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My Parent, My Mentor


Mentoring at the Mall


Making the Most of Teachable Moments



September 01, 2009
Mentoring at the Mall

I was talking to another mom the other day and she shared with me one of her favorite tools for preparing her daughter for life. Watching life itself. Here was the situation she described to me. She and her daughter, a tween, witnessed a very young duo in a very passionate kiss. Instead of rolling her eyes, or pointed her daughter the other way, she seized the opportunity to mentor. In her case, she told her daughter, "Don't ever think that behavior is okay." She went on to explain that the behavior was disrespectful to people in view and that they were too young to be participating. A simple chance encounter that would have made many look away became an in-action learning tool. Just like that.

So, this got me thinking. How often do life's lessons present themselves to us—front and center—without us grabbing onto the opportunity? I have been to so many birthday parties in which kids tear apart gifts and forget to thank a soul. How easy would it be for me to mention to my kids, "Remember when Johnnie was tearing open gifts and didn't thank anyone? Well, I want you to always remember to thank people. And this is the reason why…." Simple, really.

Why is this such a good idea anyway?

1. Real life works. We all learn better from real life examples. It just sticks better. When we see life happening and attach a lesson to it, our kids are going to learn more.

2. Short and sweet. When you are out in the real world doing your mentoring of your kids, there is no time for an hour-long debate. What you are sharing is going to have to be quick and to the point because you are out there in the middle of your life. And we all know that the more we talk, the less our kids listen, so this works for everybody.

3. Limit setting for the future. Our kids are eventually going to become adolescents. Rue the thought. Little life lessons can also be used to set limits for the future. My friend was beginning her daughter's sexual education. Sex Ed is not just mechanics; it is also the dynamics of relationships. And that is best taught right in the middle of life.

How do I do it?

1. How are you feeling? You will know when an opportunity affords itself because either you or your child will be uncomfortable. Your child might share something with you at the playground, or you might see something that is upsetting. Take a look at that situation with different eyes and see if it is an opportunity to mentor your child.

2. No shame, no judgment. Forget the "What a bad, bad child!" and go for "I don't like the way Johnnie is talking to his mother. I don't ever want you to treat me or anyone else that way because…"

3. Show the positive. Try and stay away from only the negative. Look for good things and also ways you can help your child shape an experience into a positive. For instance, "When we thank people for gifts, we show that we really care about them. We show respect."

So, have fun in the mall or at the playground, or even in the doctor's office. The world is your oyster and your kids are your pearls. Enjoy them and enjoy mentor them every day.

To learn more about Maria Murphy, a mom, psychotherapist and writer, go to her wellness site, www.simplyputtogether.com

Maria Murphy is a speaker, consultant and writer. Her book and blog column can be found at www.simplyputtogether.com. Maria Murphy writes a monthly mentoring column for Tutor/Mentor Connection of Chicago, http/www.tutormentorconnection.org. Her column is distributed throughout mentoring agencies of N/E Florida through Kessler Mentoring Connection at http/www.mentoringconnection.org. She is also a columnist for My Nassau Sun, a subsidiary of the Jacksonville Times Union.
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