4 to 10: Mentoring

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Mentoring your child to support and encourage desired behaviors

Now check out this example of parents being mentors. As you read, think about these questions:

  • Is the parent being a thoughtful mentor?
  • Is she being honest with herself?
  • Is she judging her child?
  • Is the parent developing the child's interest or forcing the child to develop an interest?
  • How might you handle a similar situation with your child?
  Irit and Ari (Age 9)  

What's the Story?

Ari is a very outgoing boy, who joins many clubs and groups at once. At school, he signs up for scouting troops, sports teams, music lessons; anything that he hasn't tried is interesting to him. As a result, Ari leaves a lot of things unfinished, dropping out of one thing to pursue another. Although Irit encourages her son to try new things, she is worried about him trying too many things at once.

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Irit Says:

He doesn't stay focused on any one thing long enough to know if he likes it. He may be a gifted artist, or a graceful athlete, or a natural leader. But he never stays with one thing long enough to really learn it and grow in it. I'm glad he has so many interests, but he doesn't seem to know when to stop.

What's the Point?

As his mentor, Irit should be honest with Ari about her concerns. She is proud of all the things Ari does, but she thinks he should try to expand one or two of those interests. Irit may want to set some rules to limit the number of clubs and sports Ari can do over a given time. Ari can decide for himself which thing (or things) he wants to pursue. Irit may want to get involved in some of these things as well, by being a scout leader or bringing snacks to games and practices.

Ari also needs to learn that finishing things is just as important as trying new things. Here, again, Irit can set up some rules for Ari. For instance, Irit could limit the lessons or hobbies that cost money. If Ari chooses to take a dance class that costs money and lasts for six weeks, then he has to attend all six weeks of the dance class, even if he loses interest after the first week. Or, she may limit him to only one activity that carries a cost for a certain time. Because most hobbies carry some cost, Ari can't do as many things at once. He then has to focus on only a few things at a time.

It's also essential that Irit explain her actions to Ari. If she limits his hobbies without telling him why, Ari may think that his mother doesn't want him to do anything or have any fun. Showing support is one of the main jobs of a mentor. By explaining her decision, Irit can show her support while keeping things under control. She should also make it clear to Ari that he doesn't have to be an expert at everything. Irit can give examples of things she started but eventually stopped because she either lost interest in them, or they weren't as rewarding as other activities. Ari needs to know that it's acceptable to do things because you want to, even if you aren't the best at them.

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