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Growing your child’s emotional piggy bank

Son and mom putting coins into a piggy bank

As adults, we’re familiar with the concept of bank accounts – we make deposits in order to pay for our needs and wants. Children do the same thing with their piggy banks, saving up their allowances, birthday money and other pennies for when they have something they want to buy. But did you also know your daily interactions with your child can make deposits or withdrawals from their emotional piggy bank? 

All humans have an emotional piggy bank, and throughout the day all your interactions result in a deposit or a withdrawal. For example, if someone brings you your favorite treat – that’s a deposit! Someone cuts you in line - that’s a withdrawal. All these little things add up, and if you’ve had more withdrawals than deposits, you may feel like you don’t have much left to give. As parents, you can make sure your children have plenty of deposits, so they can better deal with the withdrawals that come their way. 

6 ways to make deposits into your child’s emotional piggy bank: 

  1. Understanding your child. Like adults, all children are unique. Knowing what will be meaningful to your child will make sure the deposit is impactful. 
  2. Keeping commitments. Making sure you keep promises made to your child helps build trust, so they know they can count on you. 
  3. Clarifying expectations. Clearly tell your child what is expected of them. Don’t assume they know what the rules are, what chores to do, etc.  
  4. Attending to the little things. Small gestures like a favorite treat in their lunchbox or a note in their backpack lets your child know you’re thinking of them. 
  5. Showing personal integrity. Show your child how to be truthful and honest, so they have a model to follow.  
  6. Apologizing when you make a withdrawal. Parents make mistakes, too. When you make a withdrawal to your child’s piggy bank, a simple “I’m sorry” can go a long way. 

Examples of deposits and withdrawals 

The hope is that you can make enough deposits into your child’s emotional piggy bank, so that when they come across withdrawals at school, sports or with friends, they have enough deposits to effectively manage the situation, their emotions and not feel depleted. This can help your child maintain a healthy mindset and relationship with others, including a solid level of trust, during any challenge they may face. 

Here are some examples of deposits you can make on a daily basis, and withdrawals you should try to avoid: 


  • Really listen – don’t interrupt or be distracted by other tasks. 
  • Spend intentional 1-on-1 time with your child. 
  • Notice what they’re doing and comment on it. For example “That’s a great drawing, I love the colors you used!” 
  • Be present. Try to attend the activities that are important to them as much as you can. 
  • Be kind and patient. 
  • When your child makes a mistake, be compassionate and help them try and solve the problem. 
  • Laugh with your child. 
  • Keep promises made to your child. If a plan must be broken, explain why and make an alternate plan. 
  • Greet your child when they come home. 
  • Apologize when you make a mistake. 


  • Checking your phone when your child is speaking to you. 
  • Yelling or screaming at your child. 
  • Criticizing the way your child is doing something. 
  • Being sarcastic. 
  • Speaking negatively about your child to others. 
  • Interrupting your child while they’re speaking. 

We hope this helps you understand easy ways you can make meaningful deposits into your child’s emotional piggy bank, so previous challenges now become opportunities and they can be their happiest selves!  

Physical Therapist