Know any kids who have a tendency to say mean or unthoughtful things to their peers on occasion? Familiar with any siblings who just HAVE to get out that zinger of a stinger, as if putting the other down builds him or her up? If your frustration is building because of the constant verbal jabs flying around you, then you might be interested in something I stumbled upon; one simple concept (a bucket) that might just be your lifesaver!
The concept comes from the best-selling children’s book, “Have you Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids.” Don’t let the kid part fool you – they say this book is for ages 4-9, but truly this book is for EVERYBODY. It’s easy to understand, simple to do, and it really works! In my current chaotic, busy life, that is music to this Zen Mama Wannabe’s ears.
The premise of the book is that we all have an invisible bucket we carry around with us. When we’re nice to others, we fill their bucket and thus start to fill our own. Ah yes, the familiar Golden Rule – the one we hopefully try to teach our children at every turn. Except sometimes it’s hard to keep up with that when we’re busy rushing to Brownies, fixing dinner, monitoring homework or wondering if we can ever motivate our children enough to have them pick up after themselves. It’s hard to stay on top of everything and take advantage of every “teachable moment” that comes along.
My goal as a parent is a simple one: I am trying to teach and shape my children as much as I can so that they turn out as fabulous adults who (just through who they are) make positive contributions to the world around them. But along the way, we forget that some things actually need to be taught…like manners and friendship skills and knowing what’s okay and what isn’t – and treating others poorly just isn’t okay! As the author Carol McCloud says,
“In addition to being loved, children must also be taught how to love others. Children who learn how to express kindness and love lead happier lives.”
Isn’t that what we ultimately want for our children? To have them exhibit kindness toward others and to live happy lives? Is reading a simple children’s book to them going to get us there? I guess that answer is up to you. I make it a point to read out loud to my children every night, and in addition to an age-appropriate chapter book, I also choose a picture-type book as well. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your children are too old for that. Remember the moving scene in the movie The Blind Side where Sandra Bullock reads a childhood favorite to high school senior Michael Oher — and the other kids curl up to listen too? Shh – here’s a secret: classic children’s stories are not just for kids. And the lessons that are often hidden in them are definitely age-defying too!
One night last month this book was the story I shared. We read it, talked about it, and the next day I made it a point to notice when my son actually filled my daughter’s bucket – no small feat! – and I praised him for it. The following day my Little One came home from school telling how she had filled another student’s bucket by a small but nice deed that she did. Ok good – sounded like it was sinking in. But it wasn’t until we went grocery shopping a week later that I really saw the effects.
Grocery shopping with the kids is always an ordeal for us in and of itself. By the time we waited in the long line to check out, we were restless and grouchy. Finally it was our turn, the person ahead of us was just leaving when I turned around and noticed the man behind me only had 2 items. Ugh. We were in a hurry, anxious to get our groceries paid for and get out of there, but how can you ignore that? So I asked him if he would like to go in front of us. His face flooded with relief as he said THANK YOU and quickly stepped ahead. My Little One just kept staring up at me as we waited again for our turn. I thought I knew what she was thinking, but when we left the store her words filled me with surprise. “Mama, did you see that? You just filled that man’s bucket!!!!”
And just as I filled that gentleman’s bucket, she just then filled mine. As Carol McCloud says, “When we teach bucket-filling, we are teaching children to think of others.”
Isn’t that a great place to start?? What are you waiting for? Read this book and grab your buckets!
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