Adults care a great deal about the youth in their communities.

They want fewer kids to be at risk.

They want more kids growing up to be strong, happy, successful adults.

They’re willing to be mentors to young people.

And it’s important that they do because it takes a village to raise a child to become a strong, happy, successful adult.

Parents have always needed the help of other caring adults.

But there’s more to mentoring than having a good heart. More than giving advice. More than spending time. More than giving them things.

To have an impact, an adult mentor needs to build a positive relationship with the child.

This requires effective communication skills.

There’s a best way to listen. A best way to encourage. A best way to engage in dialogue. A best way to resolve conflict. A best way to praise and offer constructive feedback.

The problem is, most adults have only average communication skills.

Or worse.

This includes parents, teachers, coaches and youth program leaders.

This isn’t good enough. When an adult fails to communicate in the best way, a teenager can feel misunderstood and disrespected.

So they distance themselves.

The old “generation gap.”

They turn to their peers for respect and understanding.

The blind leading the blind.

The fact that most adults have weak communication skills isn’t their fault.

Decades ago, when they were in school, no one taught them how to communicate effectively. These skills have never been a part of a school curriculum.

People had to learn how to interact by watching adults and by trial and error “on the street.”

We all did.

If adults in “the village” are to be effective mentors to children, they’ll need to improve the way they listen, encourage, dialogue, resolve conflict, praise and offer feedback.

But reading a book or watching a video about it won’t be enough to change their behavior.

Like learning any skill, it will take practice. Lots of practice.

Skills and habits are ingrained when people do things repeatedly over time.

To change their communication patterns, they’ll need to consciously apply the best models in the real world with real people.

Repeatedly over time.

This is the only way to replace an old habit with a new one.

For the brain cells to wire together, you gotta do the reps.

Only then will the new way feel comfortable and automatic.

Learning a new skill or changing a habit is never easy.

It helps to have models, feedback, accountability, and encouragement.

In other words, coaching.

The good news is that this kind of 24/7 long-term coaching is available today.

It’s worth looking into.

Communities desperately need parents, teachers, coaches and youth program leaders who can communicate effectively with youth.

We need mentors who have the heart and the skills to make a difference in a child’s life.

More truth-telling about adult-teen communication.

My how-to book on communicating with young people:  Connect with Your Kid: Mastering the Top 10 Parent-Child Communication Skills.

You can grow the bond with your child through better listening. Download the FREE ebook, Listening to Understand.