Are You a Bucket Filler or a Bucket Dipper Kind of Mom?

As a mom, too often I’m a “Bucket Dipper”, and that needs to stop.

I’m a substitute teacher. I primarily teach elementary school, especially the younger grades. One of the classrooms I visited recently taught me all about Bucket Fillers and Bucket Dippers.

Be a Bucket Filler Not a Bucket Dipper

Confused? Here’s a little background for context:

Dr. Donald Clifton first authored this concept based on the age-old symbolism of a reservoir representing a person filled with joy and peace. In the ’60s, he co-authored How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life along with an educator’s edition.

Others taught this concept throughout the years, but it became immensely popular in educator circles after Carole McCloud wrote  Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids and shared her philosophies with schools around the country.

Basically, a bucket represents your emotional self, your well-being.

A “bucket filler” is someone who uses actions or words to show they care about someone. There are hundreds of ways to be a bucket filler, and the phrase has become synonymous with kindness and thoughtfulness

In contrast, a “bucket dipper” says or does unkind things. They criticize. They treat someone with a lack of respect. “Bucket Dippers” bully and insult. And, sometimes, they unintentionally “dip” when they say or do something thoughtlessly that hurts another person. Every time you dip, you take away a little bit of someone’s happiness.

That day, in that colorful 2nd grade classroom, I sat surrounded by buckets, inspiring messages, and reminders. And sadly, it dawned on me that, too often, I have been a “bucket dipper” to my own children.

I don’t do it to be mean. I’m not trying to hurt my children.

But sometimes, a lot of times, I realize I’m depleting their happiness, one well-meant but hurtful comment at a time.

“I wish you’d take a little more time to make your hair look nice.” Dip

“No one wants to talk to someone with stinky breath.” Dip

“What is wrong with you? Sometimes I don’t know what goes through that head of yours!” Dip

Now, we’re moms. We get stressed out. We take out our frustrations on our kids. It happens, and I’m not going to beat myself up for every mistake I’ve ever made. But that doesn’t mean I can’t change what I do moving forward.

What if, instead, I took the advice I usually give my kids and made sure to think before I speak?

“I love it when you curl your hair. You look so pretty!” Pour (The bucket is starting to fill up)

“Thanks for brushing your teeth without being asked!” Pour

“Help me understand your thought process here. How can I help you?” Pour

It’s so much easier to call out my children when they do something “wrong” or something I don’t like. How many times do I remember to compliment them for all the many, many good things they do?

Not enough.

I want my kids to be happy, to have joy, and most of all, to feel LOVED. And it kills me to be the person that makes them feel anything less.

So this year, I’m resolving to be a “bucket filler”.

I wish I could promise never to dip from their buckets again, but I know I’m human and I will. Instead, I resolve to think before I speak and always ask myself at the end of the day

“Did I fill my children’s buckets today?”

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Valerie Earnest
Valerie grew up Naperville, Illinois, and is a Midwestern girl at heart even though she spent 16 years in Phoenix. She moved to Marion in 2016 with her husband, daughter (14), and two sons (12 and 9). Valerie graduated from BYU with a degree in Instrumental Music Education. She is a former band director, a current substitute teacher and accompanist, and an avid reader and crafter.

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