who guided the development of my teaching skills. He was tough, uncompromising at times, set and expected nothing but the best effort, yet behind the tough exterior was a compassionate and caring man, a champion of the underdog. Our friendship lasted for over 40 years, at which point Dave succumbed to Cancer.
Research shows that mentoring journeys lasting more than 12 months result in most mentees enjoying improved relationships with parents; better connections with school; less of an inclination to experiment with drugs, alcohol and other antisocial behaviors; enjoying greater levels of self-worth, better social skills and improved academic results.
Mentoring involves making an emotional investment in a mentee’s life; building trust and encouraging; making a positive impact on a young life often experiencing confusion and self-doubt.
10 proven mentoring tips
I find it difficult to determine what are the most important tips to offer a volunteer adult mentor, as so much will depend on the circumstances confronting both the mentor and the young person he or she is moving alongside.
Here are 10 positive, proven and powerful tips to encourage and guide any mentors working with teenagers. When applied you will see the positive impact you are having on a young life.
- Encourage your mentees to develop a personal photograph of themselves in the future and to hold on to it in their minds and hearts.
- When you decide to invest your time, your gifts, your love, your life experiences and your trust in a young person’s life, you are giving an invaluable gift of yourself.
- Walk in your mentee’s shoes from time to time and maybe sometimes feel the blisters.
- Always look for opportunities to see your mentees in the winning circle ie, being the best they can be and affirm their EFFORTS whenever you can.
- Teaching mentees the meaning of accountability in fun, non-threatening ways, helps them form new habits, achieve new goals and become more resilient.
- Effective mentors have great communication skills: the ability to listen, empathize, understand, question and give honest and constructive feedback.
- Help mentees place their feet firmly on the ground and, with unconditional love, compassion and care, teach them to fly!
- Link to open doors for your mentee within the community (sports clubs, faith and youth groups); link your mentee with other caring, supportive adults.
- Mentoring involves knowing the art of timing: when to be silent; when to allow your mentee to stumble and fall; when to reach out and help them along.
- Keep guiding and reminding your mentee how to turn obstacles into positive, possibly life-changing opportunities and that it is okay to fail while daring greatly!
Keep reminding yourself of two further important aspects of creating a great mentoring relationship with a young person:
- Mentoring involves making an emotional investment in a young person’s life; building trust and encouraging; making a positive impact.
- Great mentoring is communicating at a behind-the-mask level and seeing the potential the mentee might not be seeing.
I shall forever be grateful for the many who have mentored me during my life, in different seasons and through a variety of challenges. It is a wonderful legacy to share these experiences with young people and to encourage them to pass on the mentoring baton to future generations.
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.