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In my work with students, I often use the books How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer, Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life by Carol McCloud and Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud. Children seem to intuitively understand the concept of bucket filling, and it provides a good analogy for understanding empathy, our own self-concept. The bucket filling philosophy is that everyone carries an invisible bucket that holds our good thoughts and feelings. When our buckets are full, we feel happy and when our buckets are empty, we feel sad.
Each of us also has an invisible dipper. When we use that dipper to fill other people’s buckets—by saying or doing things that are kind, considerate and respectful we increase their positive emotions as well as fill our own bucket. But when we use that dipper to dip from other’s buckets—by saying or doing things that decrease their positive emotions, we diminish ourselves. Even the youngest child understands that actions and words can either fill a bucket or dip into it.
I have found this to be useful language to use when talking to a child about his or her feelings, and behavioral choices at home and school. We encourage and recognize everyone’s efforts to be bucket fillers at home, at school, and everywhere they go!