Parenting versus Mentoring

Why encouraging a child to find a mentor is actually a gesture of love and sacrifice

Part 1 of 2

By Dr. Hans Watson D.O. President University Excel and 

Tafta Watson, MA Education/Behavioral Disorders


When I am “out and about”, sometimes I meet parents that recognize me as an instructor for University Excel.  While conversing with the parents, I am often told how much their child’s thinking has changed since attending the seminar.  These parents usually indicate their child demonstrates increased goal-directed thinking, actions and even new motivation in other areas.  Often this leads to discussing the college prep plan given during the seminar.  It’s always encouraging as they tell how their child is doing at steps 2 and beyond in the plan.  However, our discussion inevitably return to the first step, ”Finding a Mentor”, as a way to maintain their progress from step 2 and beyond.  (I explain why this is the first step in another blog post). 

Though every parent indicates a desire to help their children complete step 1, many parents struggle to emphasize this step to their children.  Explanations of why range from, “I am happy with my childs current changes” to “I don’t know why we haven’t done that one yet".  Regardless of the reason, many parents find step 1 more difficult to complete than all other steps.  After hearing this a few times, I started to wonder why this step was so difficult.  Then my inner psychotherapist came out.  I spent time analyzing what was going on and realized that blaming the parents would be an incorrect and shallow conclusion.  Let me explain with a few points.

First, parenting is arguably the most difficult job in the world.  Good parenting always requires sacrificing personal comforts, many of your hobbies and most of your income.  Involved parents will work themselves to exhaustion, cry with frustration, second guess themselves and worry.  However, for all the negative and difficult emotions there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a child succeed due to your efforts and sacrifices as a parent.  In most cases, this is the reward parents seek for their efforts. 

leave the nest


Second, a child “leaving the nest to fly on their own” is often one of the scariest situations a parent faces.  Life is difficult and parents understand how quickly life can change because of a single decision.  Parents fear that their children might make the same mistakes that they made as a youth.  This situation is buoyed by the parent's hope that their efforts to teach sound thinking and intelligent actions will prevail in their children.  In many ways, the parents are enduring a curse of having the experiences and insight that come with maturity. 


By combining the prior two points, we see that parents are trying to protect themselves and their children by not finding a mentor.  Let me explain by taking you into the unconscious mind of a parent. 


If you understand the first point of personal sacrifice on the part of the parent, you will see that parents likely have an UNCONCIOUS desire to be the one that gets to work through the college preparation checklist with their child.  Then as the child works through the list he/she will likely associate this time in his/her life and development as a significant time.  This is such a natural time for parents to be involved.  They have sacrificed and worked hard to get the child to this point.  Then comes a person like myself who recommends that the child get a mentor, who is somone other than the parent.  No matter how many logical reasons we identify for the student to find a mentor, the parent’s unconscious mind will fight the thought of sharing the rewards found in working through this checklist.  Remember, this is not a conscious choice, it is unconscious!

If you understand the second point, that leaving home is scary and will change everyone's life, you easily understand how timing is everything when preparing a child to face the world on their own.  The step of finding a mentor for college prep has traditionally been one of the last steps before the child left the home.  Again, we see the unconscious mind affecting our actions.  The unconscious is saying, “Your child isn’t ready for college.  It is too soon to be leaving home”.  This was correct when we were raised.  (Why it is no longer accurate will be in another blog post).  This unconscious thought results in the parent working with their child on all steps except #1.   However, all of these parental actions, thoughts and feelings are driven by one emotion.  LOVE! 

A parent that loves their child and sacrifices their own comforts for that child is justified in feeling apprehensive to forgo the reward.  Moreover, the instinct to protect the loved one until they are ready to safely fly away is commendable.  To blindly blame the parent for not emphasizing the mentor would be shallow and incorrect.  Instead, by realizing the true situation we see a demonstration of love and devotion.  So how do we help those loving parents?

The answer to solving this riddle is to educate the unconscious mind and to teach it how its fears aren’t accurate.  We will do that next time. 

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Click here to read part 2