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7 Sins of A Disappointed Father: #3 Back in my Day…

July 2, 2012

You ever catch yourself saying things like,  “When I was in high school…” or “You kids today…”  If you do, here’s a tip —stop!!!  You are probably heading for Disappointed Father territory. We do not tend to compare the current generation favorably to the past (nor did our parents!!!).  The truth is the world is much different than when most of us were growing up (see graphic). The average high school student encounters 400% more information than just 20 years ago.  The choices and possibilites, both good and bad, are incredible in 2012.  The increase in information and choices has added significant complexity to parenting. But, here’s the interesting and encouraging thing, kids still need to answer the same questions they did 50 years ago.  Three key questions matter for every kid:  1) Who am I?  2)  Do I matter (or fit in)?  3)  Will I make it?

Fathers, we can go a long way to helping our kids answer these questions in a positive manner.  Point out your kids strengths and stay with them in difficult times to build resilience.  Assist your kids without enabling and encourage them without being fake. Lecturing about how things were in the 1970s or 1980s 0r even 1990s is not super helpful.  Everything has changed, yet the most important questions remain the same.

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


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

7 Deadly Sins of a Disappointed Father: #1 Negative Body Language

June 22, 2012

I have been a lot about the term “disappointed father” and its effects on our children.  All of us can be disappointed fathers from time to time and the effects can be quite devastating for our kids.  For the next seven posts, I will break down 7 different things we do as fathers to convey disappointment to our kids.

#1 Negative Body Language

When my kids were in elementary school, they used to say to me, “Daddy, you have to work on not giving such mean looks.”  Now I am thinking, “Hey kids, daddy got a lot more than mean looks when he was growing up!!!  Be thankful that is all I am doing.”  However, slowly over time I came to understand how my subtle scowling was putting up a wall between myself and my kids.  Frankly, I did not even realize I was doing it until it was pointed out to me.  When I became aware of it, it became much easier for me to modify my behavior.

Here are some of the most common negative body language moves that we do as fathers:

*Pursing our lips (impatience, frustration), lip curling up (contempt), furrowed brow (exasperation, frustration) scowl (anger)

*Arm crossed (not open to input)

*Slumped shoulders (disappointed)

*Glare (anger)

*Feet pointed away from our children (disinterest)

*Fingers or ankles interlocked (anxiety)

*Jaw tightening ( tension)

*Pointing hands or fingers (dominance)

If you want to read a fascinating book on body language, I would highly recommend What Every Body is Saying by Joe Navarro. Navarro is a retired FBI agent who is an expert on nonverbal communication.  I learned a ton reading this quick little book that will definitely help me as a father.

So, what is your is negative body language trap?  I’d love to hear your comments.

Patrick Donohue is a Life Coach.  Contact him at

Being Present

June 14, 2012

As fathers, it is easier to “buy presents” than to “be present”.  Buying presents simply involves flashing a credit card, while being present is a combination of intentionality, focus and listening. Our kids can certainly tell the difference between the two types of presents.  While they might clamor for the cotton candy like thrill of physical presents, deep down our children yearn for the sensation of our attention and presence.  Feed your children with the lasting nourishment of your focused presence.

True Inspiration – you gotta watch this…

June 5, 2012

This 3 minute video is the perfect combination of competition, courage and the love of a father.

The Message of Money

June 4, 2012

I was at an interesting conference this weekend with my friend Perry Marshall about how our inner beliefs effect our outward attitudes and actions concerning money.  The messages we received growing up, both good and bad, impact our view of money.  Money is connected to power and power tends to illuminate what is on the inside of us.  This means our dealings with money can be a window to our souls.  The messages we communicate to our kids about money tell everyone a lot about what is important to us and how we think.  Am I communicating fear and and a sense of “there is never enough”?  Or am I communicating that we should “live for today” and forgot the future?  Or am I communicating that generosity is important and abundance is possible?

Whatever we communicate, rest assured our kids are listening, because we are not really just teaching them about money; we are teaching them about what life is all about.

Patrick Donohue is a Life Coach in Oak Park, IL.  For a free consultation, contact him

Creating Memories

May 27, 2012

Happy Memorial Day!!!  As we remember the men and women who have faithfully served our country, let’s also think about memories with our kids.  I am convinced that creating positive memories and then talking about them, celebrating them and laughing about them is one of the most powerful things we can do with our kids.  In fact, the memories and the stories associated with them are often more fun than the actual event.

Last year, my daughter Sarina was paid to clean a doctors office once a week.  She would typically doe this job on Sunday nights.  During the winter when it was dark, I got into the habit of joining here during her cleaning time and even helping out a little myself.  We had great conversations about life as we drove the 15-20 minutes to and from the office the doctors office.  In late June, I was at an weekend coaching training and was totally beat when I came home on Sunday night.  I had already told Sarina that she was on her own that week for cleaning.  My wife Binita and I went out for a quiet dinner to chill from a hectic weekend. Midway through the dinner, I received a text from Sarina asking if there was any chance I could join her for cleaning. I immediately wrote back that I was tired and that she needed to go on her own.  However, something inside of me said that going tonight could be very meaningful, so  I texted her back and said I could go but not until 9:45 pm at night, which was much later than we normally went.

We ended up having a great time on our late night cleaning mission.  We laughed, danced and even sang some songs together that night.  That was almost a year ago and since that time we have referenced our “late night cleaning adventure” many times.  The bond between us got a little bit deeper that night and built a foundation for future adventures.

Sometimes, it just takes a little bit of effort to make a memory that last a lifetime.

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