The adult is the most important part of a child’s environment. We may fill a child’s space with all kinds of learning activities. We may be able to give a child all types of advantages. What becomes significant, too often in hindsight, is the quality of the adults as being the indicator of a how a child learns to navigate through life.
As the adult we need to learn to lead and follow. To lead, we model to children what it means to be an adult. We also need to follow children as they try to build themselves into adults through activities in their environment. Being a role model is a serious business, one that most adults ignore. When I went through my Girl Scout leader’s training many years ago, the trainers emphasized this duty to be a positive presence in the lives of the girls’ in my troop. As I drove home, I thought, “But I don’t want to be a role model!”
Like it or not, children look for excellence in the adults in their lives. What principles should we follow to lead effectively?
A good mentor is an example of what it means to be a happy healthy adult. We model that we take care of ourselves-body, heart, mind and spirit. We maintain a level of physical fitness through diet and exercise. We find ways to express our love–our love of others, our love of our families, our work, our communities. We are open to new ideas and learning, and remain curious learners. We live a spirited life, following our dreams.
A good mentor is available. If the adult is the most important part of a child’s environment, a commitment to simply “be there” for our children gives us strong credibility. As many of us discovered during our parenting years, quantity of time is more important than quality of time. Yes, we want both quantity and quality of time with our children, but for our children our predictable presence and plenty of it, is what they truly need. Our challenge is leading ourselves more than leading our children.
A good mentor has proven experience. As we follow this parenting and teaching road, we think we cover new territory. In fact, we follow paths laid in our own childhood. We have experience of being a child. As a Chinese proverb says: To know the road ahead, ask those coming back. We are coming back to mentor a child with our experiences. Fortunately, we can also ask the advice of others.
A good mentor provides friendship and support. As adults we provide and create social support for our children through our families, our schools, our churches, and our communities. Children need people who will promote their interests and dreams; practice with them; point out important things; protect them from physical and psychological harm; and most importantly enjoy the adventure of live with them.
A good mentor shows how to make a difference. All of us want to make a difference, even the toddler want to help his families in the activities of everyday life. When we help our children learn skills, we help them learn to take care of themselves and others. To help our children learn to make a difference, we show them how to be good at doing things that bring joy to themselves and those around them.
It is the quality of the adult that determines how a child learns to journey through life. Be a good guide.