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October 8, 2012

Hello all,

I have a new website for my business Donohue Consulting Inc, which is really exciting. All future AlignMENt blogs will be on this site.  Click here to go to AlignMENt and make sure to subscribe to not miss any AlignMENt blogs.

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The Circle of Influence

August 26, 2012

With a new school year starting, things can get kinda hectic.  Is it just me or is there tons of extra night meetings in August and September?  Between Open House nights, curriculum nights, sports meetings and various other kick-offs, this is a busy time of the year for most families.  In fact, it can be an overwhelming time of the year.  Lots of excitement, but all lots of criss-crossing information.

One simple word of advice:  focus on what you can control and let the other stuff go.  Stephen Covey called this the Circle of Influence vs the Circle of Concern.  The Circle of Concern is everything we are possibly concerned about including:  our jobs, our relationships, our kid’s future, Aids in Africa, world politics, our favorite sports team, drug use in our community and anything else you can think of.  The Circle of Influence is a smaller circle within the Circle of Concern where we actually have some influence.  Covey says the most effective people spend their time in the Circle of Influence and slowly that circle will become larger.

On a good day, the only person I can truly control is myself.  If I want to be a great father, then I need to think about what I can do, rather than waiting for other people to change.  The bad teacher, the obnoxious coach, the less than desirable boy/girlfriend might not change a ton in our kids lives, but our responses can change dramatically.  If a situation becomes untenable or dangerous then direct action is warranted by us as parents, otherwise practice patience and look for teachable moments where your influence can be maximized.  Our children truly grow when they figure out life lessons with a little guidance from us, rather than us rescuing them or giving them all the answers.

Walk in the Circle of Influence and watch it expand with your children.

Patrick Donohue is a Life Coach in Oak Park, IL.  contact him @

The Gift of the Unexpected

August 18, 2012

The other night, I was in our home office sending emails about 10:30 pm at night.  My daughter Sarina stated, “Dad, if you are going downstairs, could you get me a water bottle?”  I commented that I wasn’t really planning on going downstairs and that I was going to bed soon.  She said, “OK, no big deal”.  About 15 minutes later, I slipped downstairs and grabbed the bottled water and surprised Sarina as she was reading.  The look on her face was sheer delight.  It was not about the water bottle, but rather about someone thinking about her and treating her special.

Simple truth:  An unexpected gift is always more appreciated, than one that is expected.  Unexpected gifts do not have to be larger gestures, in fact the smaller gestures communicate quite powerfully.  The message we want to give to our kids is “I was thinking about you.”

Here are a few ideas for some small unexpected gifts:

* A mid afternoon text message

*Picking up a favorite snack on your way home from work

*Designing a poster with you kid’s picture and an inspirational quote on it

*Doing their chores for them when you know they are overwhelmed and stressed

*Sending an encouraging email

Stephen Covey coined the term “emotional bank account”.  When we deliver unexpected gifts, both large and small, we make huge deposits into the emotional bank account.  These deposits are the backbone of a strong relationship and are especially handy during times of stress when the account can get depleted.  Dads, take a moment today and think of an unexpected gesture you can give to one of your children and watch him/her light up with joy.

Patrick Donohue is a Life Coach in Oak Park, IL.  Contact him

Fun with Teenagers: Who Knew?

August 12, 2012

A week ago the four of us, myself, my wife Binita, Sarina (19) and Shaan (16) completed a great vacation to Washington, D.C.  Now, full disclosure, we have had some vacations that were absolute clunkers.  Those vacations featured arguing, unmotivated kids and just plain old stress.

This trip to D.C. was great.  It featured a variety of activities, multiple planners, a sensible pace and lots of laughs.

So, here are my Top Five suggestions for having a great vacation with your teens/tweens.

1.         Have Everyone Contribute to the Planning Process – in the past, my wife Binita  has done nearly 100% of the planning.  This is unfair to her and then others feel like they have no voice (even though we didn’t contribute when given an opportunity).  The kids are I helped pick out museums to see, excursions to go on and places to eat.  Everyone felt happier and more empowered.  

2.        Keep the Pace Reasonable – most teens are not early morning people (have you noticed?).  We started most of our days as a foursome at around 10:00 am.  On a couple of the days, Binita and I went out earlier by ourselves and everyone was happier for it.

3.       Stay at a Nice Place – the four of us stayed in the same room, but it was a sweet place (Sofitel).  After a long day of touring, it is nice to come back to little things like “turn down service”  and a fluffy robe.  When in doubt, pick the nicer place.

4.      Find a Unifying Theme – we all enjoy the Food Network, so we made it a point to go to a couple of restaurants that were featured on different shows on the network (Food TV app is awesome).  This really enhanced our enjoyment and anticipation of meals.

5.     Splitting Up is Good – presenting options is a powerful motivator for teens.  One day Binita/Shaan went on a college visit to Georgetown while Sarina and I shopped (yes, I did!!!).  On another night Shaan and I went to a Washington Nationals baseball game while the ladies went out to dinner.  Everybody’s voice was heard and their needs were met.

Five simple ideas that can make vacationing with your teens/tweens more enjoyable.

Patrick Donohue is a Life Coach in Oak Park, IL .  Contact him at

7 Sins of A Disappointed Father: #6 Backing away after a loss or defeat

July 19, 2012

Picture this: your son comes home with a less than steller report card or your daughter makes a mistake in the game that costs her team or your son gets reprimanded by his boss/teacher or your daughter misses an important deadline for an application.  How do you respond?  The disappointed father tends to express his disapproval and then withdraw from the child.  The withdrawal might be conscious or unconscious, it doesn’t really matter.  The message to the child is the same: REJECTION.

In life there are moments that matter more than other moments.  When our children have screwed up or are hurting, they need their fathers to hug them and tell them that “everything is going to be OK”.  If we withdraw, we communicate mistrust and disappointment to our children, which creates anxiety and fear.

The other day my daughter called me at work (which is unusual), because she was upset up an issue at her job.  I let her vent, listened to her concerns and then pointed out a couple of possibilities that she had not thought about before.  She calmed down, smiled and said thanks for listening.  Big deal to her.  It took 5 minutes of my time.

Great fathers have a sixth sense about when to aggressively pursue their children.  When our children shrivel up a little, it time for us to go on the offensive.  Stand in the gap with your kids and really be there in those defining moments.  When we do that, it is amazing how much easier all the regular moments become.

Patrick Donohue is a Life Coach for Men. Contact him at

7 Sins of A Disappointed Father: #5 Shame not Solutions

July 17, 2012

Kids by their very nature can be exhilirating, charming, frustrating and exhausting – and that could all be in the same hour.  When our kids screw up, our reaction as fathers is critical.  It is natural to be frustrated, disappointed or even angry when our children do something crazy or silly.  Have your kids ever done any of these things:  backed the car into the wall of the garage, stayed up too late before a big event, forgot to tell you about a deadline, posted something crazy on facebook, watched TV all day when a project is due, panicked during a sporting event, blamed their sibling for everything or dressed inappropriately to a fancy event?  I think I have seen all these movies at my house, most of them more than once!!!

It is actually OK to be frustrated or even angry with our kids’ behaviors, but like a good comedien, the key is how we deliver our feelings.  The disappointed father tends to shame his kids with statements like, “You did it again!!!”  “When will you ever learn?”  “I cannot believe you keep doing this!!!”  “You are going nowhere if you keep this up.”  These statements are not helpful because they provide criticism without any way forward.  When we shame our kids, we make the critical mistake of equating mistakes or failures with the identity of our kids.  For the disappointed father, making a mistake, becomes “You’re an idiot.”  Failing or losing becomes, “You’re a failure or a loser.”  See, failing or making a mistake is an event in time and should not be confused with being an personal identity.  Calling someone a failure or a loser is a shaming identity statement, which can be crushing to a kid.

So, how do we avoid being the shaming disappointed father?  Patience, patience and more patience.  We need to calmly assess tough situations with our kids and provide solutions and good questions, rather than just negative blanket statements. If your kid has screwed up and you are ready to kill them, it is a good time to walk away and collect yourself.  Count to 10, go for a walk, talk to your wife, whatever it takes to not launch into a shaming tirade.  Once you are calm, approach your child with these three simple questions:  1.  What happened?  2.  What can we learn from it?  3.  What is the way forward?

The mark of a great father is the ability to provide guidance for his children even in the toughest of circumstances.  Be that man today!!!

Patrick Donohue is a Life Coach who specializes in working with fathers.  Contact him at

7 Sins of A Disappointed Father: #4 The Sibling Comparison

July 14, 2012

“You know we never had these issues with your sister.”  “You should be more like your brother.”  “Your sister never got anything lower than a B+.”  “Your brother was the top athlete in his school.”

Fathers, have you ever heard yourself say something like the quotes above?  Comparing siblings is one of the deadliest tricks of the disappointed father.  When we compare our kids to each other, nobody comes out a winner.  The kid on the negative side of the comparison feels shamed, while the kid on the positive side of the comparison now has the wrath of his/her siblings.  As fathers, we look small and not really interested in the uniqueness of our kids.

We certainly can challenge our kids to be great, but not in the context of comparing them to another sibling.  The younger child who follows a star student/athlete in school already intuitively feels the burden of following in the footsteps of their famous sibling.  They do not need us to pile on and suggest that they are lesser if they are not the same as the older sibling.

Instead, let’s focus on the unique giftings and strengths  of each child and build on them. When we lovingly challenge and support the abilities of each of our children, we set them on the path to personal greatness.

Patrick Donohue is a Life Coach in Oak Park, IL.  Contact him at