“Filling your bucket” is a concept used to teach little ones how to be grateful, kind and empathetic. Although this may seem like a fairly new concept, the idea itself dates back to the 1960’s when American psychologist Dr. Donald O. Clifton first wrote the “Dipper and Bucket” story.
Often used in schools, these books are based on the concept that we all carry around invisible buckets of which we can fill with happy things or sad things. These buckets represent our mental and emotional selves.
We can fill or empty our own buckets or the buckets of those around us. If we are bucket-fillers, we cheer people on and raise them up. If we are bucket-dippers, we are bullies who take away happiness from the buckets of others.
This is such as amazing metaphor to help teach children the importance of gratitude, kindness and empathy. As a parent, you can extend upon these lessons as well.
But, before you do, here is a quick explanation of what each of these concepts means as well as how you can encourage them:
Gratitude is the act of being thankful and appreciative of what we have and what we are given by others. It also involves returning that kindness, either to the giver or to the community in general.
We can help our children develop a sense of gratitude by keeping a family gratitude journal where every week each member of the family writes down what they are thankful for. As your child ages, they may want to keep a personal journal to document their gratitude.
The idea of “paying it forward” lends perfectly to the development of gratitude. It’s about showing how blessed we are by giving back to the community either through donating or volunteering. The community can include your town or city, neighbours, friends or family members and acts can range from a simple handmade card or a paid-for grocery order. Being gracious and giving back does not have to an extravagant ordeal.
Kindness involves being friendly, generous and consider of others. We can teach children kindness simply by modeling it ourselves – children are wired to imitate the behaviours and emotions of others.
We should avoid being critical of our children and instead use encouraging feedback to help them learn from their mistakes. As parents, we can also build the habit of complimenting others and saying nice things about other people.
Empathy is a hard concept to teach. It is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. In order to understand and share the feelings of others, children must be capable of recognizing and processing their own feelings.
We can help them by labeling their emotions as they feel them. By giving them the word for their own feelings, they can then begin to recognize the feelings of others. Sometimes this works in the moment but, if the emotion is extreme, it can be discussed afterward when everything is calm.
Younger children, or those with limited or no vocabulary, may benefit from a mood chart depicting different emotions using pictures and colours. They can identify their own emotions on the chart as well as how they think others are feeling.
Most importantly, share your own feelings with your child. Be sure never to blame them for the way you feel, but explain what you are feeling as you feel it. This is another vital tool is helping children identify the emotions of other people and, therefore, developing empathy.