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Mentoring with Strengths in Mind

Picture          Mentoring can be hard work. Managing cross-cultural dynamics and bridging age and generational gaps present formidable challenges on their own. Add to that the steep learning curve of entering the world of a child in poverty and things begin to look a little daunting. With the deck stacked in such a way, the needs, differences, and deficits of our mentees often prevail in our thinking. Their strengths and assets quickly fade to the background, but these might be the very gifts God has provided them to endure the insufferable and to flourish amid chaos.

        As an organization dedicated to encouraging and empowering young people, we have positioned ourselves and our model of mentoring inside the positive youth development (PYD) movement.[1] This relatively new and refreshing approach to youth work reframes this formative period as a time of great potential, rather than an inevitable decline into high-risk behavior. Yes, bodies, brains, and everything else seem to undergo significant changes in these days. But innumerable raw gifts, interests, and strengths exist for cultivation by those who will see them.
As you think about your relationship with your mentee and the activities and discussion you enjoy, consider the wisdom of a strengths-based approach. PYD offers five areas mentors can foster throughout the relationship in a variety of creative ways. The five C’s of PYD are listed below, and, when developed, lead to the sixth C of youth contribution.
·        Competence
·        Confidence
·        Connection
·        Character
·        Caring/Compassion[2]
[1] For more on PYD, see Lerner, R.M., Napolitano, C.M., Boyd, M.J., Mueller, M.K., & Callina, K.S. (2014). Mentoring and positive youth development. In D.L. DuBois & M.J. Karcher (Eds.), Handbook of Youth Mentoring, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 29-42.
[2] Attached you will find cards correlated to all 6 C’s of PYD, with ideas for activities, conversations, and overall approaches that help youth develop these areas. Cards provided by Lerner, R. Brittian, A., & Fay, K. (2007) Mentoring: A key resource for promoting positive youth development. In J. Rhodes (Ed.), Research in Action. Alexandria, VA: MENTOR. Issue 1.
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