By Vanessa Emodi
Training presented by: Margot Phelps of Big Sister Association
Intentional mentoring is the deliberate use of self in every interaction with youth, and strives for development of a positive adult-youth relationship. Many of the League’s community placements involve interacting with young girls from different walks of life, so we want to make sure that we have the right tools to be able to positively influence their lives.
- Do not make assumptions or judgements. Often our unconscious biases may lead us to make judgements about the girls’ identities and personalities. We need to be aware of our choice of words to ensure we are actively and mindfully avoiding this.
- Establish boundaries. With frequent interactions with these girls, we tend to establish close relationships with them. However, we need to remember to draw the line where necessary for the sake of both the girls and ourselves. Some people are more private and reserved than others, and we want to make sure we are creating a setting that may make them or us uncomfortable. Establishing boundaries also makes it easier for us to put aside our personal feelings if something should happens that puts a girl’s safety or well-being at risk.
Reframe “negative” behavior. Occasionally, the girls we work with may exhibit “less than ideal” behaviors or traits, and it is our responsibility to correct them appropriately. In many cases, we can identify a positive trait amidst the negative, and we can use that approach to correct. For example, one of the girls frequently interrupts others during group conversations. Rather than shut her down outright, you might encourage her that it’s good to have her own opinions and speak for herself, however it’s often better to hear what others have to say without jumping in. We want to reframe negative behavior rather than chastising, because there may be extraneous factors we are not aware of that could be contributing to someone acting out.
- Positive reinforcement. The girls we work with are still young and in the process of figuring themselves out. We should remember to point out their strengths and encourage them whenever possible so that they can focus on what is working and continue along the right path.