Stephen Covey for Theories on Thursday

I may be ahead of myself as we have not yet covered emotional intelligence, but I think this post goes well with our discussion on poverty and yesterday's post about helping kids from poverty.  With that said, let's chat about Dr. Stephen Covey's Emotional Bank Account metaphor.

By the way, today is less "theory" and more bright idea.

(Photo from a Google search and Your Guide to Living; Photoshopped by Jen)
Dr. Covey has a metaphor that I consider when I am working with students or little O (and sometimes manage to forget when talking to my husband after a long day).  Sad, but true, on long days.  Dr. Covey calls it a person’s “Emotional Bank Account.”  Basically, each person you come in contact with has an emotional bank account - just like a financial bank account.  A person's emotional bank account accepts deposits and withdrawals.

Deposits are kind words, thoughtful feedback, a smile, love, kept promises, courtesy, respect, patience or a listening ear.  Withdrawals are negative comments, sarcasm, broken promises, lies, impatience and the list goes on.  Special note:  Each person values different things, so these lists of deposits and withdrawals will vary person-to-person.

Each time you interact with another person, you have an opportunity to make a deposit or withdrawal into their emotional bank account.  Which one will you choose?

With this metaphor in mind, consider the following questions:
  • How are you making deposits in your students’ emotional bank accounts?
  • How are you making unintended withdrawals? I am optimistic they are unintended....
  • For students from poverty, how can you make deposits to their emotional bank accounts knowing financial deposits, from a teacher, would be an anomaly?
  • Are you happy with your current “banking activity" overall?

If you want to students to embrace this metaphor, as well, consider this activity from Covey’s Google e-book.  The activity is for young kids, but it could be modified for any age, in my opinion.  It comes from Dr. Covey's book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families.

If you need a good person to practice deposit making, choose a family member or loved one, as your guinea pig. 

Don't tell my husband, but I am secretly practicing emotional bank deposits on him.   And no, I don't think he reads this blog, so my secret is safe.  Mums the word. 

Off to make a deposit,



  1. A friend emailed me and said she's heard of the "love bank" before. I like that imagery, too!


  2. Ever since I read "Teaching with Love and Logic" I have tried to make frequent deposits in my students bank accounts, especially in my two most difficult classes. While I thought making deposits would be easy, considering the amount of flattery I use on my students, I have found that my deposits aren't quite as effective. How do you make a deposit while also steering away from flattery and extrinsic motivation (like food...)? I frequently make positive phone calls home, but that still doesn't seem to make a lasting impression. Last week I took three of my most difficult students in my co-taught class to the museum and out to lunch, and yet when I asked for a "withdrawal" which was to come to my classroom on time and stay seated, they refused. I think the idea makes sense - essentially build rapport so that you can earn enough credibility and trust for students to want to give you something back. However, it has been about a month since I've been making deposits and not much has changed.

  3. Would it be possible to instead of creating a "bank," make the deposits on a more public forum? I think it would be cool to create checks that students can write to other students (and I can write to them, I can encourage their parents and loved ones write to them, etc) and then post these checks all over the classroom. This way, I can not only motivate my students in their education, but I can ensure that all of their motivators have an impact too.

  4. I love the emotional bank account idea. I notice such low self- esteem with students and it breaks my heart when other students feed off of it and make more withdraws. The idea of having an actual bank for students to deposit in sounds great, but with how much time I don't get in a week, someone mentioned a withdraw bank. Instead of a student saying a withdraw, they write in down and put it in the bank. This way the students can get frustration off their chest, without being hurtful. I'm torn by this, not knowing if this could create problems or promote negative language. Help. :)
    Lucy A

  5. I love everything emotional intelligence related. Making students aware of how their classmates feel when they make 'withdrawls' is necessary. If a class gets this concept and a student says something inappropriate or hurtful you could just mention that what they said sounded like a withdralw type of comment. In my fieldword I would notice a student saying something mean or laughing when a classmate gets an answer wrong, the teacher would repeat their comment or say somethign like "It's not nice to laugh when Sally gets tha answer wrong!"- this just called more attention to the student who was already embarrased. This "Emotional Bank Account" idea would be a good way to make them aware of their actions without calling too much attention to what they said.

    Emillee C.

  6. I like reading about styles that can be used in the classroom and personal live for the teacher, i feel it helps everyone grow when their in a classroom, a teacher doesnt have to stop progress while teaching. I would without a doubt start this in an elemerary setting so children can establish the positive and negitive effects of their emotions.
    Gyler T

  7. Emotional bank accounts is actually a very good method. This post did make me realize how we have the ability to make a deposit or withdrawal with everyone that we interact with. As educators we should try our best to always make a deposits and put similes in our students faces. I love children and during my fieldwork I saw students making fun of a little girl who was a little over weight. It broke my heart seeing the expression on her face when the students were making their withdrawals. I came up to the student and told her she was beautiful and not to worry about what other people say. She looked at me and smiled. As future teachers we should always try to help our students and help them achieve a good self-esteem. Ana V.

  8. I love this. Self Esteem is huge and I believe teaching about emotional bank accounts to your students will help promote the caring classroom where it is easier for all to love. I never even felt bad about my possibly snarky remarks to MY husband after a long day until I saw this visual of a bank that was his happiness and self worth that I was just taking from!! I also saw this in my fieldwork unfortunately. Not so much from the Special Education teacher but the regular classroom teacher that may not have understood the specific needs of the students. She was exasperated with an autistic boy because he wanted to show her his work but they were on another topic. Poor thing. She yelled at him and he had tears in his eyes. He quietly said to himself "I thought I was a good boy" I winked at him and he smiled. His emotional bank account took a big hit.

  9. Students can be so mean to each other, and they don’t realize the damage they could be doing. With today’s cyber bullying taking place, I think Dr. Covey’s metaphor should be introduced into classrooms. It should be emphasized that it’s not just what you say to someone, but also what you write about a person in social media that can make a deposit or a withdrawal from their emotional bank account.
    Patricia L.

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