Mentors & Role Models: The Positive Influences of Adults - Eva Varga

April 28, 20141

According to research, for parents trying to raise a young man in our current culture, there are numerous obstacles: changes in the educational system, video games, ADHD medication, endocrine disrupters, and a lack of positive, masculine role models. 


Years ago, upon recommendation by our pediatrician, I read the book Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax. The ideas presented in the book still resonate with me today.

Experiential Learning

In his book, Sax claims that boys need to have more experiential or hands on learning experiences, they need more contact with nature, they need to read a variety of books for fun, boys excel with competition, they need to interact with good male role models, and they need hands-on training in working and serving. Lastly, Sax explains in depth why video games are especially addicting to boys and the reasons why they are so harmful to their motivation and progress.

In our home, we try to balance video games with time outdoors and thrilling, real-life experiences. Though we certainly can improve, I feel we do a good job being consistent in this regard. The area I want to discuss today, however, is the importance of role models. Most of us would agree that children learn from role models and imitate behaviors of those they admire.


It is thereby important to provide children with positive role models and mentors, men who exhibit the qualities you want your son to emulate. Role models are highly important, helping to guide us through life during our development, to make important decisions that affect the outcome of our lives, and to help us find happiness in later life.

When we are growing up, we look to our role models for inspiration and use this as a blueprint for how we should behave when we’re older. A good role model should be someone hard working, creative, free thinking and moral.

We had a chance to catch up with one such mentor a few months ago, a friend who works for the city’s public works department. We stopped by one afternoon as he was putting away the equipment. My son was delighted to get to climb on board.

What are the qualities of an effective mentor? In this followup post I explore the key characteristics in a mentor who is ultimately able to make a difference in the lives of youth.

I was impressed that during our visit, my son even asked numerous questions about his work. “How did you get started working here?” “What kind of training or studies are needed to do this type of work?” “What do you like best about working here?”

A few weeks later, my son was sharing an anecdote about this visit with his Mandarin teacher and referred to him as a friend. I love that as homeschoolers, he doesn’t feel constrained by age and is comfortable carrying on discussions about topics of interest to him.

Because of the influence of this mentor, my son has also had a life-long interest in model trains. On Saturday, I will share with you The Science & Math of Model Railroads.

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