“It takes two to argue.” This is such a simple concept, but one that can have profound implications. Unfortunately, this sentence is not usually popping into my head when I’m frustrated and trying to manage my emotions. However, recently I didn’t argue. In fact, I said nothing at all, and as it turns out, it was a good strategy – for me, as well as for the son I wanted to kill.

Yesterday, one of my boys asked me for gas money. He had a break in income when he recently switched jobs, so he was short on cash. Being the understanding father, I lent him my credit card. It was only when I received a call two hours later from a stranger that I rethought my decision. “Is this Dan St. Romain? I believe I found your credit card sitting on the gas pump at Valero.” Yes. This incredibly good Samaritan turned in the card and did some searching to find my number. (This is where having an unusual last name pays off.)

When my son saw me shortly thereafter, he immediately began apologizing and explaining – then he just stopped and waited. “Rebuttal?” he said. “Nope,” I said. He just looked at me, blinked, apologized again, and walked out of the room. Later that day he came with me to get something to eat, as he put it, “just to come along.” He didn’t eat anything. And even later when leaving the house he spontaneously said he needed a hug before exiting. That was when I realized – my son’s own guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.

Sometimes words just complicate things. When you have a healthy relationship with an individual and conflict occurs, let silence work a little magic. Our own internal voices have more power over our actions than the voices of others – so build strong relationships that prompt others to reflect on their behaviors. Though my son will inevitably make more mistakes in the future, I believe the natural consequence of his own guilt will help him be more careful moving forward. As a dad, I can’t really ask for more than that.