How full is your child’s Emotional Bank Account?

How full is your child’s Emotional Bank Account?

By Di Ridley


Whilst raising children can be extremely rewarding, we know that it is also one of the most stressful things we do too. It often feels like a juggling act!  There is never enough time to do everything.

When we give ourselves permission to have time to look at what is important and what really matters, it is often the relationships in our lives.  Parents generally try to do the best for the children.  So how do we do that in such a busy and stressful life that we create for our families?

One of my favourite metaphors I use in my work as a child psychologist and try and keep in mind in my own parenting of three very busy children, is that of the Emotional Bank Account.  This was a term coined by Dr Steven Covey, author of one of the famous “Seven habits of highly effective people”.

In relation to parenting, we can think of it like putting deposits into our child’s emotional bank account.  The aim is for a healthy bank accounts is to try and make sure we always have more deposits than withdrawals and that we make regular deposits. 

So, what are deposits?  They are acts of kindness, your time, making sure your child feels like they count.  It is not buying them toys, it is the little things you can do every day – listening, encouraging, or parent and child dates.  We want children to feel loved, safe and secure in their relationships.

What are withdrawals then?  These are the times when things don’t go to plan, often when we are tired or when parents have to say no or fall into a parenting trap of yelling or criticising or not spending time with children.  It could be a time when you react strongly or fall into a habit of giving too many instructions.  Most parents experience these too.  If the bank account is in the positive, then some withdrawals are fine.

It can sometimes help to generate a list of “deposits” you would like to make for your children, keeping in mind that different children may need and respond to different types of deposits.  If you make a plan to deposit once a day, it can change the dynamics of the household.  Children become more willing to cooperate because they feel important and valued. The more deposits the better. 

And as some people say, some days you might have to “fake it til you make it!” This means that when you are tired, recognise this and try and make that deposit anyway.  If you find your child is not following the rules, or is highly emotional, find the time to make deposits whenever they are not like this.

Should I be worried? Or when do I need more help?

Speak to your GP and make an appointment to see us if concerned or issues seem bigger than usual.  It is better to get help earlier before problems escalate.  Seeking help is a sign of strength and something we try and encourage in children, so it is a good process to involve children in from an early age.