ATP mentor training/The mentoring relationship

The mentoring relationshipEdit

The relationship between mentor and protégé may require explanation. Especially if the mentor is another adolescent the protégé may expect the relationship with the mentor to have the same characteristics as a friendship. A mentor might want to explain that the mentoring relationship is independent of the type of personal relation and is guided by moral obligations and responsibilities of the mentor instead. What a protégé should understand is that the mentor may be offering a kind of friendship, possibly depending on future behavior of the protégé, but that the mentoring relationship itself neither rejects nor affirms a friendship between mentor and protégé.

A mentor who belongs to the social environment of a protégé is referred to as natural mentor. A natural mentor who has formally accepted mentoring responsibilities is referred to as a formal mentor or program mentor instead. A program mentor who enters into a relationship with the protégé beyond mentoring duties can become a natural mentor when the formal assignment ends.

The Handbook of Youth Mentoring[1] defines natural mentors as "nonparental adults, such as extended family members, teachers, or neighbors, from whom a young person receives support and guidance as a result of a relationship developed without the help of a program specifically designed to connect youth and adults to form such a relationship (i.e., program mentors)." In the context of the ATP mentor training the term natural mentor will be used to include everybody (including parents and teenagers) who engage in activities that provide long-term support and guidance in a way that respects a teenager's interests (while putting them in relation to the view of an unbiased observer) but do so outside a formal mentoring program.

Psychology of the relationshipEdit

It appears to be a desirable attitude to accept others as authorities in personal matters, because the effect on the personality of an adolescent can be to learn to be open for well-intentioned advice; the alternative are people who may be difficult to reach. Consequently the mentor should aim for a relationship where the mentor becomes an authority in personal matters, but that authority can only be granted by the protégé; it can not be demanded, at least not reliably.

Beginning a new mentoring relationshipEdit

Recommended reading for new mentors is the Learn to Mentor Toolkit:[2]

Here’s a tip on how to test if your objectives are solid — ask yourself, are they SMART? Smart stands for:

Specific — do I know precisely what has to happen?
Measurable — how will I know if I’ve achieved this objective?
Attainable — is it realistic or do-able?
Result-oriented — will it really move me toward my goal?
Time-limited — does it have a due date?

If your goals are SMART, they’re solid — now go start doing them![2]

The toolkit contains useful worksheets and advice, especially for new mentoring relationships but also for existing mentoring relationships.


  1. DuBois, David L.; Michael J. Karcher (2005). Handbook of Youth Mentoring. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications Ltd. ISBN 0761929770. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Learn to Mentor Toolkit (PDF)

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