When I started coaching Odyssey of the Mind nearly 10 years ago, I learned something valuable -- how to mentor kids without being prescriptive and robbing them of the opportunity to call an idea their own. It gave me a way to support my childrens' academic work. I could help them make progress without giving them the answers and undermining their confidence in their ability to solve problems.
I used what I learned to mentor kids in other activities as well. Scouts, Science Bowl, History Day. Here are the basic rules to follow:
1. Parents/mentors should not directly contribute ideas. No outside assistance. No leading questions.
2. Ask questions that will inspire reflection. Provide observations (not opinions).
3. Encourage brainstorming. Encourage kids to listen to each others' ideas.
4. Provide information but let kids evaluate the information and make the final decisions.
Initially, it was hard to be patient and let the kids work through the process. I had to bite my tongue to avoid saying "Here, it'll be faster -- I'll just do it for you." But in the end, kids took pride in the decisions they made (and learned from them as well).
Here are slides from a workshop for parents who want to learn how to incorporate "Kid-Driven Conversation" into their interactions with their own kids or kids they are mentoring.