By Lindsey Ungs, Certified Prevention Specialist
One of my biggest concerns for the high school youth and tweens of today is that they do not want to try something if they might fail. Whether it is making popcorn for the first time or driving on the interstate, many seem unwilling to try. Clearly, one has bigger consequences, but both are important to try. Somehow we have created a critical culture that says if you don’t succeed the first time, than you are a total failure. I see kids everyday that would rather not try anything, than try and get it wrong.
January is National Mentoring Month. We need mentors who can make space for children to fail. Failing is ugly but it needs to happen. Failing looks a lot like the teenage babysitter leaving a huge mess for me to clean up when I get home (because she hasn’t been taught otherwise). Failing is having to tell a student again and again why he is worth the effort of me mentoring him. Failing is my son trying again and again to get the seat belt in the buckle while I patiently wait and encourage him (instead of yelling, hopefully).
Time and patience seem to be the biggest obstacles for me allowing and encouraging the next generation to try, try again. But research shows it is worth it. Mentors have increased self-worth, interpersonal skills, personal satisfaction, patience, and insight into young adulthood. Personally, it is incredibly rewarding to see a student move an inch in a healthy direction.
As mentors, let’s give the younger generation many chances to fail, paired with instruction. Mentees benefit tremendously from your time, patience, and the chance to have a safe environment to try again. Other benefits for them include increased self-confidence, ability to speak up, acceptance of feedback, interpersonal relationship skills, graduation rates, positive attitudes about school, college enrollment, and positive relationships with parents and teachers. They also have a decreased likelihood of initiation of drug and alcohol use.
If you are looking for a way to give back in 2017, mentoring might be the next step for you. Perhaps it will be with a young employee at work or a child in your neighborhood. Either way, you and the mentee will gain a lot from it.