In counting down the 2011 Parent’s Top Ten List, which is available here, we are discussing numbers 4 and 5 on the list.
4. Check the balance in your emotional bank account with your spouse at least once a week and make deposits
5. Check the balance in your emotional bank account with your child at least once a week and make deposits
We talk a lot about emotional bank accounts in the Redirecting Children’s Behavior course because checking your balance is a sure measure of the trust you have built with others and subsequently your level of influence. In his landmark book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey describes emotional bank accounts as a metaphor for “the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship. It’s the feeling of safeness you have with another human being.”
Just as in a financial bank account, there are deposits and withdrawals in emotional bank accounts. “If I make deposits with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust toward me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust many times if I need to. I can even make mistakes and that trust level, that emotional reserve, will compensate for it.” With our children we add deposits through listening, using a respectful tone, seeking to understand, teaching and guiding, encouraging, speaking our child’s love language and handling conflict calmly. When we have a moment when we happen to be human – we yell or react harshly or punish – our reserves maintain the trust. It isn’t as big a hit to the relationship as it would be if our account was low or overdrawn.
Covey adds, “If I have a habit of showing discourtesy, disrespect, cutting you off, overreacting, ignoring you, becoming arbitrary, betraying your trust, threatening you, or playing little tin god in your life, eventually my Emotional Bank Account is overdrawn. The trust level gets low. Then what flexibility do I have? None. I’m walking on mine fields. I have to be very careful of everything I say. I measure every word. It’s tension city. It’s protecting my backside.” Well none of that sounds like much fun!
Check the balance on your account with your spouse and your children. Add some deposits. Listen. Enjoy giving hugs. Make someone their special breakfast. Win-win negotiate rather than dictate. Go to the park together. Write a love letter to your spouse. Send a post card to your child (even if you haven’t left town!). Put a note in the lunchbox about how special he is to you.
Lovingly tend your emotional bank account and watch the trust grow.
To hear this as a podcast, click here.