April Fool’s Day. Practical jokes marked the day and made us think of the importance of laughter. This is especially important for families whose kids had tough starts and who wrestle to manage their behaviors. Too often parents fall into ruts of endless consequences for a child’s poor behavior choices. While discipline is essential and yes, consequences have their role, it is essential that families have fun together. It builds warmth into relationships and creates an interest in the feelings, opinions, and values of family members. This is the glue that cements families together. Steven Covey calls this emotional connection, an Emotional Bank Account. Like a monetary bank account, it must be funded regularly to avoid depleting the balance and running bankrupt.
What are your favorite family fun activities? For kids who are easily overwhelmed, how do you manage to keep the excitement from overflowing into chaos? Perhaps one parent/one child games are best. Until the entire family can play together happily, find ways to enjoy being together in smaller groups. Keep trying to play as a family and remind kids that even if it didn’t work out this time, there will be another opportunity to succeed.
Be creative in finding ways to laugh and be happy together. Set an intention to make family fun a priority. Take photos and encourage conversations that recall the happy times spent being together. These moments of intimacy build a cushion of good will and happiness that carry families through the times of crisis and conflict. Keep a “high balance” in the Family Memory Bank, too. Focus on the good memories; it’s easy too lose sight of them when raising kids with tough starts, brittle emotional thermostats and challenging behaviors.
For more details on the Emotional Bank Account concept:
Emotional Bank Account (based on material by Dr. Steven Covey)
One of the basic skills of adult coping is learning how to be fiscally responsible. A checking account requires monitoring. Deposits must exceed withdrawals. A robust balance provides peace of mind and security. An overdraft can produce very unpleasant results. Bounced checks. Service Fees. Account closure. Bankruptcy.
The emotional health of a family can be viewed in a similar way. Deposits can be made in many ways. Some can be large, some small, but each is significant. As with cash balances, the “interest” really increases over time. This emotional nest egg provides a cushion or resource for the tough times when they arrive –and their arrival is a certainty. Families who have nurtured this emotional priority have a rich resource available. In families running on low balances, emotional bankruptcy can result. This painful outcome can be avoided.
The emotional health of a family does not just happen. It is created through intention and conscious effort. It takes the same degree of commitment and intensity as that given to career development. Promotions don’t come to the employee who arrives late, leaves early and goofs off while on the job. This same dynamic operates in family life. What you put into it determines what you will get out of it.
In addition to the joint family account, each has an individual account as well. Each contributes. Each benefits. The family thrives. Making deposits to one’s own account FOR oneself is important as well. This models respect for self and teaches others how to respect themselves as well. The size of the deposit is irrelevant. What is critical is making the deposits and keeping a positive balance. When the time comes for life to present a “draw” on your family’s Emotional Bank Account, how will your family fare?
A few ways of making deposits in the Emotional Bank Account are:
Keeping Agreements Acts of Kindness
Gentle words Accountability
Humor Gift giving
Clarifying expectations Loyalty to the absent
Acknowledgments Understand other point of view first
Genuine compliments Noticing effort
Encouraging the little steps to change Listening to their ideas
“I” statements Acts of service
Awareness of the contribution of others
A few ways of making withdrawals in the Emotional Bank Account are:
Rudeness, arrogance Disloyalty to the Absent
Insist on own points before listening Breaking Promises
Avoiding, ignoring Unkindnesses
Pride, Conceit, Arrogance Negative body language
Camping out in the past Expecting failure
Sitting in judgment Humor as a weapon
Assuming Humor used to deflect
Tone of voice Relying on “mind reading”
“You” statements Criticism
Adapted from © 2003 Resource Realizations Steven Covey