Fostering Growth using the Mentoring Parenting Style

by , M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (sign up for monthly parenting newsletter and receive 20+ printable charts for kids and parents)

helping your kids succeed using mentoring

You want your children to grow into kind, loving, successful people. How you parent them plays a significant role in their development. While you don’t control them, you do have influence. What is the best way to use your influence?

The mentoring parenting style aims to provide guidance while giving children as much control as possible. When you balance giving up some control with keeping your kids safe, you allow them to learn new skills. It’s like teaching them to ride a bike. You hold on while they work on pedaling and gaining their balance but eventually you need to let go so they can ride on their own.

When they are babies, you must do everything for them. They are completely reliant on you to take care of their basic needs. As they grow older, if you continue to do things for them that they could do for themselves, you hinder their developing competence.

The goal of the mentoring parenting style is to provide guidance without telling your child what to do or doing it for them. While you may know the best answer or at least think you do, letting your child figure out their own answer is key to developing their self-confidence. Only your child knows what's going on inside of them and what they truly want to accomplish. When you mentor your children, you guide them to listen to their own inner voice.

Listening: The Foundation of Understanding

The first step is to listen to your child. This means giving your child your full attention without any distractions like phones or devices. You want to pay attention to what your children are saying and how they are saying it. Much of communication is beyond the words being spoken. Your goal is to attune to your child so you can summarize what they are communicating.

For example, pretend your child has failed to turn in homework for science class. You've seen a notice from the teacher and are wondering what's going on. You ask your child “Hey, I noticed that it looks like you are two weeks behind in turning in homework in science. What's happening?”

As your child explains what's going on, your goal is to listen and be able to summarize it at the end. So maybe your child says, “Well I've been really busy with math homework and a lot of other things so I just didn't get a chance to get it done.”

You summarize saying, “OK so you've had a lot on your plate and the science homework hasn't been a priority.” Your child replies, “Yeah, I guess so. It is a priority but I just haven't done it yet.”

You reflect “OK, you want to get it done but you haven't yet. So what are your options?” Your child explains “Well my teacher said I was going to have to get it turned in by Friday if I'm going to get credit for it. I've got part of it done and I think I'll just finish it tomorrow after school.”

You confirm, “OK so your plan is that you're going to finish it tomorrow after school.” Your child responds “yeah”. You agree, “Wow, that sounds like you've got a plan that will work.”

You avoided conversation roadblocks like telling your child what to do. Instead you helped your child clarify the next action. You will probably want to follow up with your child to find out how the plan worked.

Validating: Affirming Feelings and Experiences

Another key mentoring skill is validating. Validation is the act of acknowledging and accepting your child’s feelings and experiences as real and significant. When you validate your children, they feel heard and understood.

Let’s pretend your child’s entertainment device time is up for the day. Your child is screaming because you just turned it off after your child refused to do it. You can validate your child’s feelings saying “I hear you are angry and want more time.”

You can validate your child even if you don’t agree. Validating does not mean caving in to your child’s demands. It means acknowledging your child’s perspective.

Reframing: Shifting Perspectives for Positive Outcomes

One more excellent mentoring skill is being able to reframe situations. Reframing involves helping children view experiences through a different lens. You do not deny or try to change the facts but rather look at the situation from a more positive perspective.

Reframing can help your child feel better and see other options. For example, let’s say your child drew an awesome picture as part of a school assignment. All the kids’ pictures are hung up for a couple weeks before they can take them home. Unfortunately, your child’s picture is missing when it’s time to bring them home.

Your child comes home upset that the picture was taken by someone else. You begin by validating your child’s feelings by saying “I can see how sad you are that someone took your picture. You worked hard on it and now you can’t show it to me.” Next consider how you might reframe this situation to move your child into a more empowered place. You say “Wow, you must be a very good artist to have someone take your picture!” You might also add “I wonder if you can create an even better one?”

Mentoring: A Lifelong Journey Together

Parenting is an intricate dance of guidance and support. The mentoring style focuses on nurturing long-term development and fostering independent thinking in your children. It’s a partnership where listening leads to deeper self-awareness, validation fosters self-esteem, and reframing provides new insight into situations.

You increase the odds of your children’s success when you help them learn from their mistakes instead of punishing them. Working through problems builds your children’s resilience. Being a mentoring parent shapes confident, capable, and compassionate individuals ready to navigate the world.

About Kathy Slattengren

Kathy Slattengren

Parenting expert Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., is dedicated to supporting parents in doing their best parenting. She helps families create homes where everyone feels accepted, heard, respected and appreciated.

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