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“Yeah, but I was right!!!”

February 1, 2012

How do you relate to your kids?

The other day I was having a rather intense conversation with my sixteen year old son Shaan.  He was taking a point of view that I thought was wrong and I let him know it.  I got a little fired up and and let him know that I thought I was right and he was wrong.  After a few minutes when the conversation went quiet, I wondered what I had “won” as my son looked dejected.  Yes, I had proven a point about right/wrong, but  I had also inflicted damage on our relationship.  I had fallen into the trap of “teaching him a lesson”, which was code for  “I am going to show you how right I am”.

I know some of you are thinking, “Hey Pat, sometimes kids need to be taught about right and wrong.”  I totally agree.  But here is the thought of the day,  Protect the relationship first.  When I coach people, I talk about the spectrum of Right/Wrong vs Relationship.  In most settings, either being Right or Protecting the Relationship is clearly more important.  Relationships that are built on Right/Wrong tend to be hierarchical, distant and potentially shaming.  Relationships that value “protecting the relationship”  tend to be built on trust, respect and emotional intelligence.  The relational spectrum is not static, we tend to move around on it, but we also tend to have a place where we land most often.

Fathers, here is my plea to you ( and myself), Protect the relationship first.  Yes, it feels good to be right and to dispense lessons, but those are short term wins with potential long term damaging consequences.  When we focus on being “right”, we tend to downplay the emotional well being of our children.  Proving a point is great, but it does not tend to build trust.  I want to build trusting relationships with my kids, so when real issues like sex, drugs, career, faith and marriage surface, we can have deep meaningful conversations.  Protecting the relationship does not mean avoiding difficult conversations.  It just means our focus needs to be on our children’s emotional well being rather than just driving a point home.    

So, after I settled down from driving a point home with my Shaan, I went up to him and apologized for my delivery and attitude.  And you know what?  That was the most important thing I did that day.  Much more important than the orignal point I was driving home.

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

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