Your child’s emotions are like a bank account. You as a parent make deposits and withdrawals. A child with a full account is happy and able to conquer the world. A child without anything however can be depressed, rebellious, sad, and overall hard to raise.
Here’s how this emotional back account works. Deposits are usually in the form of honesty, courtesy, kindness, thoughtfulness and promises kept in the relationship. On the other hand withdrawals are in the form of discourtesy, breaking promises, disrespect, threatening and ignoring the other persons needs. That is not a complete list but is intended to give you an idea of what makes up the withdrawals and the deposits in an emotional bank account. Really it’s quite basic.
Lets talk about withdrawals for a moment. Have you ever found yourself barking out orders to your children? Things like, “Do your laundry. Do your chores. Get that mess picked up. Get your homework done. Be quiet and don’t bother me now.” Those are all withdrawals in the relationship with your child. Too much of that without some major deposits and you will not have a relationship with your child that involves trust. Instead of having a rich enjoyable relationship with your child, it will quickly develop into a more hostile, combative and defensive relationship. This is probably not where you want the relationship with your child to go.
On the other hand, deposits build up the trust and lead to a much richer relationship. However, as with most things in life there are no quick fixes to real issues. So if you have been taking out too many withdrawals, it will take time to get the account back on the positive side. It will take time for the trust to build back up.
You can probably think of some things that you can do to make deposits in your child’s emotional bank account, but I’m going to talk about a few here.
One thing that can make a big difference is really trying to understand your child. Have you tried to see life through their eyes? Have you tried to imagine what it’s like to be them? Do you take the time to talk with your child, be with them, listen to them, and thus learn about them?
Now you might think you know just what will make great deposits in their emotional bank account. But do you really? Until you have taken the time to really understand them, you may not. So, you need to learn what really makes a deposit in their life. Just because you like to take your kid out for ice cream doesn’t mean that it is a major deposit for them. Remember what one persons considers important another may consider only a minor detail. So seek to understand your child first, before you try making deposits. You need to know what they need first.
Now on with some deposits. These are some guidelines and not absolute rules. Use these ideas as a stepping stone to get you started. Adapt them to your own life and relationships.
Little things can go along way in a relationship. Little things like basic kindness and respect. Do your kids feel like you respect them? Maybe they hear you complaining about their table manners on the phone with your friend; what message does that give them? Do you stick up for your kids? Do you treat them gently and with compassion or are you jumping on their case when they spill the milk? Respect your child for what they are--a fellow human being. They don’t have to earn the right to be respected. As a parent you should respect them out of love.
Here is another area--apologies. Do you apologize to your kids when you mess up? They know when you bow it. How can you expect them to not yell at their sibling when you yell at them? Kids are brilliant! They can see through us like an x-ray. Oh, we like to think we can hide, but we are only fooling ourselves. So apologize to your kids when you treat them wrong, when you let them down, when you break a promise or disrespect them.
Keep the promises you make your child. Everyone likes promises to be kept but kids can almost hang their lives on what we promise. The problem is we might not think that much of the promise and blow it off. But to your child a broken promise is a huge disappointment. You can make major deposits in your child’s emotional bank account by keeping your promises.
Here is another easy mistake; misunderstandings that come from different expectations. You might say in an offhanded way that you’d like to take them to the park this afternoon. For you, it’s like saying, "It’s a nice day and if I get time and have enough energy, maybe I’ll take you to the park." Your child however might hear and think," Mom’s taking me to the park today, I can hardly wait." If you don’t end up taking your child to the park, they will likely feel that you broke your promise; while you feel like you never made a promise in the first place. I’ve run into this issue many times with my daughter and it creates some big withdrawals. Just be aware that these kinds of situations can lead to some unintended withdrawals from your child’s emotional bank account. Being careful to clarify each person's expectations can prevent some heavy loses that can instead lead to deposits.
Okay, as with any bank account the more in it the better. The more you have invested in your child’s emotional bank account, the more they will trust you. The more they trust you the better your relationship will be. They will in turn be much more likely to be filling your emotional bank account as well. But just remember it isn’t the child’s role to meet your emotional needs. Sure, they will make deposits, but they are learning. Set a good example and in time it will come back to you and those around them.