Yesterday, my youngest son bounced into the kitchen with a big smile on his face.
“Ollie filled my bucket!” he said. “He gave me his Altaria EX Pokemon card.”
Now I don’t know my Pokemon characters as well as I should (other than Pikachu), but I could tell Altaria EX must have been a good card because my six-year-old was glowing.
Why is my son talking about filling buckets? Because I just reread him my favorite picture book on kindness, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? If you want to raise kind kids, this is an amazing resource. Here is how you can use Have You Filled a Bucket Today? to encourage kindness in your house.
Are You Modeling Empathy at Home?
In the introduction to Have You Filled a Bucket Today? author Carol McCloud explains how she first learned of bucket filling in a seminar for early childhood educators in the 1990s. A brain research expert said:
“It’s helpful to think of every person as being born with an invisible bucket. The bucket represents a person’s mental and emotional health. You can’t see the bucket, but it’s there.” This expert said it is “primarily the responsibility of parents and other caregivers to fill a child’s bucket. When you hold, caress, nurture, touch, sing, play, and provide loving attention, safety, and care, you fill a child’s bucket.”
Have you filled your child’s bucket today? Or, did you snap at him/her on your way out the door this morning? I snapped.
Make a conscious effort to fill you child’s bucket today. Notice what happens when you do. Try it again tomorrow.
When you fill your child’s bucket, you are modeling love and kindness. Remember, our children learn more from our actions than our lectures. By demonstrating kindness, you’re encouraging your child to show kindness as well.
Not only is it important for us to fill our children’s buckets regularly, but we must also teach our children how to show kindness to others.
6 Ways to Help Your Child Become a Bucket Filler
One of our most important roles as parents is to help our children develop empathy. Very young children only think about themselves. In the book, The Happiest Toddler On The Block, Dr. Harvey Karp likens toddlers to cavemen.
“Our Stone Age ancestors were opinionated, tenacious, and not very verbal. They bit each other when angry, made a mess when eating and hated waiting their turn. They were stubborn, distractible, and impatient…sound like someone you know?”
It’s up to us to turn our egocentric little cavemen into thoughtful, considerate children.
How do we do this?
1. Model thoughtful, considerate behavior. If you see someone struggling with their bags at the grocery store, offer to help. Your child will learn to view this as normal behavior.
2. Find examples of people being thoughtful and point them out to your children. When you notice a child help another child up at the playground, say out loud, “Did you see how kind that little boy was to help his friend up when he fell down.” Watch as your children try to copy this behavior to seek your approval.
3. Look at the illustrations in Have You Filled a Bucket Today? with your children. Do a picture walk before you read it. See if your child can point out examples of children being kind. In the book, the characters hold buckets full of colorful stars. The pictures will help even the youngest children understand the concept of filling other’s buckets. The pictures show the stars transferring from one bucket to another as children say or do kind things.
4. Introduce the idea of bucket filling each morning. Every day at the breakfast table, I ask my children how they might fill someone’s bucket during the day. I also share how I might fill buckets during the day. Maybe I will buy my husband’s favorite dessert and surprise him with it after dinner. Or, I might give my parents who live far away a call.
In the beginning, you may need to give your child some ideas. Perhaps your child would like to draw a picture or write a ‘thank you’ note to his/her teacher. Maybe he/she will smile at a shy classmate or invite a new student to play. There are many possibilities. When you put the focus on filling buckets first thing in the morning your children will be more conscious of their actions toward others throughout the day.
5. Check in every evening. At the dinner table or before bed, ask you children if they filled any buckets during the day.
Encourage your children to articulate their own kind actions by asking the following questions:
- “Did you fill anyone’s bucket at school today?”
- “How did that make you feel?”
- “How did your kind actions make your friend feel?”
- Give your child a big hug and tell them how much you love it when they fill other people’s buckets.
6. Use your evening check-in time to point out how your own children filled your bucket by cleaning up their toys without being reminded or helped set the table for dinner. When you show appreciation for their efforts, they’ll be far more likely to repeat these helpful behaviors.
How to Use the Book to Initiate Conversations about Bullying
This book is also a great visual way to initiate conversations about bullying. In the book, bullying is described as bucket dipping.
“When you hurt others, you dip into their bucket. You will dip into your own bucket, too.”
The illustrations help children understand the complexity of bullying. It’s not just physically hurting someone. When you read the story, you will show children how they might hurt someone with their words. And sometimes, ignoring another child is even more hurtful than making fun of him/her. When you hurt someone, you are bucket dipping.
The book also helps children understand why bullying may occur. Sometimes the bully has an empty bucket and thinks he/she will fill their bucket by dipping into someone else’s bucket. Of course, this doesn’t work and often makes the bully feel worse.
Teach kids to be kind with the picture book, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? This book has truly transformed the way my boys treat each other. Of course, I still hear things like, “Mom, Ollie pushed me!” or “Mom, William hurt my feelings.”
But now I also hear, “Mommy, William filled my bucket today when he shared his dinosaur with me.”
Not to be outdone by his brother, William smiles and adds, “And Ollie filled my bucket when he hugged me.”
And it’s interactions like these that make the parenting journey worthwhile.
So, how will you fill a bucket today?
If you’d like to purchase this book, you can click on the photo below or any of the links above to go to Amazon. You’ll see how many wonderful reviews it has received. This is a book I highly recommend for your home library or classroom.
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