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 can we develop more resilient teenagers in this fast-paced world?

What can you remember about your childhood? What were the fun activities you were involved in? How did you keep yourself occupied? Who were your friends? Any special friends? What made these friendships so special? I remember we climbed trees, created our own games indoors and outdoors, rode our bicycles, without helmets, to the local Park where we played on the variety of playground equipment available – jungle gyms, seesaws, swings, roundabouts – and caught tadpoles in the stream running through the Park, all without any adult supervision. We walked or rode to school without adult supervision and caught public transport, even in the evenings, without adult supervision. We jumped into a teacher’s car or another parent’s car if we were going to a sports match without any need of permission slips signed by our parents. We listened to the Top 20 hits of the week on a Sunday night from Radio Lourenco Marques (I was raised in Cape Town) on a transistor radio; we watched the international sports teams practising and mingled with them before and after matches, with no security guards evident; we listened to the radio, as we did not have Television – Kit Grayson Rides the Range or something like that was  daily special at about 5.00 pm; Pick-a-Box, a Quiz Show; Squad Cars, a Detective program; Mark Saxon or something similar …….  yes, those were the days and how different from life today. The rare Computers were massive machines in large office areas with punch cards …. and so I could go on. These thoughts occurred after I read an interesting Blog by Occupational...

Will this teenager’s plea for understanding touch your life?

Do you ever wonder why a teenager you are trying to communicate with seems to be on another planet? Or, seems to have too many mood swings for you to know how to cope with? Or, seems highly motivated one day and then lacking purpose and direction the next? Or, lacks self-belief and tries to cover this up in different ways? Or, seems to have ambitions, yet lacks the determination and perseverance to achieve these goals, maybe even dreams? Most of us have probably asked ourselves many of these questions from time to time. Sometimes it is helpful to pause and think back to our own teenage years and how we were responding to all the challenges in those days. As teenagers journey through their adolescent years and their brains are still developing, they, too, are confused and trying to respond to the many questions they are asking themselves, examples of which might include: Who am I? Where am I going? What do others think of me? Why does no-one seem to be listening to me? Who can I trust? Who are my friends? Well, perhaps, it’s a good time to pause and allow a teenager to share her thoughts which may or may not help your relationships with these young people. Strive to reach your potential I encourage young people to work hard to reach their potential. This requires them to set their personal goals which we discuss to ensure that they are achievable, realistic, measurable and specific. This means that they no longer have to compare themselves with anyone else, which many are doing, and can simply...

And you think your child might be addicted to the Internet?

“If they fail, we fail together, so it’s our problem not their problem and one we can solve together – children should not feel left alone with failure?” (Jennifer Fox Eades) Can you remember, as an adolescent, how you dealt with self-doubt or friendship issues? What did you do to feel you belonged? Or, did you never feel you belonged to a peer group? Why was that? Were you able to turn to anyone you trusted to guide you through that challenging time? How did things work out? I remember building a wall around myself for a while, not wanting to communicate, except at a superficial level, with my peers, even my family, faking illness because I didn’t want to go to school, trying unsuccessfully to be ‘cool’ so I could join a peer group and have that important sense of belonging that all adolescents crave, occasionally wishing I was someone else and not liking myself. There was no internet in those days. I wonder how I would have responded if I could have done some browsing? When psychologists and neuroscientists describe the adolescent years as confusing, I can easily identify with that word from my own adolescent experiences and, of course, having been a teacher for so many years and mentored hundreds and hundreds of adolescents in that place of confusion, observing the highs and lows of their journeys through adolescence to adulthood, I probably have many stories to share. Brittany’s story 16-year old Brittany (not her real name) shared with me issues she was having with her best friend. Brittany was confused and also said she was finding all the...

10 Habits of High Flying Teenagers YOU can coach

When you were a teenager, did you ever feel that your life had no purpose? Maybe you were drifting? Did you feel the pressure of having to conform to peers to feel that you belonged? Did you have bold dreams , yet were afraid to chase them? Why was this? Did you risk failure to achieve something special? Did you allow either positive or negative friends to influence you the most? Did you have to overcome some obstacle, illness or other setback? Mark, a talented sportsman, Brittany, revealing signs of antisocial behavior, Ollie, disengaging from school, Holly, feeling overwhelmed with life’s challenges and Mia, facing the real prospect of failing, were young people I worked with over a period of time, encouraging them to strive to reach their potential. 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 which helped them develop lives with meaning and purpose. The idea of framing a teenager’s life around these 10 Habits was developed over many years of coaching and mentoring young people. These habits provide an achievable set of guidelines or targets one can chat to teenagers about. 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 fulfilling their potential. 10 Habits to Become...

Have you celebrated the mentors in your life?

When last did you thank a mentor who journeyed alongside you at some point in your life? Especially a mentor who walked alongside you during the challenging and turbulent teenage years as your brain was still developing and you were trying to find meaning and purpose to your life? I have personally thanked most of my mentors and they are always so surprised when I thank them. They had no idea they had had such an influence on my life? These were the people who encouraged me when I was filled with self-doubt, the people who spoke to a vision of my future they could see that I could not at the time, the people who did their best to empathize and understand the journey I was on, the roller-coaster of emotions, the people who gave of themselves selflessly because they cared about my wellbeing. Three key questions for the 21st Century How do we motivate and inspire the millions of young people who are drifting aimlessly to become the best they can be? How do we move alongside young people trying to find their way through the confusing adolescent years? How do we galvanize communities to develop a global youth mentoring crusade or an education revolution which places the family at the heart of the holistic learning journey? These are some of the questions I am regularly asking myself, though I have no clear answers, other than knowing that something has to happen to create a global movement that sees the skills, knowledge and life experience of millions of potential volunteer adult mentors being shared with young people...

Teenagers share truths about the powerful impact of mentors in their lives

When you were a teenager, who, other than your parents and friends, had a significant influence on your life? Who was the light in a season of darkness? The go to person? The strength you were looking for? What qualities or positive attributes did this person or these people have that impacted you? HOW did they positively impact your life? How long did the relationship last? Philip was my History teacher when I was aged about 14. He brought the subject alive, had a wonderful sense of humour and fired my interest in the subject that would finally lead to my decision to become a History teacher. He was reliable, consistent, had no favorites and was scrupulously fair and a man of integrity and a deep faith. I don’t recall ever having a 1:1 conversation with him outside the classroom – I might be wrong – though he always exchanged an affirming smile when we passed one another on the school campus. He probably does not know what a positive impact he had on my life at a time when I was seeking meaning and purpose having long since retired. Reflecting on my own experiences motivated me to do more, made more urgent when I heard of the tragic passing of a young woman who had been such a wonderfully caring role model and diligent student at a school where I had been the school principal a few years earlier. I have converted about 45 blogs to short video clips, all of which are linked to encouraging youth to reach their potential. These are available on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHzVfIdmVQEwxTgvNKgp22g?view_as=subscriber  And there...

The 10 most important 21st Century Emotional, Entrepreneurial and Employability Skills for you to share with teenagers

What were the most important skills you needed for the world of work when you were at school? Did anyone ever discuss these with you? How did you decide what career to follow? How has the world changed since you were at school? Did you appreciate there were different roads you could travel to attain your career goals? Did anyone every explain this to you? 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? I know, I used to ask this question often, as so much of what I seemed to be learning appeared to be irrelevant and boring at the time – indeed, as I think back now, some of that work still seems to have been irrelevant or, perhaps my teachers did not show me the relevance. Maybe I was not listening …. I was a normal teenager, yet I think today’s world is demanding more creativity and innovation as the Digital Age expands and evolves. I have thought about all 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:...

How you can meaningfully guide teenagers

Have you ever asked parents what one wish they have for their children? Have you ever asked a teenager what one wish they have for their lives? What did you wish for as a teenager? Often you will receive answers from parents that all they wish is to see their children happy. As a teenager, I wanted to achieve so many sport goals and wanted coaches to help me achieve these goals. I wanted to be part of a supportive and encouraging team and, in that way, to have a sense of connection to and with others in my peer group. Teenagers generally want to feel connected. How do we know this? Why do they spend so much time on social media? We have to continually remind ourselves that researchers suggest that young people want to feel cared for (loved) valued that their lives have meaning and purpose If you want some quick tips each day about teenagers and how to understand, empathise, motivate and encourage them through their adolescent journey, there are FREE Mentoring Minutes tips available in the 260 podcast episodes I created. Each episode is on average between two and four minutes (maximum) and the aim of the podcasts is to let you slip one into your day each day, Monday to Friday, through the year. 7 ways to understand and encourage Today’s Teenagers Most of today’s teenagers learn best by doing things, reflecting on the experience and learning lessons from the activity which they can then apply to their daily lives. As adults we can help them make sense of what appears to them at...

If you value teenagers then read this!

Do you have teenage children? Do you teach or coach teenagers? Do you work in any way with teenagers? Earlier today I heard that a young man I mentored in the late 1980’s had passed away in 2017. I don’t know what happened and I am still saddened that Agrippa is no longer with us. He was a young man of courage and immense talent who came from a disadvantaged background, yet developed strengths that allowed him to fearlessly stand out from the crowd in an apartheid South Africa. He helped me develop non-racial symposia, had an amazing sense of humor, developed superb leadership skills and taught me so much about what a non-racial South Africa might look like. News of his death has brought so many memories flooding back. This has led me to think about about the power of mentoring, though mostly in relation to other 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  +10 years later, some of those adolescents, now adults, are probably still in touch with...

Positive or negative peer pressure? A life changing choice for a teenager

“All successful people have a goal. No-one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do.”  (Norman Vincent Peale (1898 – 1993) Can you remember times as a teenager when you allowed negative peer pressure to influence your choices? Why was that? What impact did those choices have on your teenage years? Lessons learnt? Over the years I have done a lot of work in High or Secondary Schools, attended by 13 to 19-year old students. One of the greatest issues I confronted was the effect of peer pressure on the lives of these students. It is seen in the negative attitude to ‘anything’ that is said. It is seen in the way students, who want to ask questions, who want to get involved in an activity or who want to answer questions remain silent for fear of what their peers might say. It is supposedly not ‘cool’ to try too hard. Sometimes there are deeper reasons that complicate things even more, as will be evident in the four stories I’ll share in this Blog. Rachel’s story – the power of negative peer pressure I heard the story about Rachel (not her real name), who did really well at Primary School. However, when she moved to High or Senior School she only just passed her exams – 50%, 51%, those types of marks. When challenged, she admitted that she did not want to lose her friends, so she was just doing enough to get through. And, having been an enthusiastic class participant, she also retreated into herself so she did...