Real tips on how women can help males with mentor shortages.
As we celebrate National Mentoring Month, it is not hard to see that in honoring the role of mentors we also see more and more calls for male mentors. Fatherhood initiatives nationwide are making great strides; however, there are often not enough resources to meet the needs of all the boys who need male mentors. As these boys who still have needs unmet age out and join the adult world, the question becomes …..what happened to the boys?
Often times in my practice I run across men who for the most part have done well in life but are missing some things they simply didn’t get growing up. They’ve tried communicating with others in ways to help them identify the needs but aren’t always successful due to many factors. One of those factors in particular is their ability to connect with women more on certain levels because that is what they’ve been accustomed to. Some have also relayed to me that when it comes to dealing with other men they are ok to discuss things on the professional side but discussing things like vulnerabilities and fears in becoming successful causes them angst because going to a guy about these things is foreign to them. I want to be clear that I’m not insinuating in any way that males can’t be just as sensitive as women and this is merely based on their personal experiences. It is also not to say they don’t have any male connections, but instead have done better in understanding how to overcome obstacles because of their life long connection to the females in their lives.
With that said, the question becomes how can women help with the male mentoring process? Women who really understand the dynamic of male physical and emotional growth are keyed in to what we know, don’t know , understand or not understand about the male experience. In my practice, it is key for me to not come off as telling men WHAT to do or what they NEED because quite honestly when they come to me, they usually already know but instead ask “HOW” do I get what I need or “HOW” do I do what I need to do? Working with 5 alternating male advisors has helped me to ensure that the process of mentoring males to achieve greater personal success whether in the teen or adult years has also helped me understand that no one can be everything to everyone regardless of gender. Boys need women and men to get a full understanding of who they are because they are created by both genders. Girls also need the same and as a people it is important for us to respect one another’s expertise and call upon each other to help in those areas in which we can offer help.
Men who I have mentored have benefited from my experience as a coach and small business consultant wherein not only I can help them understand the business, but also how to lean into their own emotional connection to life and how it affects them in business and life. I’ve also had much success in helping men make connections to other men to address concerns that were in fact in need of male based assistance and we’ve worked together as a team.
So how can women help the male mentoring process?
- Recognize what you can and cannot do and continue your cross-gender education
- Enlist a circle of other open-minded professionals of both genders to assist you in your work
- Don’t take it personal if what you offer isn’t making the difference and make referrals
- Commit to a side-by-side process of mentoring as “partners” in their success
- Remember mentors are not therapists and balanced people need multiple types of relationships to be successful
- Work to help moms of boys and moms of boys programs so that many concerns are handled in the primary years
- As adult mentors, focus on the goals of your mentees and use it as a cross-mentoring process for you both
As parents of males, it is key for women to show our sons the non-gender specific side of life as well as the role we play as women interacting with men on the importance of goals, integrity, honesty and sensible belief systems for everyone. When volunteering for mentoring programs or having our own children involved with mentoring programs, do homework to make sure the mentors involved understand the village concept. By doing so, we can ward off well-meaning influences that can unknowingly show our children an unbalance in belief systems about the opposite sex’s abilities to contribute to the success of all people. Lastly, be open to learning and work to overcome fears about how to change parenting styles to accommodate the changing needs of your children.
Photo: Flickr/ urbanpromise