Try this: Starting today, stop making deposits into your checking account.
But continue writing checks to pay your bills.
What happens when you write a check the day after your money runs out?
It’s pretty easy to see the financial lesson here. What’s interesting is that we can apply the same lesson to relationships.
So many parents tell me what a struggle it is to get their kids to do anything. They always have to get after them to get up and ready for school, do their homework, eat their vegetables, pick up after themselves, look presentable for church, etc.
It’s exhausting! Parenting is no joke, and continues to be the biggest challenge I’ve ever encountered.
I’d like to share an idea – it felt like a magic trick – I got from my wife when our kids were very young:
You can’t expect to make withdrawals from your kids if you haven’t made any deposits.
Of course, all the feeding, changing diapers, sleepless nights, and providing a roof over their heads are a significant and emotionally expensive deposit. The problem is that kids don’t perceive nor understand those efforts, not at that age. But there is something magical that happens when you sit on the floor with a three-year-old, and let them run the show. You get on their level and let them dictate the play. You are not guiding things along to keep yourself interested, or sneaking glances at your phone as a respite from the intense boredom that develops in 17 seconds, but instead, are 100% present.
Time and time again, I was shocked at how amazingly valuable even 10 minutes spent in this way could be. There was always less push back and more cooperation later on.
Yes, I still have to remind my kids about things from time to time. But I don’t experience the struggle many parents describe when I ask my kids to do something, and I don’t think it’s because I won the magical kid lottery. It’s because Kim and I are conscious of making deposits, not just always making withdrawals by demanding things from them. (And believe me, I have experienced the consequences when we slip.)
The thing is, this is not just a handy parenting hack. It works with every relationship the same way as it does with the bank down the street.
If your relationship seems dull, dying, or downright combative, it might be worth asking: when is the last time I actually made a deposit?
To be present. To ask a thoughtful question, actually listen to the answer, and then ask a follow-up question. To do something for that person that wasn’t on the top of your list of your interests.
It’s the sports agnostic wife watching a football game with her fanatical husband.
It’s the husband taking a few hours to help his wife set up her new scrapbooking room.
It’s the dad participating in a Barbie fashion show on the living room floor.
It’s the mom asking her son about the ins and outs of Minecraft.
It’s the parent sitting on the floor with a toddler, willing to be the one taking orders for a change.
If you want relationships with many happy returns, you need to make deposits first.