Building Positive Relationships

Don’t we all yearn for connections with those we care about most?

Positive relationships among family members provide a closeness and feeling of love that make a happier family. While you are probably doing better than you think you are, we can all improve the positive feelings in our families.

Reviewing the principles of building positive relationships can help us do this. There are many ways to build positive relationships in a family, but we'd like to highlight three:

  • (a) quality and quantity time,

  • (b) continual effort,

  • (c) caring words and actions.

Next Steps:

  1. We invite you to begin by viewing the 7-minute video “You Can Do This-Building Positive Relationships.”

  2. Take a look at The Big Picture section for an overview of the principles of building positive relationships.

  3. Then choose an activity for teaching positive behaviors to replace misbehaviors in the section labeled Things to Try.

  4. Finish with some inspiration from the There is Hope section.

Remember, you're not alone. You can do this. 


It Begins With You

Positive relationships begin with you. Recognizing that we could and want to do better might put our hearts in the right place, but we have to act to really change. We might wish our spouse or children would change, but the best way to help them change is to behave as we would like them to behave. Help family members see and feel the importance you place on your relationships with them. Before long they will be responding to family relationships in positive ways.

The Relationship Bank

Think of a relationship as a bank account. Every interaction with a child or spouse is either a deposit or a withdrawal.

DEPOSITS are positive, caring, kind words and actions that make the person feel cared for and respected.

WITHDRAWALS are negative, cutting words and actions that hurt and make a person feel unloved and disrespected.

The key to a healthy account is to make many more deposits than withdrawals. Too many withdrawals will overdraft your account. It takes restraint to avoid overdrafts and continual effort to keep a healthy account balance.

Keeping Money in the Bank

Watch your account balance. Remember, children and youth recognize that adults are more powerful and can hurt them. What you think is a small withdrawal may be a big withdrawal to them.

The same is true for your spouse. Spousal withdrawals may be bigger than you realize.

If you make a withdrawal with a negative interaction, balance it out with a lot more positive interactions. When you do this, the balance in the relationship bank stays positive.

When Withdrawals Occur

You do not have to respond to negative behavior with more negative behavior. You can contribute to a positive relationship whether or not the other person is behaving appropriately. Of course, ultimately one person cannot make a relationship, so this kind of imbalance can’t continue for long, but it can carry the account until the next deposit.

Disagreements and problems are inevitable in relationships, but if you take advantage of opportunities to make deposits, large and small, your accounts will stay healthy even when you have serious conflicts.

Benefits of Positive Relationships

The relationships you develop with your children will have lasting effects on them throughout their lives. Your children are likely to nurture their important relationships much like you have.

When relationships are strong your children will come to you with their problems and listen to your advice.

Time together as a family will be fun and long remembered.

A Positive Relationship Is Possible

One Dad's Advice

“You sometimes just have to choose to have a positive relationship,” a father of grown children told us recently. “Put away the baggage and just say ‘I want it to be different so I’m going to make it different.’” We all make mistakes. You are not alone. We offend or hurt our children’s feelings while trying to do the best we can. We need to forgive ourselves, maybe even ask our children to forgive us and tell them you are going to try to do better. If we look at ourselves and our past a little more kindly it will help us be more positive.


It starts with you, spend time, lots of time, planned and unplanned time. Remember the idea of a relationship bank. Be caring in your words and actions. It will go a long way in creating the happy, nurturing home your whole family would love to have. Hang in there, continual effort and commitment to making family relationships a priority will enrich our family life.

Children Learn What They Live

- Dorothy Law Neite

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.

If a child learns to feel shame, he learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.

If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.

If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.

A Great Story About A Teenager's Homecoming

“Throughout Jack’s early life, he and his father had many serious arguments. One day, when Jack was seventeen, they had a particularly violent quarrel. Jack said to his father, “This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I’m leaving home, and I will never return!” So declaring, he went to his room and packed a bag. His mother begged him to stay, but he was too angry to listen. He left her crying at the doorway.

Leaving the yard, Jack was about to pass through the gate when he heard his father call to him: “Jack, I know that a large share of the blame for your leaving rests with me. For this I am truly sorry. I want you to know that if you should ever wish to return home, you’ll always be welcome. And I’ll try to be a better father to you. I want you to know that I’ll always love you.” Jack said nothing, but went to the bus station and bought a ticket to a distant point. As he sat in the bus watching the miles go by, he thought about the words of his father. He realized how much love it had required for his father to do what he had done. Dad had apologized. He had invited him back and had left the words ringing in the summer air, “I love you.”

It was then that Jack understood that the next move was up to him. He knew that the only way he could ever find peace with himself was to demonstrate to his father the same kind of maturity, goodness, and love that Dad had shown toward him. Jack got off the bus, bought a return ticket to home, and went back.

He arrived shortly after midnight, entered the house, and turned on the light. There in the rocking chair sat his father, his head bowed. As the father looked up and saw Jack, he rose from the chair, and they rushed into each other’s arms. Jack often said, “Those last years that I was home were among the happiest of my life.”

Here was a boy who overnight became a man. Here was a father who, suppressing passion and bridling pride, reached out to rescue his son before he became one of that vast “lost battalion” resulting from fractured families and shattered homes. Love was the binding band, the healing balm. Love—so often felt, so seldom expressed.” - Thomas S. Monson, "Heavenly Homes, Forever Families," Ensign, Oct. 1991, 2.

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You Can Do This