Emotional Bank Accounts

Over the past few weeks we had a couple of incidents with various kids – ok – ALL of the kids at one point and thought we’d explain the idea of “Emotional Bank Accounts”.

I had read years ago Stephen Covey’s writing on this and it resonated well. So we sat down with the kids and explained how with every relationship you open up an “emotional bank account”. You need to make regular deposits so your account can grow, you need to make sure you know what currency the other person accepts (sometimes a deposit is not a deposit to that person), and you need to check the account regularly. The more deposits in an account, the more security you have. The more you can enjoy the bank account/relationship too. Obviously, withdrawals will be made – but you need to keep them in check so that you don’t make too many without any deposits, and that you don’t make any major ones and cause the account to go into overdraft.

This discussion seemed to go well, and the kids seemed to understand the idea. The concept that was hard for them – and really for us all – is what do you do when you make a withdrawal – and a big one?

We explained that some withdrawals are very difficult to overcome – especially when trust is shattered. But most withdrawals can be corrected if dealt with immediately. We talked about forgiveness and the role that has. All of us have different challenges along the path of forgiveness. We know this about our kids: some freely say sorry, but do the same thing over and over; some say sorry but really don’t mean it; some ignore the whole situation. We reviewed with them the “forgiveness steps”: Acknowledging and then apologizing, asking for forgiveness (may not be accepted at this stage), correcting the wrongdoing or doing things to make up for it, asking for forgiveness again, and then not repeating the offence. Another important consideration is how quickly you try to right the wrong. Waiting too long causes interest to build on the withdrawal.

It is not an easy thing to forgive someone, or an easy thing to ask for forgiveness. “Forgive and Forget” doesn’t mean if you forget to apologize then all is forgiven. It is too often forgotten how important the forgiveness steps are. You can’t just ignore situations and figure that time heals everything. It doesn’t. Sometimes it can just make things worse.

So often pride comes in the way of asking for forgiveness – and giving it. This week there were so many examples I saw of pride taking over and wrongs not being corrected. I want to teach my kids that being humble enough to ask for forgiveness is not only an attractive quality, it is necessary for any relationship to be healthy. We need to be on top of our emotional bank accounts with the people with whom we have the most important relationships. Daily deposits are necessary and withdrawals need to be limited. When a withdrawal is made, we need to take the necessary steps to rebuild our balance.


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