Recently, when I was walking on our local beach and thinking about mentoring youth, I observed a young boy, probably about two years old, walking with his mother.

The tide was moving out. Some small pools of water remained from the high tide. With great excitement the boy stumbled across the sand to the water. He was wearing gum boots (or wellington boots) and immediately entered the water and started stamping around in it encouraged by his mother. He had a great time.

What is it about water that attracts young children?

Sand towers

I recall watching my three-year-old grand daughter playing on the beach a couple of months ago.

She grabbed a bucket and raced down to the water’s edge, looking back and saying, “Come with me, Gramps.” She filled the bucket with water and, with great determination and refusing any help, made her way back to the place where we had been building sand towers.

For the next little while she was totally absorbed taking small handfuls of sand, dipping them in the water and then creating a variety of patterns and designs on the sand towers.

Create memories and a sense of adventure

Not only are wonderful memories being created in the lives of the children mentioned above, but there is also a wonderful sense of freedom as they explore and innovate, all within a space where they feel safe and secure in the presence of people who love them unconditionally.

Many children do not have the privileges enjoyed by these two children. However, during my travels, I have observed how children living in poverty also improvise with whatever they can lay their hands on and create fun activities to keep them occupied for hours on end.




How will all these children respond to the challenges they face when they are teenagers? Of course, no-one can answer this question with any certainty.

However, if children can be surrounded with unconditional love and care, and their natural sense of inquiry and adventure are encouraged, we can prepare them well for the challenges that lie ahead. They will also develop resiliency.

Builders or wreckers?

Some years ago I came across this poem by well-known author G. K. Chesterton:


I watched them tearing a building down –

A gang of men in a busy town,

With a yo-heave-ho and a lusty yell,

They swung a beam and the side wall fell.

I asked the foreman: “Are these men skilled,

The kind you would hire if you wanted to build?”

He laughed and said: “Why no, indeed,

Just common labor is all I need.

They can easily wreck in a day or two

What builders have taken years to do.”

I asked myself, as i went my way,

Which of these roles have I tried today?

Am I a builder who works with care,

Measuring life by the rule and square,

Shaping my deeds by the well-made plan,

Patiently doing the best I can?

Or am I a wrecker who walks the town

Content with labor of tearing down?

7 ways to encourage the builder within youth

The spirit of mentoring encourages the development of the “builder who works with care.” How can we do this.

  1. Authentically and respectfully communicate thoughts and feelings as we interact with youth.
  2. Guide them along their chosen pathway, as the non-judgmental cheerleader, to achieve their goals and dreams.
  3. Empathize as best as we can, and listen with genuine interest.
  4. Look for their strengths and name these; affirm their efforts rather than the results.
  5. Listen! Listen! Listen and help them make sense of any confusion during a criticalĀ  time of the brain’s development.
  6. Keep a sense of humor. It is good to splash in the puddle from time to time, no matter our age.
  7. Model, guide and encourage the importance of following a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

About learning

Author Richard Bach shares a final tip of encouragement:

“Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know it just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, teachers.”

Mentors will always encourage the self-learning, empowerment and development journey.

Are you a builder or a wrecker most of the time?