Depositing connections into emotional bank accounts

Published 7:01 am Sunday, February 5, 2017

By Gema Alvarado-Guerrero

Parenting Resource Center Executive Director

Question: I recently heard of an “emotional bank account.” What does that mean?

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Answer: When someone refers to an emotional bank account, they are referring to a metaphor derived from Stephan Covey, author of the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” This metaphor seeks to explain an interpersonal relationship you have with another individual, such as your child.

A bank account lets you make deposits and withdraw funds. This can also happen in your relationship with your child. In your emotional bank account, the deposits you are making refer to emotional connections that establish trust, whereas withdrawals refer to situations in which that trust can be weakened.

To build a trusting relationship with our children, we must aim to make meaningful deposits, such as showing our children that they can trust us, giving empathetic responses to difficult situations, displaying forgiveness, and apologizing when necessary. That way, when you must make a withdrawal, such as forgetting to come and eat lunch with your child like you had promised that morning; you have a strong enough connection (or balance) to make that withdrawal and not feel that your relationship is on the verge of being destroyed. It lets your child know that this is not going to be a regular occurrence, because traditionally, you have always followed up with what you promise; but may have had a last minute situation surface that you couldn’t get away form.

On the other hand, if you keep taking out of your account with not enough positive deposits, you will find yourself in a negative situation where the trust will be hard to recuperate because your child has become accustomed to uncertainty.

Gema Alvarado-Guerrero is the Executive Director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin. If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about family challenges, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434-9528.  For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599.