Last week, we introduced five key character qualities that we can look to build into our students in 2020. These qualities are known as “The Five C’s of Youth Development,” and include: competence, confidence, connection, character, and compassion.

The question we should all be asking as mentors when we see a list like this is, how do we build these kind of qualities into our students? This week, we’ll start to answer that question by taking a closer look at the first quality: competence.

Remember, competence means “having a positive view of one’s skills and abilities (including social, academic, cognitive, personal, and vocational).” Students with this quality are better equipped to navigate the world successfully, opening more doors for future educational and career opportunities. These students take pride in their abilities, have a vision for opportunities in front of them, and are motivated to tackle new challenges and learn new skills.

“My mentor changed my life completely. Before I always felt like I was the one behind, in the back, forgotten, and not important. Now I have confidence. I’m more positive and outgoing. I speak up and I’m not afraid to fail.” –Student

As mentors, we can build competence into our students in a couple of ways:

We can help students recognize their existing strengths and abilities by giving them positive feedback. The students you mentor may not get a lot of positive feedback from others, and can also fall victim to a vicious cycle of negative self-talk. Next time you meet with your student, try sharing one positive skill, action, area of knowledge, or other success for yourself and your student. And then ask them to do the same. This is one simple way that you can help them recognize their own strengths and abilities (and also look for them in others).

We can help students learn and grow through their experiences in school and in the community. Once you have developed a strong relationship with your student, you can look for specific ways to help them grow in competence. Having that foundation of a strong relationship will not only build rapport and trust with your student, but it can also serve as a motivator for them to improve on their skills and abilities. Here are just a handful of examples of how you can help your student grow in competence:

  • help them with homework and studying for tests
  • help them find community resources
  • help them set personal goals
  • help them learn a new skill

However you end up helping your student build competence, make sure that you allow them to take the lead in asking for help. And, don’t be surprised if you end up learning something new from them as well!

Check back next week as we take a closer look at how to build confidence in the students we mentor…

–Jason Matthews, BTO Mentor Coach