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Emotional Bank Accounts & Family Balances

Thursday, April 3, 2014 @ 01:04 AM

Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, sApril 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:

Courtesy                                                              Thoughtfulness

Keeping Agreements                                           Acts of Kindness

Gentle words                                                       Accountability

Fun                                                                      Helpfulness

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

Violating Expectations                                             Discourtesy

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”

Sarcasm                                                                   Assuming

Humiliation                                                               Ridiculing

“You” statements                                                     Criticism


Adapted from © 2003 Resource Realizations      Steven Covey




2 Responses to “Emotional Bank Accounts & Family Balances”

  1. lynnc says:

    How very true. Our children love to share stories about our fun family times when they were young. As they are now adults, the concepts surrounding the Emotional Bank Account becomes more valuable. We are continuing to learn how to be with each other as well as build lasting relationships in their adult lives.

  2. Susan D says:

    adoptive parenting
    #adoptive parenting
    What a great reminder for paall people as well as parents on HOW to be to invest in a positive relationship. I am going to spend some time and put them in alphabetical order for each category — Deposit/Withdraw– so that I can consciously choose them as the situation warrants. One thing I think is really important with teens is to understand their point of view first. Well, I guess that would be key to any relationship — to understand first before jumping in and reacting.

    I was at a meeting the other night and a parent made a comment about how easy “these kids” have it — they don’t have to worry about clothing, or having a job, or whatever else and that it should be easy for them to go to school and make good grades. I think this kind of assumption or presumption would be alienating to a teen if they were feeling overwhelmed or disconnected. It sure wouldn’t help in a creating give and take and a dialogue if you can’t first see their world view.

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