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Mentorship and Parenthood

A child and adolescent Psychiatrist reviews the literature

I recently read an excellent article at HBR on Why your Mentorship Program Isn’t Working? by W. Brad Johnson, David G. Smith & Jennifer Haythornthwaite.

While reading this one, I had my Medical Director hat on who has to manage multiple personal and professional roles while leading a team of 100+ staff across nine centers in two different cities. It is worth mentioning here that I am an academician and an experimenter by faith who, from a developmental perspective, also happens to be an Early Career Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in a country with less than seven specialists and more than 200 million of population.

My usual pattern of reading such articles is to pick up themes for them to make sense to my primitive brain. This time, I identified some key areas that I, as a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, struggle with when it comes to Child Mental Health advocacy. I will share some key highlights of the original article and draw some parallels based on my clinical practice.


Achilles heel: Authors identified a single and consistent Achilles heel in organizational mentoring structures, that is, marginal or mediocre mentoring, often a consequence of assigning the task to mentors who are often randomly selected told to be one. These are the very busy ones, disinterested, dysfunctional, or perhaps lack competence in this role.

Leadership: Authorities often fail to invest in resources to evaluate or reward the process of mentorship. This is similar to what happens to Medical Educators vs. Hard-core Researchers. With no meaningful incentives, it is seen as an onerous add-on duty, waste of time, a thankless distraction from real work that could “actually" lead to better income and advancement.

Innate art of mentoring: Making a presumption that any successful professional can mentor effectively, with minimal or no training, as it’s a natural and easy way to acquire.

Mental maps for mentoring: Since so many never had mentors themselves, they lack mental plans for how it is done well.

Poor mentoring can be worse than no mentoring at all!

Competence; teachable micro-skills: Mentorship skills can be instilled and refined through mentor development training. Ill-prepared and marginally competent mentors can mentor a bad name in an organization, sabotage retention, commitment, and employee development. Skillful mentors consistently practice generous listening, affirmation, challenge, feedback and bring one’s blind spots out to their conscious mind, balanced insider information, networking, visibility, intentional role-modeling, professional socialization, advocacy, increasing mutuality & collegiality.

Fundamental values: virtues and relational ability: One can’t overlook the foundational core values while selecting a mentor, such as virtues and relational attributes. Excellent mentors demonstrate virtues, such as personal integrity, good judgment, maintaining healthy boundaries and confidentiality, and a genuine inclination toward their mentee’s best interest at heart. Fundamental relational abilities include components of emotional intelligence, reflective capacity, other-oriented empathy, and self-awareness.

Let’s be clear: a mentor training workshop will not instill these virtues and abilities. You must recruit people who demonstrate them already in daily practice.

Early Career-ship/boat: School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University in 2012 noticed high attrition of junior faculty, particularly women, who often reported feeling invisible and unsupported. Mentoring of junior faculty at the time was infrequent and haphazard in a highly competitive publish-or-perish culture.

Radical approach: Authors described something radical- flipped the script on mentoring, made the selection as a mentor a competitive process incentivized by promotional standards and recognition.

Important lessons learned:

  • Resources are needed to administer these programs and support Master Mentors to dedicate time in their already busy schedules for this work, making it a high-priority activity.
  • Establishing and celebrating a culture of excellence in mentoring throughout the organization requires participation by all leadership levels.
  • Awards, public recognition, and other perks build and reinforce a clear message of institutional priority. Yearly events and graduation ceremonies celebrating new Master Mentors uphold a sense of community and encourage networking and peer consultation among Master Mentors.

Whether your organization has formal programs, an informal mentoring culture, or some combination of these, it’s time to banish marginal mentoring by changing the narrative about the priority of developmental relationships and carefully selecting, training, and elevating accomplished mentors.


This stirred up a lot of parallel processes and lateral thinking. Here’s what I reflected:

Achilles heel: I saw a profound similarity to how cultural and familial patterns, promoting unhealthy parenting practices often result from coercing the newlyweds to embrace parenthood who are often aimlessly choosing to be one. These are the young, busy, uninterested, or lack motivation in this role.

Trusted Elders: Elders often fail to acknowledge the struggles of the newly conceived couple and address the process of parenthood. With no meaningful encouragements, it is seen as a continuous have-to-do duty and a thankless effort.

Natural instinct of parenting: Presumption that everyone can master the art and science of parenting effectively, with minimal or no guidance, as it’s an innate trait to acquire.

Once upon a time, parenting was a simple phenomenon: Mothers mothered; Fathers fathered. From generations and generations, the human race has been doing this and considering where we have reached now; it seems to be working out pretty well – or not — however, the question of why now arises.…

Competence; acquirable skills: Parenting skills can be instilled and refined through parent management training. Marginally prepared parents can put forward a family legacy and name in this world. Nevertheless, it’s hard to say if they won’t sabotage the same generation by hindering emotional development. Skillful parenting consistently practices generous listening, affirmation, challenge, feedback, and bring one’s blind spots out to their conscious mind, the balanced role of a parent and a friendly approach, intentional role-modeling, enhancing mutual trust and open communication.

Good-enough parenting is more of a mindset and not just practice. It is a belief that the child will turn out to be OK, and OK is good enough.

Fundamental values, virtues, and relational aspect: One can’t overlook the foundational core values while becoming a parent as well as virtues and relational attributes. Good enough parents demonstrate integrity, sincerity, adequate judgment, conserving healthy boundaries, and respecting age-appropriate privacy, with a genuine inclination toward their child’s' best interest at heart. Fundamental relational abilities include components of emotional intelligence, reflective capacity, child-oriented empathy, and self-awareness.

Changing Paradigm of Parenthood: Worldwide, there are fewer married couples as parents compared to past decades. There is a rise in numbers of single parents, LGBTQ parents – single and couple. Millennials spend more time than any previous generation with their children. The World Economic Forum reports Millennial men are resisting stereotypes about dads’ incompetence. They are now more likely to take on housework and child-care than in the past. However, chore wars say more than 80% of working moms say they are responsible for doing the laundry, and cooking, and child care. The average age of a woman when she has her first baby is 28 as compared to that in 1990 it was 25 and in 1980, it was 22.7. Fathers, in particular, are spending — 59 minutes a day — with their children than fathers spent with their children in the 1960 – 16 minutes a day spent parenting.

Radical approach: unlike what authors illustrated a radical approach for mentorship, society has already made parenthood a competitive process topped by social standards and recognition.

Parenting; unpaid, unthankful job with no weekends!

Good Enough is the new Radical Approach:

Parents don’t need to be perfect; they just have to be good-enough (GE) and get the job done. As my sister says: ‘Parenting needs to be like smart-study. You don’t need to know all the chapters but study enough to pass the exam.’

GE parenting is not mediocrity. It has to do with rational choices as opposed to a compulsive need to be perfect. This approach gives more importance to the child’s experience of childhood as compared to the child’s future as an adult. This is actually a handy approach for those who are looking for no-nonsense parenting tips such as:

  • Parents in joint family systems
  • Working parents
  • A concerned friend of an overinvolved/under-involved parent



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Dr. Aisha Sanober Chachar

Dr. Aisha Sanober Chachar

Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist; Co-founder & Director @synapsepk Mental Health Entrepreneur. Recycled Stardust.Balint Group.Psychoanalysis.Grit 🇵🇰