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FAMILY: The Family Emotional Bank Account

Updated: May 3, 2023

What is a Family Bank Account? It has nothing to with a checking or savings account, but it has everything to do with the emotional health of our spouse, children and friends.

Before we get started, I'd like to share something a little funny. Enjoying a nice refreshing shower, a wife was interrupted when her husband poked his head in and asked "What shall I give Lucy for lunch?"

Although he was always very good with their baby daughter, there were times when the wife wanted him to think for himself without always bothering her. This was one such occasion. "It's up to you." she replied disinterested. "There's plenty of food in the house. I'll tell you what, why don't you pretend that I'm not at home?"

"OK" her husband said and he went away. Just a few minutes later, her cell phone rang and it was her husband. She answered "Yessss?" The voice on the other end said "Hi honey! How are you? What shall I give Lucy for lunch?" Anyway. . .

Family relationships are so important! I've had conversations with a lot of young men and ladies through my years of teaching. Countless students are hurting. I mean really hurting. In talking with these students, I believe that a lot of their hurt stems from the breakdown of the family. This void is leaving many students emotionally bankrupt and feeling valueless. As a society, we need to be intentional with addressing this problem.

One Thing Hike

I'm the regional director for an organization called Men and Ladies of Honor in West Michigan. Men and Ladies of Honor is an after school club that teaches biblical character to young men and ladies in the public schools.

We have a yearly camp for our young men and a camp for our young ladies in the fall. A couple of years ago, I was at a Men of Honor Camp with about 40 young men. We went on what we call the One Thing Hike. Each young man was given a rock to carry quietly as we hiked through the woods to a high point overlooking the river below.

The rock that they carried represented that One Thing or burden that had been weighing them down. God’s beauty surrounded us; a fresh dusting of snow covered the ground, the water rushing below, the fall colors, the stillness of the woods. You could feel God's presence.

We gave each young man a chance to share that One Thing that was weighing them down. Then they were to throw the rock into the river as a symbol of letting it go and releasing whatever was weight them down.

Time after time, young men came up to share their One Thing or burden. Guess what the common denominator was? It was the breakdown in their family; my parents are divorced, I was abandoned by my real parents and now I’m adopted, I live in a foster home, I live with my grandpa and grandma, my family is a bunch of drug addicts, my dad abuses me. IT went on and on. IT broke my heart. They were feeling defeated, valueless and worthless. They longed for deposits of belonging, security and love.

Making Emotional Deposits

Making emotional deposits in the lives of your family members is like having a savings account with a bank. We put money into our bank account to build up or save money for when we need it later, right? We earn interest on the money that we have saved up. It continues to increase in value. It feels good to build up our bank account so that we have some extra cash on hand!

We can also use it when we need to make a withdrawal from time to time when we need to make a payment. But, we can’t take out more money than we have in our account or what will the bank do? Right, they’ll penalize us for it. We’d have to pay an overdraft fee. Right? And we don’t want that.

The same concept is true with our family and friends. When we make a deposit into a life of a family member or friend with prayer, positive words, following through with promises and our actions, it’s similar to making a deposit in a bank savings account, except we’re building up our family member's or friend's emotional bank account. This makes the family member feel good about themselves. It gives them a sense of confidence, security and love. They feel that they have value and self-worth. Their emotional bank account gets bigger and stronger. Does this make sense?

Making Emotional Withdrawals

There is nothing wrong with having to make an occasional withdrawal from our family or friend's emotional bank accounts. There are times when we may need make a payment by providing guidance, sharing an opposing viewpoint or giving constructive criticism to a family member or friend. It may feel like we are being critical but if we have placed a number of deposits in their lives, it won't feel as though we are attacking them, negatively criticizing them or feel they are being penalized for something that they did.

The same is true with parenting. Sometimes we need to make a withdrawal - when we need to discipline or correct our child. There is nothing wrong with disciplining our child. It’s part of our child’s growth process, right, to learn from their mistakes? It's part of the correction process. We just need to be sure that we have placed numerous deposits into their account ahead of time.

A Healthy Balance

Remember to maintain a healthy balance of deposits into our family member's or friend's emotional bank account. We need to use care when making withdrawals so that we don't overdraw their account. Researchers say that most people need at least 5 deposits to make up for every withdrawal.

If a parent makes only deposits in their child’s emotional bank account (no withdrawals by telling them everything that they do is great and that they never do anything wrong) what is the parent doing to their child? That’s right! The parent is creating a child that thinks they can do no wrong. That can be a big problem!

The opposite is also true. If a parent keeps taking out negative withdrawals from their child’s emotional bank account (by telling them what they are constantly doing wrong and never telling them what they are doing right) what happens? Right, it would deplete their emotional bank account. Just like a regular bank account, there is an overdraft penalty. For children, that penalty is a feeling of worthlessness. They become insecure and lose their self-confidence. Never under estimate the importance of the healthy balance between deposits and withdrawals.

Beware! Sometimes as parents, we are so desperate to see our children display good behavior and do the right things, that we constantly tell them when the are doing something wrong. We forget to tell them when they are doing something good so all they hear is the negative. The same can carry over into our marriage and friendships. We need to stay mindful of this.

Keeping a balanced emotional bank account is crucial. Always make more deposits than withdrawals. If you'd like more help with keeping a balanced emotional bank account, click here to receive your FREE - 'Family Emotional Bank Register'. It will help you keep track of each family member's emotional bank account.

Be sure to listen to my podcast "The Family Emotional Bank Account." Also, check out my blog Parenting Formulas for more related thoughts. God bless you as you strengthen your family relationships.

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