Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday's Mentor Tip: How can I be a role model for my mentee?

As we all know, there are no “fit all” formulas for our mentees. Each kid is unique, and needs a special blend of ingredients to reach his or her full potential. We may be concerned as a mentor about being a good role model for them. Perhaps we feel unfamiliar with our mentee’s circumstances and life experiences, and don’t think we can offer them any answers. Or perhaps we are unsure if our own life accomplishments are significant enough to share with someone else. However, there are certain steps we, as mentors can take, to make a huge difference as a role model – and it starts with being true to ourselves.

Let’s start with being honest. Our kids are far too savvy for us to fool, so don’t do it. Often mentors think they need to be “perfect” for their mentee. Kids know that perfection doesn’t exist, and can’t trust someone who isn’t comfortable with showing their fears and flaws. How can we ask our kids to confront their uncertainties and insecurities, if we can’t do the same - in front of them? So, playing the “adult”, with the good advice and proper behavior, can give kids mixed messages. If you show them everything should always be “perfect” and “orderly,” you are telling them that this is how life is, and this is how they “should be.” It establishes an unrealistic expectation for the kid, and can make them feel insecure and uncomfortable. Their lives aren’t perfect - never will be. What they need to see is an alternative reality to their lives, where adults are challenged, but make sound, thoughtful choices. They need to see you make those choices, they want to see you sweat and struggle.

“If we don’t know what our kids’ problems are, we can’t help them,” a mentor once said. Not True. Kids learn to deal with their problems by watching how the adults they trust handle totally unrelated problems. What they do is modeling the behavior they saw, and applying it to a comparable situation. The context might be totally different, but the emotions and the tone could be similar. They learn by watching you, how you deal with people, situations, problems, obstacles and conflicts.

So what do you do? Participate fully. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, be embarrassed, have fun, or push your comfort zone - and tell your mentee how you feel about it all. If you sit back and watch, so will your mentee. But, if you push yourself and overcome challenges, with your mentee in tow, you are providing an invaluable lesson. You don’t have to share your deepest darkest secrets with one another to have a significant impact. You just need to step outside the “zone”, and give your mentee the opportunity to see how positive, successful adults make decisions, overcome barriers, resolve conflict and get in touch with their inner child. They will watch everything you do - help make it count.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great advice! That is really helpful to me and I will definitely have it in mind with my mentee. Thanks so much