Picture this: at a park, a father crouches down to his six year old son to get face to face with him. He advises him by pointing his finger to the eight orange cones that lay before them on the public reserve. His son is on one of those peewee motorbikes (about 30-40 cc) and is obviously learning how to ride it.
As the boy takes off manoeuvring around the cones he occasionally slows down and looks up to his dad for approving feedback. His father encourages him. The boy finishes the course and returns to the father, he stops the bike and stands it. The father gives him a hug and a pat on the back, and pulling slightly away, he looks directly into his eyes and gives him some firm encouragement.
This is what I witnessed from afar recently whilst out on a bicycle ride; it all took place in less than a minute, but it illustrated for me the value of a loving and encouraging mentor. And there is none more appropriate a mentor for children than their own mother or father, particularly during the early pre-teen years, is there?
Mentoring is widely recognised as “serving as a trusted counsellor or teacher.” Everyone needs good mentoring but relatively few take it up voluntarily beyond their early twenties.
Mentoring is a quite specialised technique and quite opposed to coaching.
It works on a future that the mentor directs, whereas in coaching, the coach helps the person being coached to achieve a future the coachee is aiming for. The mentor is the experienced expert, but the coach doesn't need to be. And the mentor is more likely to advise than the coach is; coaches primarily use questioning techniques to elicit responses.
Mentors will also normally have more of a say over the development and promotion of those they mentor than coaches would over their coachees. Mentors convey and instil standards, norms and values whilst coaches focus on assisting those they coach explore what the appropriate standards, norms and values might be for their situation.
Mentoring is mentor-driven whereas coaching is coachee-driven.
The mentor is in every sense a teacher. And this is what parents will find is their core role in the early years of child-raising. To be a ‘trusted counsellor and teacher’ not only teaches the child right from wrong and good from bad, it develops a parent-child bond carved in love that’ll last a life time. There could be no greater gift to a child than effective parental teaching on how to live life.
I am fortunate to have witnessed this event of a very loving father teaching his son, and its crystallising effect on me. Pictures of life like this help us understand the various nuances of roles and responsibilities through the lifespan.
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
 I acknowledge that the practice of riding a motorbike on a public reserve is inappropriate in certain places and I don’t condone it personally. I am focussing here on the positive parenting aspects in isolation.