Balancing the Emotional Bank Account

In his book “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” Stephen Covey discusses the emotional bank account. This is a metaphorical bank account that we have between us and the people with whom we have relationships. When it comes to building relationships with others, we add credit to the bank account with acts of kindness and support. The aim is to build up the bank account so that when a debit is made we do not go into debt; keeping the emotional bank account in balance.

A lot of the time, the ‘credit’ is not the challenge for us. It is taking the debit from the relationship or making the ‘ask’ that many find difficult. The simple act of asking for help seems to present a challenge. How hard is it to say, “I am struggling right now, will you help me please?”

Lots of children will refrain from asking for help. In the world of optometry it is known that children will not complain of poor eyesight because they believe it to be the norm. A child may not tell you that they have a vision problem because they may think the way they see is the way everyone sees. Children will typically attempt to do the work, but with a lowered level of comprehension or efficiency. That is why eyesight tests in young children are so important.

Everybody needs help - so why is it so hard to ask for it?

Asking for help can be challenging. Knowing that we are in need of help can be hard to identify or admit because we are often taught to be self-reliant and independent. Asking for help can feel uncomfortable and some people describe it as having to ‘swallow their pride’. It takes courage to reach out and say that we are not managing, we are unsure about something or we just need a shoulder to cry on. How we go about asking for help and whether or not we are open to help sends powerful messages to our children.

There are many reasons why children will not reach out for help:

  • They do not really believe that talking about it will help
  • They or others see it as a sign of weakness
  • They prefer to do things themselves and do not like to rely on others
  • There is nobody who they feel able to talk to
  • They are not sure who they can trust and if what they say will remain confidential
  • They have tried asking for help in the past but it did not go very well and it put them off    
  • They justify their feelings or make excuses to themselves in order to avoid asking for help
  • They feel scared or worried about what might happen
  • They are embarrassed or ashamed



As adults we send messages about whether or not seeking help is acceptable. Be sure to send positive messages about asking for help. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Accept that everybody needs help sometimes, including you. Recognise when you are not managing and ask for help.
  • Reframe asking for help as a strength and not a weakness. Facing our fears about asking for help takes courage.
  • Respond positively when your child asks you for help and try to give them your full attention or organise a time when you can talk uninterrupted.
  • Try not to minimise their feelings, thoughts or situation. Show you understand that it is hard to ask for help and that you care.
  • Avoid viewing help-seeking as a sign of failure. Instead try viewing it as a normal part of life and as an important life skill. It is fine to make mistakes.
  • Share a story with your child about a time when you needed help. Be open and honest about times when you needed extra support and how you went about asking for it.

Allowing others to help you, sharing your struggles and being vulnerable with people you trust can strengthen your relationships. How we respond to children’s calls for help with the small things can influence how they ask for help with larger concerns.

As adults we have a role to play in ensuring that children have positive experiences when they reach out for support, so that when the serious issues arise they feel safe and secure in asking for help. By asking for help, children are actually strengthening relationships if we are to believe Covey, because they are developing their emotional bank accounts. Being able to ask for help when you need it is an essential skill and we will continue to model it at Yateley Manor for the children.


Robert Upton