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7 Deadly Sins of a Disappointed Father: #2 The Wet Blanket

June 29, 2012

Daughter says:  “Hey Dad, I got 5 A’s and 1 B this semester, isn’t that awesome?”  Dad replies:  “What happened in the class where you got the B?”

Sons says:  “Hey Dad, I got 3 hits in the game in 4 at bats.”  Dad replies:  “What happened in the fourth at bat?”

Now you might say, hey Pat, the Dad is just being curious and asking a question.  Wrong answer!!!  The dad is missing an opportunity to celebrate with his child and communicating that “the child could have really done just a little better”.  And could the child do better?  Of course, but that does not need to be the first thing out of our mouths as fathers.  Our job is not to douse the flames of celebration by pointing out what is missing.  Fathers who consistently do this will alienate and even create a sense of hostility in their children.

There is a famous story about Emmanuel Agassi, the father of tennis star Andre Agassi. The elder Agassi relentlessly coached the younger Agassi into becoming a professional tennis player.  Emmanuel used a combination of shame, guilt, cruelty and threats to get his results.  Unbearably long practice sessions were followed by verbal beratings and threats to quit.  Fiinally, when Andre scaled the tennis world and won his first Wimbledon championship in a thrilling 5 set match, he breathlessly called his dad with a huge sense of pride and relief and exclaimed, “We did it!!!  We finally won a major!!!”  The first words out of Emmanuel’s mouth were, “You should have beat him in four sets instead of five.”  (watch the clip of Agassi talking about his Dad)

Wow!!!  Talk about a buzz kill.  Talk about an invalidating comment.  When our kids succeed, it is time for us to celebrate with them.  In that moment of victory, we do not need point out flaws so “they won’t get a big head”.  That’s pure nonsense!!!  Father’s who are secure join in the celebration with their children and encourage them to even higher heights.  Put away the “wet blanket” and join the party Dad.

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

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