A New York Times article written in January 2020 resurfaced the other day. It’s timely that as we emerge from our forced separation Eric Ravenscraft’s article “An Adult’s Guide to Social Skills, For Those Who Were Never Taught” is making the rounds and yet it also confirms what experts have warned parents to consider for decades. Helicopter parenting (and lawnmower parenting) has negatively impacted a generation.
We often feel ill-equipped to mentor others. Especially when we are seeking mentorship ourselves. However, it’s important to remember that there is an entire generation of students longing for adult mentorship. You need to be a mentor because the loneliest generation is leaving the Church.
Ravenscraft says, “Learning social skills can be difficult if you weren’t exposed to traditional group dynamics as a child, if you struggle with a mental illness like anxiety or depression, or even if you just didn’t have a lot of positive role models when you were growing up.”
The Harmful Impact of Helicopter Parenting
Helicopter parents are defined as those involved in a child’s life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting, and over-perfecting. The documented long-term consequences of helicopter parents are extensive.
- Children lack problem-solving skills well into adulthood (even at age 25)
- Helicopter parenting causes children to have the inability to regulate their own emotions.
- Constant affirmation from parents has the reverse effect as intended. Children develop low self-esteem and confidence.
- An inability to emotionally regulate causes meanness and aggression.
- Helicopter parenting increases a child’s depression and anxiety levels.
Mentors are Reversing the Harm of Helicopter Parenting
Springtide Research Institute surveyed over 10,000 students for their 2020 study and discovered that Generation Z, currently ages 13-25, needs additional adults in their lives. With trusted adults in a young person’s life the level of loneliness and purposelessness they feel decreases. Of those surveyed 24% with no adult mentors say they never feel their life has meaning and purpose, with just one adult mentor, this number dropped to 6%. A similar trend held true for loneliness—while 58% of those with no adult mentors say they sometimes or always have no one to talk to, this number dropped to 48% with just one adult mentor and students loss of loneliness dropped by 37% with two to four mentors.
Mentors Help Develop Leaders
The New York Times article points out that developing emotional intelligence is the first step to improving our social skills. Harvard Business School Online reports that emotional intelligence is an important quality in leaders.
Emotional intelligence (otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ) is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. Emotional intelligence helps you build stronger relationships, succeed at school and work, and achieve your career and personal goals. It can also help you to connect with your feelings, turn intention into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to you.Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jennifer Shubin
Leaders are Formed in Community
Charles Smith says, “By the time I graduated high school, I could quote John Maxwell and Peter Drucker like a seasoned executive. But it was all theory. As I soon found out, leadership in the real world is complicated, contextual, and hard. To grow beyond my theories, I had to immerse them into real organizations with real people and real problems.”
Mentors Help Leaders Stay Focused on their Calling
Smith writes, “Leaders naturally drift toward isolation and echo chambers. As they do, they increasingly risk making poor decisions, and often they lack self-awareness and end up harming themselves and others.” Moses was surrounded by counselors. Some offered helpful advice and others did not. Joshua served Moses faithfully and had a front row seat to observe God’s faithfulness. When it was Joshua’s time to lead he confidently looked back at Moses’s life and knew what choices to make and which ones to avoid.
The Most Important Reason to Be a Mentor
The most important reason to be a mentor is so that you can do for others what you wish someone would have been available to do for you. Mentors are challenging to find. This is mainly because people don’t make themselves available. When you make yourself available you will develop leaders who then go on to mentor others.
As the wife of a football coach, Beth Walker encourages women whose families are in the public eye to pursue their own callings even as they support their husbands’ careers and ministries. Through her personal stories as well as interviews with other women who are also living just outside their husbands’ limelight, Beth shows it’s possible to do both.