Mentorship for Children
January 6, 2023
When I was in high school, I was never told by anyone that I should find a mentor. I had to figure out that having a mentor was a good thing on my own. When I figured it out, I didn’t necessarily identify it as having a mentor, I just knew it was better to have someone to ask advice from than having to do it on my own.
Today, the idea of having a mentor is much more prevalent and advised to people at a younger age. If you are an adult trying to find a good mentor or if you have a child or student that you would like to find a good mentor, this article will discuss mentorship, the importance of a mentor, and how to ensure you find a good one. I have compiled a list of questions from parents and teachers I have talked with and wrote this article in a question and answer format.
Question 1: How old does my child have to be to take advantage of a mentor?
A child can never be too young to have a person in their life that gives good advice and someone the child connects with. Of course the younger a child, the less immediate benefits you will see, but the child is getting used to talking with someone older than them and getting advice. This advice could be as small as what toy they should get or if they should save half their donut for later, but it will help the child as they get older. Parents can fill this role for children, but it is tough for parents to be mentors since it is so personal to them.
Since it is difficult to find someone that will invest that much time into a young child, and the cost of having a mentor is a lot, I usually tell parents the optimal age is around 12 to 14 years old depending on the maturity of the child. This is old enough that the child can understand how to use the mentor and benefit from talking with one, but young enough that they can get used to the mentor and feel comfortable asking for advice before they make any big decisions in their life. This age is also when the child will be going through a lot of changes in their life, such as starting high school, puberty, dating, competing in sports, and often when they start using their smartphone a lot and caring about social media. The largest factor in determining if your child can take advantage of a mentor is if they are willing to have a mentor. If a child doesn’t want one at any age, it will be difficult for them to take advantage of one.
Question 2: Should my child have a male or female mentor?
The answer to this question depends on the child. One of the most important things a child needs with a mentor is the ability to be open with them. Sometimes if the child has a mentor that is the same gender, they feel more open about sharing things with them. The mentor and child could also understand each other better due to certain issues that commonly arise differently with male and females. At the same time if they need help learning how to socialize with a different gender, having the ability to practice with their coach may be useful. In this situation, at first it might seem the child is not as comfortable, but they might develop more open communication with them as the mentor relationship grows. It can take time to tell if open communication will develop, but the child will know what they feel comfortable with and what they need.
Question 3: What is the cost of having a mentor?
The cost of having a mentor varies greatly depending on how you find a mentor for your child. Many parents find a close friend, neighbor, or teacher to mentor their children, and usually, this is free. Free mentors are great because you know if they are willing, then you have found someone that really cares about your child and someone you know is a good example and counselor for your child. Some of the downsides of a free mentor is that most of the time it doesn’t work very well. It can be tough for the child and mentor to get together and grow the relationship depending on the child, their willingness to be mentored, and how much effort they are willing to put into it. Additionally, you want someone successful to mentor your child, and they can be extremely busy too. Now, if you have a very willing child, a mentor that really loves the child, and a parent’s involvement, these types of mentorships can really go well and be successful! The reality is that usually all the pieces do not align and it is tough to make it work.
If you are going to hire a mentor, it is going to cost a decent amount of money. For the Leadership Society of Arizona (LSA) they charge $3.5k a year for success coaching. This involves meeting each week and a number of other activities, workshops, and meetings that allow the coach to interact with the child. All of the LSA mentors have their PhDs or Masters degrees, and have worked in the industry. The coaches also have an abnormal love for their students and a desire for them to succeed. This mentoring program is very rare, because it is uncommon for teenagers to have access to such highly qualified mentors at that price. Usually, a mentor that is equally as qualified and is willing to give the same amount of time, will cost upward of $10K a year (or more). The reality is most mentors you want are successful people and their time costs a lot of money. There are also downsides to hiring a mentor. These include the following:
- You might spend a lot of money and not see a lot of benefit. Many things can interfere with you taking advantage of a paid mentor. It’s possible the child doesn’t want a mentor or doesn’t like the mentor they get. You might get a mentor that doesn’t have enough experience to help the child, and it is always possible to get a mentor that is good, but doesn’t have a love for the child. Because of these things, you might have gotten the same result from a free mentor. Due to this, LSA pays attention to the child and recommends switching the mentor if they see the child not opening up or if the child is not being helped by the partnership. Additionally, they will let the parent know if the child is not progressing or getting benefits from the program.
- It usually takes more of your time when you hire a mentor. You have to take time to get to know the mentor to make sure it is someone you want mentoring your child and they have the same ideas that you do. The mentor also needs this time with the parents to ensure they know what the parents care about, how they think, and what limits to follow when talking about different topics with the child. Mentoring children is tougher, because there are so many things in life that parents might have opinions on that mentors have to be careful to respect.
- Location. Often, when hiring a mentor, they will not be in the direct vicinity of where you live, so you will have to either do it virtually or you will have to transport your child somewhere, taking time and effort. LSA understands this and offers most of their mentoring virtually.
However, if the coach is matched up well with the child, paying for a mentor brings great benefits to the child. Especially if there is not a teacher, friend, or neighbor that is willing to be a mentor for the child.
Question 4: Who is the best mentor for my child?
All things being equal, by far the best mentor for your child is you as their parent. You will know them the best and provide advice that fits them the best. However, all other things are not usually equal. There are many reasons why someone else will be the best mentor for your child initially.
First, usually due to your relationship up until now, your child probably doesn’t want you as their mentor. Yes, the old saying “a prophet is never recognized in their own country”, is true with parenting. The wisdom of a parent is never recognized in their own household. Due to the parent-child relationship being affected by the maturity of the child, it is often better to have a third party mentoring your child. However, LSA recognizes that if a child can eventually be mentored by a parent, it will be a great benefit to them. One of the goals of LSA when mentoring a child is for them to eventually want their parent to be a mentor to them.
The second thing that could make it tough to mentor your child is that you might not really know how to mentor them. Since, you probably don’t have a full-time mentoring career, when it comes to your child, you might not know what to do or where to begin. In LSA programs, they train parents on how to mentor their child.
The third reason you might not be the best mentor for your child, is in the rare case your child is nothing like you and their interests and dreams land in a very foreign area for you as their parent. For example, a parent might be successful in the construction arena and they didn’t get a college education, but they have a child that wants to become a rocket scientist and loves to watch anime. Since the child is so different from the parent, it might be good to find someone that can relate a little more to the child and has the experience to help them in their areas of interest.
It is important to remember that even though you might not be the best mentor for your child, you can still be a good mentor to your child. This might take some work and maybe even some education, but it is definitely worth it. No matter what, as their parent you should always be involved in the mentoring of your child since you are the one who sees them everyday. LSA requires the participation of the parent if a student enrolls in their mentoring program because the parent involvement has a big impact.
Question 5: How many mentors should my child have?
As many as the child can utilize! I have many mentors in my life. Why? Because there are so many things in life that I am involved in, I need people in every area to be able to get advice from. I have one main mentor, the one I go to for everything, which is my Father. I talk with him the most and run everything by him. At the same time, if I am wondering about investing I have my brother-in-law and my financial advisor who manages my investments. If I am in need of additional advice within my religion I have a couple of other people who mentor me there. I try to find as many mentors as I can for the different areas of my life because it makes it much easier to figure things out and minimize the time it takes to do things and progress.
I hope in answering these questions you were able to find some bit of information that was helpful for finding mentorship for your child. Amazingly, we often see children finding mentors on their own, by including them in the conversation they may have some great ideas. Good luck on your quest to find a good mentor for your child.
About the Author
Read Dr. Jacob’s latest book.
Dr. Jacob Kashiwagi is business management consultant and acting Chairman of the Board for Leadership Society of Arizona. Dr. Jacob has worked on 1,100+ industry projects valued at $3.6 billion with a 95% success rate. He has taught over 1,300 college students and 2,500 high school students.