How you can be your child’s mentor
How you can be your child’s mentor
Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person towards bequeathing greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, experience or psychosocial support to another a person who is perceived to have less (the mentee). The mentor may be older or younger, but have a certain area of expertise. It is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn. “Mentoring” is relationship-based and involves great communication skills. However, here, we are concerned about how a parent can successfully impact on the child’s life values and ultimately be a better, successful child. In this case, the parent is the mentor and the child, the person in receipt of mentorship becomes the protégé (male), a protégée (female) or the mentee.
Having attempted a broad explanation of what mentoring means, let us attempt pinning it down to the home where the parent assumes the role of a mentor to his or her own child. In this sense, mentorship takes an almost entirely different meaning. We are then looking at a parent’s efforts at helping the child attain greater understanding, values and capabilities needed to become a better person or whom he/she is meant to be. Mentoring now becomes a parenting activity as against an office/career connotation of the broader meaning. It is now from a father or mother to the son or daughter. How can a parent add the role of a traditional mentor to his/her role as a parent? How can a parent become the child’s hero or heroine – mentor? This is not an easy task and requires some special handling and approaches to be successful.
For a parent to become a mentor to his or her own child, the relationship must go beyond father/mother-child relationship. Friendship must come in. The parent must have a sincere desire to be more involved and show sincere commitment to the child in a caring way and taking part in this special tutelage or mentoring process side-by-side with the child. There is also a need for the parent to be deeply committed and resolute as the child may not be disposed to learning or change at the onset of the process. Being committed to the success of the process is critical, especially when misunderstanding, rejection or refusal to learn could feature at the early stage of mentoring.
Ultimately, the mentor-parent is expected to engineer positive change and greater learning – provoking a different way of thinking and doing things. To achieve this, the parent must be ready to show and not just tell. The parent must be a good example. “Monkey-see monkey-do” is a very apt statement here. Children are more disposed to doing what they see their parents or adults do than what they are told to do. Always be the person that you would want your child to be. It is important to point out here that being a good example to your child does not mean that you have to be or act perfect, or hide your weaknesses and be a superman or woman. Being yourself and working within your limitations and weaknesses helps the child realize than he or she can achieve in spite of his own weaknesses, problems and shortcomings.
For example, many adults, parents inclusive find it difficult to “say sorry” or apologize for a wrong done in the presence of a child. They see it as weakness but it is definitely not! If you can apologize when you’re wrong, even to the child as well as in front of the child, you will make a far greater impact than if you never admit mistakes. That is “one of the biggest life lessons a mentor can give any child…that it’s okay to be wrong and apologize”.
To be a good mentor to your child you must create time for the child. There is no better gift or present than your time and self to the child. No matter your tight schedule, always ensure you create time for your child and make him see and feel that. You must also be honest as children are very good at detecting dishonesty. If you cannot relate to the child, do not pretend about it because the child will know that you are lying. Being dishonest will make it harder for the child to trust and open up to you.
Listening to the child is very imperative for fruitful mentoring. The most significant thing a child might need is someone who gives them the time and listens to what they have to say. Mentoring a child is not always sharing your knowledge or thoughts, but allowing the child to share their life with you, and just lending an empathetic ear.
As a parent-mentor, you must make plans for your child’s future. Mentoring involves making simple, long- or short-term goals for the child to accomplish. The resultant sense of accomplishment that goes with set/accomplished goals and tasks is needed by the child for success in the future and in life. Some experts believe that “making plans with the child and letting the child set his or her own goals is even more powerful.” They advise that parents and mentors listen to the child’s goals and help him or her refine the set-goal. Discuss the goals and how you arrived at them – after looking at all the alternatives and options. “That teaches independence and sensible goal setting, the achievement also becomes a lot more important to their confidence in life when they are responsible for the decision of making the goal.” You must teach the child to be positive in the face of difficulties and persevere in pursing set-goals.
As a parent, you must not be too rigid or harsh to your child. You must be his or her best friend to encourage good communication and relationship. Have fun with the child. Children want to have fun in whatever they do. Learning can be fun! Remember that the child must be and act his or her age! Allowing your child to be a child that he or she is will get him/her relaxed and make him/her consider you a friend. You must have respect for the child and show empathy throughout the mentoring processes. The parent-mentor must also be flexible in his or her techniques and be patient with, listen to and understand the child. It is in this atmosphere of sincere and friendly sharing that results are achieved. Trust remains a critical success factor in mentoring and success in parenting generally.
Ike Ezugwu (With materials and photos from the internet)