Recently I had the opportunity to help a young man struggling with a tough decision. He has great parents, but they were far away, and I was close. I was able to say things his parents probably couldn’t, and my saying them was perhaps better received. The whole experience was a great reminder of why kids need leadership mentors.
Many years ago, when my father was dying, he reached out to a leader in his life and asked him to look out for us boys. When my father passed away, this man picked up where my father left off. For the past thirty-five years, that man has had a life-changing impact on my life.
From birth through some portion of the teenage years is our most influential time as parents. During this time, kids go through a “stupid” phase where they quit listening to mom and dad. A number of years ago, a friend came to see me. His son was going through the stupid phase and asked if I would put his son on my camp staff. Honestly, I didn’t want to. But a man had stepped into my life when I needed it, so I did the same; I became the man a parent picked to be a leader in his son’s life. Over the years, I challenged, mentored, and helped this young man grow his leadership. Eventually, he worked with me as an Assistant Camp Director, and now he leads two camps. This dad recognized that kids need other leaders in their lives.
A while back, I talked with my mentor, and he reveals that my son has been calling him every week for several months. As it sank in, I realized my son needed some help, and he reached out to my mentor. This man married my daughter and son-in-law, and my youngest son also has him on speed dial. I have to admit, I did not intentionally connect my kids with strong leadership mentors. But I had mentors in my life, and that exposed my kids to them.
As kids get older, they will transition away from mom and dad as the primary, foundational leaders in their lives. While they may come back to their parents for some degree of input, they will build upon that foundation by adding new mentors and influencers into their lives. Often kids will choose their friends to fill this role, but more importantly, they need older, mature leaders who will reinforce the parents’ influence and be there as a help and resource. If there is one thing a parent needs to do, connecting them with a leadership mentor during this time is the most impactful.
So here are three key reasons parents and kids need leadership friends:
- Parents will never be the only influence in their kids’ lives.
My wife and I are not the end-all for our kids. Our kids will transition from us to other mentors and leaders. Since this is true, we need to be wise enough to connect our kids to great leaders.
- Parents need strong leaders and mentors in their own lives.
Everyone needs a mentor in every stage of life. During the parenting years, this is especially true. Our kids need to see this relationship and watch us take advantage of it. They need to watch us leaning into others and see the power of a relationship with quality leaders.
- Parents need to connect their kids with other leaders.
Other leaders can say things parents could never say, and kids will listen better to mentors than with mom or dad. It is essential to make sure our kids have these leaders in their lives.
Take time to assess which of these three you need to put in place and what steps needed to make it happen.
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