Other people’s children: The new reality show


by Jean E. Rhodes

Imagine a reality television show in which privileged empty nesters competed to help less fortunate high school students gain entry into the nation’s highest ranked colleges and universities.

The many parents who had successfully shepherded their children through the admissions process from the comfort of their homes from Greenwich to Palo Alto would be randomly to assigned rising seniors from nearby low-income, resource-bereft communities.

They wouldn’t have to travel far, as isolated pockets of privilege and poverty often sit in close proximity to one another. Once paired, the empty nesters would marshal the considerable wisdom and expertise that they gained as they worked the admissions system in favor of their own children over the years.

Parents would build on their students’ strengths and talents, and then visit colleges and help their students complete applications while deploying every imaginable resource (private SAT tutors, writing consultants) and angle (service stints, meetings with athletic coaches, charitable donations) to secure acceptance.

If the show was renewed, we could track the students as they navigate their way through the elite colleges, perhaps even incorporating a second competition in which the parents opened their rolodexes to help secure internships and entry level jobs.

Unfortunately, the treasure trove of expertise and connections is rarely shared. And, compounding family inequality is the fact that low-income students have fewer outside mentors to help them navigate. In a recent study of over 15,000 nationally representative students, we found that those in the lowest income strata were significantly less likely to have natural mentors.

What’s more, the nature of mentoring differed across social class. Poor students were less likely to nominate teachers and other non-family adults who could connect them to opportunities, and the advice that they received was more concrete and practical.

By contrast, the highest income youth had a wider array of mentors and were significantly more likely to view these adults as role models. In essence, mentoring seemed to reproduce inequality .

The implications of these disparities are profound.  Caring adults are vitally important, helping youth navigate their identities, and opening doors to educational and career paths.

Indeed, a recent Gallup survey of over 60,000 college graduates revealed that students who could identify one teacher who cared about them, made them excited about learning, and encouraged them to pursue their dreams were more likely to graduate, and nearly twice as likely to be thriving emotionally and meaningfully engaged in work post-college.

Yet, as budgets for teachers and extracurricular activities shrink, it is the youth in the bottom income sectors that suffer the most.  No one institution—whether families, schools, or positive youth development programs—can completely compensate for the social isolation that disenfranchised students are increasingly experiencing, and each institution is stretched by the limitations of the others.

Wealthier communities can supplement their diminishing availability with private sources of support, but not so for those who need them most. Few adults feel the imperative to serve as helpful guides to children outside their families or communities and poor students rarely develop the skills and sense of entitlement to approach them.

Short of a reality show or, better yet, less income inequality, we need a campaign to mobilize adults to seek out opportunities to champion other people’s children.

Although networks are unlikely to provide high stakes for this pursuit, the true prize is the sense of pride and the joy that comes from basking in the glow of a young person’s success. In the face of seemingly intractable moral, social, and economic issues, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.

But through the simple act of forging a kind, helpful connection outside our limited spheres, all of us have the capacity to fundamentally improve the prospects of the next generation.


Posted in The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring; by Jean Rhodes, August 24, 2016

Coping with stress? Start with a smile: How smiling promotes stress recovery


From the Association for Psychological Science


Just grin and bear it! At some point, we have all probably heard or thought something like this when facing a tough situation. But is there any truth to this piece of advice? Feeling good usually makes us smile, but does it work the other way around? Can smiling actually make us feel better?

In a study forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas investigate the potential benefits of smiling by looking at how different types of smiling, and the awareness of smiling, affects individuals’ ability to recover from episodes of stress.

“Age old adages, such as ‘grin and bear it’ have suggested smiling to be not only an important nonverbal indicator of happiness but also wishfully promotes smiling as a panacea for life’s stressful events,” says Kraft. “We wanted to examine whether these adages had scientific merit; whether smiling could have real health-relevant benefits.”

Smiles are generally divided into two categories: standard smiles, which use the muscles surrounding the mouth, and genuine or Duchenne smiles, which engage the muscles surrounding both the mouth and eyes.

Previous research shows that positive emotions can help during times of stress and that smiling can affect emotion; however, the work of Kraft and Pressman is the first of its kind to experimentally manipulate the types of smiles people make in order to examine the effects of smiling on stress.

The researchers recruited 169 participants from a Midwestern university. The study involved two phases: training and testing. During the training phase, participants were divided into three groups, and each group was trained to hold a different facial expression.

Participants were instructed to hold chopsticks in their mouths in such a way that they engaged facial muscles used to create a neutral facial expression, a standard smile, or a Duchenne smile. Chopsticks were essential to the task because they forced people to smile without them being aware that they were doing so: only half of the group members were actually instructed to smile.

For the testing phase, participants were asked to work on multitasking activities. What the participants didn’t know was that the multitasking activities were designed to be stressful.

The first stress-inducing activity required the participants to trace a star with their non-dominant hand by looking at a reflection of the star in a mirror. The second stress-inducing activity required participants to submerge a hand in ice water.

During both of the stressful tasks, participants held the chopsticks in their mouth just as they were taught in training. The researchers measured participants’ heart rates and self-reported stress levels throughout the testing phase.

The results of the study suggest that smiling may actually influence our physical state: compared to participants who held neutral facial expressions, participants who were instructed to smile, and in particular those with Duchenne smiles, had lower heart rate levels after recovery from the stressful activities.

The participants who held chopsticks in a manner that forced them to smile, but were not explicitly told to smile as part of the training, also reported a smaller decrease in positive affect compared to those who held neutral facial expressions.

These findings show that smiling during brief stressors can help to reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy.

“The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress,” says Pressman, “you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment. Not only will it help you ‘grin and bear it’ psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well!”


Implications for Mentors

Your mentee will inevitably encounter stress as part of their daily lives, whether in the home, in the neighborhood, or in the classroom. As a mentor, you are in a unique position to help them to learn positive methods for coping with that stress. Smiling during adversity is more than a superficial gesture, it can help promote real changes in your mentee that reduces the impacts of stress.

This benefit extends beyond your mentee, however. Smiling can pay dividends for mentors navigating potentially stressful aspects of their mentor-mentee relationship, as well.

Posted in The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring: By Justin Preston August 8, 2016

Not buying what they’re selling: Making friends reduces influence of negative media

By Lesley Henton, Futurity

People whose only knowledge of Muslims comes from the media are very likely to have negative emotions and stereotypical beliefs about them, new research shows.

In the Journal of Communication, Srividya Ramasubramanian, associate dean of liberal arts and professor of communication at Texas A&M University, used multiple studies, surveying non-Muslims on how much they relied on direct contact with Muslims versus media-based contact.

“We observed that almost on a daily basis, media depictions of Muslims are extremely negative.”

Then they measured participants’ negative emotions toward Muslims, perceptions of Muslims as aggressive, support for civil restrictions against Muslims, and support for military action against Muslim countries.

“We observed that almost on a daily basis, media depictions of Muslims are extremely negative,” Ramasubramanian says. “Almost without exception, they are portrayed in stereotypical ways as violent, criminal, and extreme. Islamophobia is on the rise and even some American political leaders have expressed hateful sentiments towards Muslims.”

Policy opinions

The researchers found a correlation between people who rely on media depictions of Muslims and having negative attitudes, versus those with direct interactions who were less likely to view Muslims negatively.

“Our findings show that individuals who rely on the media for information on Muslims have greater negative emotions toward Muslims and increased perceptions of Muslims as aggressive, which in turn leads to support for civil restrictions against Muslims and military actions against Muslim countries,” says Ramasubramanian.

“Direct contact with Muslims had an opposite effect,” she continues. “In other words, reliance on media portrayals of Muslims as compared to direct contact through friends and acquaintances leads to several negative outcomes.”

Some participants with negative attitudes toward Muslims expressed what Ramasubramanian describes as domestic and foreign policies harmful to Muslims.

“Domestic policies included statements such as support for secretly monitoring Muslims without their consent or awareness, or restricting the ability of Muslim-Americans to vote. Foreign policy included several statements such as support for the use of military action and drones against Muslim countries.”

The friend effect

How can so many non-Muslims have so little interaction with Muslims?

Ramasubramanian says social interactions often revolve around religious, racial, and gender identities in our societies. “There is often a lack of motivation to step outside one’s comfort zone to learn about other subcultures,” she notes. “Even when there is exposure through direct contact, such interactions are often brief, rather than long-term, meaningful friendships.”

She says she hopes the research findings suggest the importance of more direct contact between Muslims and non-Muslims in communities. “Building friendships in this manner may buffer the negative effects of media portrayals of Muslims,” she notes, adding she also hopes the media work to improve the portrayals of Muslims by having more positive depictions.


Implications for Mentoring

Given their established and trusting relationships with their mentees, mentors are in special position to be able to help their mentee branch out of their initial social comfort zones in a way that is supportive and affirmative.

By helping their mentee meet and get to know people from different backgrounds and cultures, mentors can help enrich their mentees’ understanding of interpersonal relationships and the communities around them. Further, through such closer ties, it can also help the mentee to understand the implications of larger political rhetoric and policy decisions in a more direct and concrete way.


To see the original article at Futurity, click here.

To see the research article, click here.


Post From The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring by  August 8, 2016

Navigating internet risks: Mentors can help show the way

boy stand up

Written by Matt Swayne

The online world is full of risky situations for teens, but allowing them to gradually build their own coping strategies may be a better parental strategy than forbidding internet use, according to a team of researchers.

The researchers, who monitored web-based diaries of a group of 68 teen internet users during the two-month study, said the teens reported they encountered 207 risky events, including sexual solicitations and online harassment, said Pamela Wisniewski, formerly a post-doctoral scholar in information sciences and technology, Penn State, and currently an assistant professor in computer science at the University of Central Florida. However, in many cases, teens were able to resolve the issues on their own.

While the media may continue to focus on cases of online risk that had tragic consequences, the diary entries showed that many teens routinely handle some risky situations on their own.

“Focusing on the more positive interactions dealing with online risk flips this debate on its head and turns the conversation from one of parents trying to keep their teens safe to maybe there’s more we can do to teach teens how to keep themselves safe,” said Wisniewski.

Teens, in fact, did not see much of a difference between online risks and the risks they encounter in real-life social settings, she added.

“As adults we see these online situations as problems, as negative risk experiences, but teens see them as par-for-the-course experiences,” said Wisniewski.

The researchers suggest that teens may be better off gradually acclimating to online risk and building resilience by overcoming lower risk situations, rather than avoiding exposure to risks, which is a more commonly recommended tactic today. Parents and caretakers can act as guides in the process.

“In the past, we tended to focus on the higher risk events, not the medium risk events, but I think there’s a missed opportunity for learning some of the coping strategies that teens use in lower risk situations,” said Wisniewski. “So, if they are exposed to a higher risk event, they may be able to exercise some of the skills they already learned.”

She added that avoiding the internet is not a realistic option for most teens. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 92 percent of teens have access to the internet daily and 89 percent have at least one active social media account.

The researchers, who present their findings at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems today (May 11), recruited 68 teens, ages 13- to 17-years old, to enter first-hand accounts of their online experiences in a web-based diary. The experiences were divided into four risk categories: information breaches, online harassment, sexual solicitations and exposure to explicit content.

Of the 207 events the teens entered into their diaries as risky encounters, there were 119 reports of exposure to explicit content, 31 information breaches, 29 sexual solicitations and 28 incidents of online harassment.


The Bottom Line for Mentors

Mentors are uniquely positioned to help youths foster effective coping strategies when faced with risky online content. By supporting their mentees as they engage with and overcome milder online risks, mentors are helping the youth build the foundations they will lean on in the future when faced with more stressful online situations.

Youth, or almost anyone for that matter, cannot reasonably be expected to avoid using the internet entirely, and so they will inevitably encounter risky situations. Whether serving as an outlet for the youth’s experiences or acting as a sounding board for potential coping strategies, having a mentor there to listen and provide guidance can help the youth more effectively prepare for the more difficult situations they may face in the future.

Published in the Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring By Justin Preston : May 18, 2016

Raising A Child Of Possibility: Hugh Weber at TEDxFargo

Mentors, let’s help our Mentees become “Children of Possibility”.



Published on Aug 28, 2013

In 2008, Hugh started DudetoDad.com as a genuine cry for help from an ordinary dude who wanted to be an extraordinary dad. Dude to Dad has grown to include 85,000 new fathers, an Amazon Parenting #1 Bestseller (“Dude to Dad: The First Nine Months”), and two additional books currently in development.

Hugh is also founder of OTA, a creative collaborative offering extraordinary experiences and engagements that educate, empower, and serve as catalysts for community-builders and change agents to improve the lives of all people living in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota. OTA has welcomed over 50 global thought leaders to the region in its first four years.

Hugh lives in the OTA states with his beautiful, intelligent and extremely patient wife, Amy, four year old daughter Emerson, newborn son Finn, and an imaginary friend named Sally.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

Music: “New Day Sunshine” by Rabbit!

Trips to the Museum can Spark Teen Ambition: An Opportunity for Mentors


Posted by Nicola Jones-Warwick

Teens who took part in cultural activities like concerts or museums with their parents were more likely to aspire to continue their studies after the age of 16 than those who didn’t, a new study shows.

The findings hold true even compared to activities such as homework clubs or participation in extracurricular activities.

“Filial dynamics such as emotional closeness to parents and cultural capital were better predictors than more school-driven parent-child interactions,” says Dimitra Hartas, associate professor in the Centre for Education Studies at the University of Warwick, who led the research.

The study, published in the Journal of Youth Studies, finds that there is no shortage in young people’s educational aspirations.

It does, however, uncover some demographic trends: younger boys were less aspirational than slightly older adolescents and girls in general.

The data for the study comes from an annual survey, the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study, conducted by the University of Essex. The researchers analyzed 10,931 adolescents (with a sub-sample of 4,427 included in the final analyses).

The work examines factors relating to family emotional closeness, bullying, friendships, homework, extra-curricular activities and perception of parental interest in the child’s education.

The researchers measured responses to questions about a variety of topics such as visiting art galleries, discussing books at home, the number of evenings spent doing homework, relationship with siblings, and quarrelling with parents.

Hartas and her team found that the inclination to solve problems (self-efficacy) was a strong predictor of educational aspiration.

Teens who indicated they were less confident at tackling problems were 30 percent less likely to rate gaining GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) important.

In addition, those who expressed a lower level of general well-being were 18 percent more likely to choose not to go to university.

Closeness to parents was an indicator of attitude towards GCSEs; those who did not feel emotionally close to their parents were two times higher to consider GCSEs unimportant. However emotional closeness to parents was not found to be significant in predicting a desire to attend university.

What the researchers termed “cultural capital” or participating in cultural activities also appeared to affect the desire to study further. Those who weren’t exposed to cultural activities were 14 percent and 20 percent respectively less likely to consider university or GCSEs as important.

Those who did go to museums, galleries, concerts, etc. were found to be 23 percent less likely to consider training or employment post-16.

“These findings have significant implications for family and educational policy, especially with regard to ‘raising aspirations’ and reducing early school leaving,” says Hartas.

“They also raise the issue of reconsidering the role of the home environment as a web of emotionally and intellectually charged relationships between parents and children rather than an extension of the school day.”


Source: University of Warwick


The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring; By Justin Preston April 11, 2016