I’m a big believer in the power of kindness, kindness to others and kindness to ourselves. As adults, it’s our responsibility to mindfully practice kindness daily in the forms of self-care & self-love, as well as kindness to others.
Practicing kindness in our thoughts, words and actions can be difficult to do, especially when we are feeling tired, stressed or worried.
We may find ourselves:
Name calling while watching the news on TV.
Using a short or sarcastic tone with loved ones when they ask a question.
Looking at a device instead of being an active and empathetic listener.
Putting ourselves down for not ___ (preparing a nutritious meal, taking better care of ourselves, helping a friend, etc.)
Making a face or snapping at a child when they’ve spilled or broken something.
We are all guilty of unkind thoughts, words and actions from time to time. However, the beautiful thing is that we can change. Because while so much is out of our control, we are completely in control of our actions and our words. This is a message that I regularly emphasize to parents in our sessions.
Just as we need to practice & model kindness, we also need to teach children kindness from a very young age.
It is our responsibility to teach children right from wrong, empower them to use their words & actions for kindness and to be brave when they see someone being unkind or disrespectful. This is how we change the world. A bunch of small positive actions every day in our homes and our communities.
That’s why in this post, I focus on the book, “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?”*, as a way to make kindness a tangible act for children. This book is a fantastic way to visually explain to children how kindness can build others up or in this case, fill their bucket.
What Lessons Do We Teach Children about Kindness
While kids may not always be able to express how they are feeling, they generally know when they feel well and when they feel badly.
However, they aren’t always able to make the connection of how their words & actions or others' words & actions may affect how they feel.
That’s why I love this book*, as a way to teach children kindness. It makes kindness real and tangible. It also teaches ideas around kindness that lay a foundation for a positive life & mindset.
Those ideas are:
We all carry around an invisible bucket.
When our bucket is full, we feel well and when our bucket is empty, we feel badly.
Each of us can fill our own bucket and fill another’s bucket. We do this with kind, respectful and helpful actions & words.
Each of us can empty our own bucket and empty another’s bucket. We do this with unkind and disrespectful actions & words.
We have a choice to be a bucket filler or to be a bucket dipper.
When we choose to be a bucket filler, we make our community a better place for everyone.
By teaching children kindness, we are ultimately teaching them from a young age that actions and words can be used to help or to hurt. We are also teaching them that how we feel is an indicator of what we have or haven’t been doing or saying.
How Do We Teach Children Kindness
While there are many ways to model and teach children kindness, below, I share some ways to use this book* to teach kindness in your home.
After reading the book as a family, you can:
Ask questions to prompt conversations around proactive bucket filling. “What is one thing you are going to do today to fill a friend’s bucket?”, “What is something that we can do today to fill mom’s bucket/dad’s bucket?”, “What is something you can do today to fill your own bucket?”, “What is a way to fill a teacher’s bucket?”
Ask questions to reflect back on bucket filling and bucket dipping. “Did anything happen today where it felt like someone dipped from your bucket? Something unkind, unhelpful or disrespectful?”, “Did anything happen today where it felt like you dipped from someone else’s bucket?”, “What was something you did today to fill someone else’s bucket? How did you feel afterward?”
Post tangible bucket filling activities and bucket dipping activities to a wall in your home. You can brainstorm these activities with your children and put them up as a visual reminder. Make sure to include activities for self-care which is too often overlooked! Some examples here and here.
Have conversations as a family about ways to be a bucket filler in a greater sense… in your neighborhood, your greater community, your state, the world, etc.
Model what you do to fill your own bucket. What ways do you take care of yourself each day?
What are some ways that you foster and teach children kindness in your home? I would love to hear from you.
*This post contains affiliate links.