A competent individual feels that she has mastered elements of her environment. Youth who possess a sense of competence often have learned how to stay motivated, exercise their creativity and problem-solving skills, and be persistent. Competence is also about self-control–learning how to take charge of one’s emotions, actions, and reactions. Youth who have a well-developed sense of competence know how to control their impulses, stay focused on their goals, take on new challenges, and accept recognition for their achievements. Mastery of new tasks and skills is a significant step along the way to building protective factors and resilience.
Youth who have experienced many obstacles may prefer to avoid challenges and risks so that they won’t disappoint themselves or others. Other youth may try to overcompensate for their limited skills by being arrogant or displaying the destructive skills they have acquired (e.g., those related to delinquency). Your mentee may need support to develop the willingness to take on new tasks and persevere, even if he has failed in the past.
Consider these suggestions to help your mentee fulfill her need for mastery.
The strategies below can enable you to help your mentee meet her need for competence by achieving challenging tasks, taking positive risks, and striving for achievement.
- Acknowledge your mentee’s initiative, drive, and creativity. If she has expressed these qualities in negative ways in the past, help her to redirect her energy in positive ways. Remind her of her skills and accomplishments—evidence that she can overcome adversity.
- Encourage your mentee to use problem-solving skills and to think before he acts. Don’t make decisions for your mentee, but encourage him to talk through his reasoning and weigh the pros and cons before he makes a choice. Ask thought-provoking, open-ended questions like, “How might that decision affect your future?” and “What are your options?”
- Be a role model. By modeling healthy decision-making and creative problem-solving skills, you can become someone your mentee looks up to.
- Ask your mentee “how” questions to encourage her sense of competence. For example, if your mentee talks about her difficult childhood, you can ask, “How did you manage to get through that time as well as you did?” This encourages her to reframe the situation in a way that focuses on her strengths and competencies.
- Take advantage of opportunities to help your mentee to master new tasks and increase his self-esteem. Talk with your mentee about his goals and dreams for the future.