Coaching and Mentoring Vs. Grooming

Indian Rocks 2

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back I was watching my favorite show at the time, Unsolved Mysteries. This episode was about a young boy who was mentored by a young man. Since it was Unsolved Mysteries, where we’re often told to call the 1-800-876-5353 number (still works btw) to catch the bad guys, I was bracing myself for the turn in the story, when the man would harm the boy. That time never came. Instead the boy, grown, was using the show to find his mentor, to thank him for being such a great friend in his time of need. It turned out to be a heart warming story about an adult mentoring a child.

Sadly the media often shares the horror stories which have made a couple of my friends, both male and female, afraid to mentor children, even though they would make amazing mentors to worthy young people, like the boy in the Unsolved Mysteries story. The horror stories, sadly mostly true, that get passed from church to church, scare legitimate mentors away from helping children as well. They do not want their intentions to be misconstrued.

This week at school, I heard an excellent discussion about child safety, which mentioned grooming. Grooming is where an adult with ill intentions, over time gains the trust of a child, only to abuse that trust. During the talk, it occurred to me, exactly why some would-be great mentors refuse to mentor. Is it possible to them, mentoring and grooming look alike? After all Satan has to have his counterfeit for everything good. He knows how vitally important mentoring is, so he wants his counterfeit, grooming to look like mentoring. This gives him a double victory. He can destroy innocent lives through grooming, and make good people afraid to mentor for fear they will be considered groomers. As a matter of fact, before I started writing this, I Googled, “Mentoring and grooming,” and found this website saying that grooming and mentoring are synonyms! That gave me a hunch that I may be on to something.

So I thought it might be a good idea if potential mentors could have a clear picture of mentoring, and a clear picture of grooming, so they could tell them both apart. I realize I am not an authority on the subject, so I would like to paint a picture of both just to get the ball rolling, and hopefully some people a lot more skilled than I am can chime in and agree or disagree and add some insight. Here goes:

Mentoring: A coach works with a group of children and other adult coaches to give each child a sense of belonging to the group and community. When a particular child needs extra coaching, the parents and/or child approaches the coach, and the coach gives the extra one-on-one instruction on the group site, only as requested and needed. The goal of the coach is to get the child back into the group mainstream. The coach networks to get the child the help he/she needs. If Sally needs extra help memorizing her Sabbath School memory verse, the coach will share tips, like word associations, and then encourage other students and/or coaches to practice with Sally. The coach wants Sally to feel like she is a valued part of the community, and trains Sally to be a useful and healthy member of the group and community. Mentoring is community driven and social in nature.

Grooming: A coach meets a child in a group, but then isolates the child from the group, under the guise that the child needs extra and “special” training that only he/she can give. He/she may even claim that Sally should not be working with others, as she may become “confused” by the tips others may give along with the tips he/she provides. The coach wants Sally to feel like she is special when she is around her/him, instead of feeling special to the entire group. Instead of training Sally to be a healthy member of the group and community, the coach teaches Sally to rely on her/him and the special instruction only she/he can give. Grooming is one-on-one driven, and is isolating in nature.

Does this make sense? Does this help? I hope together, we can give a clear picture of what healthy mentoring looks like, as boys and girls can use, not one or two, but many positive male and female mentors in their lives. The more the merrier-and the healthier!

Trustworthy People Couldn’t Care Less if You Trust Them or not

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While flipping through the channels on my TV the other day, I ran across a “Law and Order” show, or something similar, where a detective was saying how abusers always seek the trust of the person they want to abuse. I have heard similar things in pastor group meetings, which has prompted me to share what little common sense I have on the matter.

If someone is trying to get you to trust them, be suspicious. Fact is trustworthy people will never ask you to trust them, because they will never allow situations where they need your trust.

When I make a deposit at the bank they give me a receipt. Don’t I trust them? Sure I do. However they never say, “Instead of us giving you a receipt, why don’t you just trust us?” Trustworthy people don’t ask you to trust them. Trustworthy people don’t need you to trust them. They understand accountability and checks and balances.

I hear stories where a “caregiver” seeks to earn a parent’s trust, and then betrays it once they are left alone with the child. The “caregiver” put the parent in a situation where they felt obligated to show they trusted them. A true caregiver will never put a parent in that situation. A true and trustworthy caregiver will always do things in groups and never seek to be alone with the child.

A true and trustworthy caregiver will never act hurt or insulted that you are not showing that you trust them, because a trustworthy caregiver couldn’t care less if you trust them, because they have no desire to be in a situation where they need your trust!

As a matter of fact, trustworthy caregivers are just as cautious of you as you are of them.  They will not allow themselves to be put in situations where they need to trust you or your child. That doesn’t mean they are paranoid of you. Let’s go back to the bank. I am not paranoid about my bank having my money, but they still provide receipts and statements offering accountability. At church I am not paranoid about the deacons when I put my money in the offering plate, but the deacons still count the money in groups instead of by themselves, just to offer accountability and to make things look kosher, not for me but for themselves.

Abusers often seek to get the trust of the parents. If someone acts offended or insulted that you don’t trust them, beware. A trustworthy person will not act hurt or insulted if you don’t trust them, because quite frankly a trustworthy person couldn’t care less if you trust them or not! Everything they do is done in groups, in the open for the whole world to see. Part of the policy of the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, which I work under, strongly encourages for no woman or man to be left alone with a group of children, but even though some situations may exist, under no circumstances whatsoever should any woman or man be left alone with any child, girl or boy. This policy in no way interferes with us accomplishing our mission as caregivers. We don’t need a parent to trust us alone with their child in order to teach or mentor.

A true caregiver will enjoy having parents and other adult caregivers join them while they are mentoring and teaching, because it creates a community where the child feels loved and accepted.  A true caregiver wants the children they work with to know that there is an entire church family who cares about them, and not just one caregiver. Let me make this clear. A true mentor wants to win children to Christ and the church and not just to themselves. A true mentor teaches children to be sociable and part of a community, instead of isolating them from the community.

Likewise a trustworthy person will never put themselves in a situation where they need to trust you either. Trust works both ways, but so does accountability, and checks and balances. The receipt the bank gives me after a transaction protects the bank as much as it protects me.We both trust each other, but neither I nor the bank ever tells the other, “just trust me,” or “why don’t you trust me?”  Everything is done in the open with receipts for the whole world to see as well as statements with checks and balances.

So in closing, in case you haven’t already picked up on what I am trying to say, let me say it again. If someone acts hurt or insulted that you don’t trust them then beware. Only abusers “need” you to trust them. Good healthy trustworthy caregivers will never be in a situation where they will need your trust, and therefore they will never ask for it.