Negative balance? Deposit into one's emotional account.
Author Willard Harley popularized the concept of emotional “bank accounts” in his excellent book for understanding relationships, His Needs, Her Needs.
His notion related the emotional give and take in marriage between a man and a woman to “fund balances” in a checking account. If you withdraw more than you put in, your fund will “bounce.” Each positive comment, compliment, supportive act, and surprise “just because I love you” gift, is a “deposit” in his or her emotional bank account.
When you do something stupid, lose your tem-per, forget a birthday or anniversary, or come home late without calling, you make a withdrawal from that emotional account. If you withdraw more than you deposit, you are in an emotional deficit with your spouse, and trouble is on the horizon!
It’s the same for children. Your child and all the children you influence have a unconscious emotional account balance. When they have been flooded with positive deposits, they react to life from a perspective that says they are on top of things, they are winners, they can achieve.
When all they feel is the constant drain of emotional withdrawals, their perspective becomes dark and they begin to wonder how much more they can give; how much more will be required of them.
Children react according to these emotional account balances. If more withdrawals are taken than deposits made, their words and actions will scream “insufficient emotional funds!”
Since people cannot operate for long with a negative emotional balance, children and adults alike will seek positive deposits––wherever they can find them. You also need to be aware that withdrawals have a higher amount, they account for more, and it takes a multitude of positive deposits to equal that withdrawal that inevitably comes from time to time.
You think your daughter’s clothing selection is atrocious? You withdrew emotional funds as she walks out the door and you say, “Don’t you have something better to wear?” At school, she’ll find somebody to restore her fund balance by telling her she’s beautiful, her outfit is lovely, and, by the way, what are she doing Friday night?
You make a big, negative deal over your son’s bout with pimples or his wimpy mustache? There’s a drug dealer on the corner who doesn’t even see his rough skin and who flatters him saying, “I wish I could grow a such a great mustache.”
Pick up toys. Do homework. Do this. Do that. These words are emotional “withdrawal” slips. Like withdrawing money to pay bills, some of the withdrawal words are necessary, although they can be phrased softer.
But if you do not make enough deposits, your child will operate at an emotional deficit and that is never good. Hugs and sincere praise are huge deposits. On the other hand, it takes only a few harsh words and a deaf ear to drain the account quickly.
How do you make deposits? Here are three solid deposit slips to use as you communicate with your children:
1. Look your child in the eyes when speaking to her.
Put the newspaper down, the cell phone away, and the television off. Turn and look at him when he speaks to you. Have you ever had people looking over your shoulder at someone else while they talked to you? It tells you their interest level in your conversation is zero. Eye-to-eye contact shows you are genuinely interested in the person with whom you’re speaking and tells her what she is saying is important.
2. Use the child’s name when speaking to him.
Names are important. Names affirm one’s unique identity and recognizes their importance to you and are an important part of our self-worth. Family life minister Walker Moore says he will list all the seminar attendee’s names on the wall before his meetings begin, then remove one name when participants are gone on break. On their return to the room, he notices that person invariably looks all over the wall to find his or her name.
3. One final note, use the deposit word “because” often.
I appreciate you because. . . I love you because. . . I admire you because. . .Don’t simply give your children generic compliments or tell them “you’re wonderful” without a basis for that observation.
Because a child may be going through a rough patch and have a low opinion of themselves at the time, if your compliment is ungrounded, they may think “you don’t know me very well.”
A specific compliment sends a child away thinking, “You know what? I am good at that!” And you can take this to the bank, he will work even harder to be better at it––and other things as well.
Remember, when a child only has withdrawals and no deposits in their emotional bank accounts, rebellion is inevitable, and they will find someone else to make a deposit!
Take time today to make a deposit in your spouses or child’s account. It costs you nothing, but will pay millions in dividends.
My Thought is written by Michael C. Blackwell, BCH President/CEO