Posted by on Sep 2, 2011 in Uncategorized | 3 comments

A companion piece to the benefits of having a mentor, my post featured today at (in)courage.  I hope you'll read if you have tweens and/or teens.  A mentor's investment in your child's life can change both for good, forever. :)

Zoom_737455-111Three Important Considerations for Establishing a Mentor Relationship

[1]  Shared values.

A successful mentoring relationship begins with like mindedness, not same mindedness; your child's mentor doesn't need to parrot your parenting, but his counsel and advice should support it.  
Because faith is integrated into every aspect of my life, I see mentors in a profoundly spiritual position.  A common belief system is essential not to undermine what is going on in the home.   Qualities to look for include church involvement, moral discernment and spiritual maturity.  
While you don't have to be a Christian to be a mentor, it is essential for family and mentor to be on the same page!

[2]  Open communication vs confidentiality.

Ideally, you'll have (or build) a relationship with your child's mentor that invites an appropriate level of information exchange.  If you have areas of concern related to your child, share them.  If there are character issues you're working on at home, let your mentor know.  

However, do not expect your child's mentor to tell you everything they discuss! Your child needs another safe adult with whom he/she can confide.  You've entrusted this person to serve as a mentor, not a tattletale.  

[3]  Boundaries

Up front, set up guidelines and expectations.  i.e., What is the time commitment you're asking?  A calendar year?  The school year?  Are you asking for monthly meetings or weekly get-togethers?  The more information you can give the mentor, the better for all.  A few months in, re-evaluate the time commitment and activities; make adjustments as necessary.  For the most part, this should be decided between the mentor and child, not dictated by a parent.  

Always, always, mentors should be the same gender as their mentoree (do I need to say that?).

 

If you're considering becoming a mentor…

[1]  Check your motive.

By agreeing to mentor a child, you're affecting his emotional and spiritual formation.  In essence, you're partnering with family (and even school) to "train up a child in the way he should go…."  This is a noble, serious calling, a role that requires intention to be effective.  You're pouring into another life, investing in their future, and it's important to make sure you aren't entering into this relationship with self-centered goals.

[2]  Realize you can't fake it.

If there's one thing kids can spot, it's a poser; and even if they can't put it into words, they desire authenticity.  They'll know if you're mentoring them out of some misguided sense of obligation (maybe because you felt like you "had" to say yes?) or if you're just going through the motions.  If you're meeting simply "to check it off the list," don't bother.  It's a waste of time for both of you.

[3]  Time matters. 

When you're meeting with your student, be all in, fully present…I'd even go so far as to say CUT OFF YOUR PHONE!  At a minimum, don't text (or tweet or check Facebook) every few minutes; require the same of your student.  

It doesn't really matter what you're doing; it's that you're doing something together.  Going out to dinner, going through a Bible study, shopping, volunteering–t.i.m.e. spells l.o.v.e. 

I asked my son what he thought was most important in a mentor relationship and without missing a beat, he said, "Time…I feel sorry for the people who don't really do anything together."  

Take advantage of the opportunity to challenge and to be challenged; sometimes push your student to do something he might not try otherwise, but also be willing to DO something you ordinarily wouldn't tackle.  

Final thoughts

Mentoring doesn't have to be confined to the high school years.  Consider Paul's words in 2 Timothy 2:2–

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

and wise admonition in Titus 2:3-5–

Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.

 

Have you been on the giving or receiving end of a mentoring relationship?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and experience!