I came across a fabulous book for kids about how to treat other people and how important it is to be nice and kind. The book is called Have You Filled a Bucket Today? and it encourages positive behavior as children see how rewarding it is to express daily kindness, appreciation, and love.
This book explains to children that we all carry an invisible bucket in which we keep our feelings about ourselves. When our buckets are full, we are happy; when they are empty, we are sad. We fill our buckets by doing nice things for others such as offer a smile or a helping hand. It's important to know that other people can fill our buckets but we also fill our own bucket when we do something nice for someone else. We can also dip into our own bucket when we are not nice to someone else. The premise of the book is that we want to be "bucket fillers" not "bucket dippers."
I have read this book to my kids several times and they really seem to take the message to heart. They are very inquisitive about why people would do things to dip into someone else's bucket. We have used this book several times as we determine how to be bucket fillers.
What I like about this idea of being bucket fillers is that my kids now have something to aspire to. To just tell my kids to "be nice" or "be kind" or "don't be rude" is one thing. I could explain myself until I am blue in the face, but when I can say something tangible like, "If you tell your friend's mom thank you for a nice party, you will fill her bucket" my kids can actually put into perspective what being kind really means. They envision an actual bucket and someone with a smile on his or her face that they helped put there.
The bucket premise also works wonders for explaining why bucket dippers really hurt someone's feelings and how being rude is not acceptable. When we eat breakfast and one boy interrupts the other or calls names or doesn't say please and thank you, I can say something concrete like, "please don't interrupt your brother and be a bucket dipper." I see a light bulb go on. Bingo. They get it.
Christopher gets very upset when he thinks he has dipped in my bucket. If I have to repeat something to him several times or he doesn't do as I ask, I simply tell him that he is emptying my bucket. He does not like to empty mommy's bucket and gets very upset. He cries and says, "I didn't mean to empty your bucket, mommy. I'm sorry." Bingo. He gets it.
I'm not saying that discussing buckets is a panacea for all of my kids' transgressions. Sometimes I talk about bucket dipping and am met with blank stares and glazed expressions or rolled eyes. Eye rolling is a serious bucket-dipping offense! My kids do still push boundaries and take everything to the limit (just as they are expected to do). They can sometimes be bucket dippers more than bucket fillers. But we have made great progress in our quest to consider the feelings of others, treat others how we expect to be treated and understand the consequences of our actions.
All thanks to a little bucket.