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Cultivate the Art of Filling Your Childrens’ (or Spouse’s) Bucket

Cultivate the Art of Filling Your Childrens’ (or Spouse’s) Bucket

This post is brought to you by HABA USA and written by guest blogger and board gamer Wesley Jones.

"Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?” ~Oddball, from the movie, Hogan’s Heroes

Ask yourself this question: “When my children are grown and leave home, or when I die, what do I want them to remember about me, as their father (or mother)?” Contemplating this question led me to see that I was in danger of being remembered as a father who mostly pointed out their faults and what they did wrong instead of complementing and praising what they did right. Filling buckets means you cultivate the art of complimenting, encouraging and strengthening others—in doing this, behavior automatically improves and their buckets get filled with self esteem and happiness. The opposite, of course would be dipping from their buckets and involves criticizing and finding fault. Regrettably, I did not fill my children’s buckets nearly enough—nor my wife’s bucket. But happily, life is not over and there is still time for us all to improve and build self esteem and happiness in others.

I hope this article will help you learn and grow with me, in filling our loved ones’ buckets.

Experts in this field say we should have 5 or 6 praises or positives for every negative. (Too many positives, starts to feel fake and insincere, thus the correct ratio is 5 or 6 to 1). Excessive focus on your children’s mistakes, quirks or faults can actually make things worse and this nit-picking affects their self-esteem. We generally spend way too much time on correcting instead of praising. I believe we as a society have that ratio reversed—we give 5 negatives (or more) to every positive. We need to turn that around! It is easy, as parents to criticize and see all the things our kids or spouse do wrong. Anyone can find fault—it takes no effort to see the negatives. However, it does take strength to see the positive and comment on what they are doing right—to fill their buckets.

Here are three real examples of filling (and dipping) from buckets—written by people I admire.

1. A son came home with his report card and showed it to his mother. He had five A’s and a B. The mother examined the report card and said: “Son, what happened? Why the B?” Some time later the boy’s father came home. He looked at the card and had the same inclination. But he resisted. Instead, he said, “That’s a great report card son; I’m more proud of you than I can say.” The boy took the card and walked out in the back yard. The father followed him. When they got out there the son had tears in his eyes. “What’s the matter?” asked the father The boy responded, “Dad, what do I have to do to make it with Mom? I was proud of my report card!” It’s too easy sometimes to look at the dirt on the flower’s petal rather than the beauty of the flower. We must resist the temptation to see only the negative

2. Once, one of my young granddaughters was being criticized by her father for not properly taking care of her room, making her bed, etc., etc. And then with considerable feeling she said, “Well, Daddy, why do you only see the thing to criticize and never see the good things that I do?” This brought the father to some serious reflections, and that night he placed under her pillow a letter of love and understanding telling her of all the things that he admired in her, and thus began to bridge over the hurt that had been implied by his constant criticism with no approval for the good things.

3. A mother said that to this day when she walks in the front door of the house where she was raised, her father will say, "Oh, look who's here. And aren't we glad, and isn't she beautiful?" This mother goes on to say: "My parents always give me some compliment; it doesn't matter what I look like or what I've been doing. . . When I go and visit my parents, I know I am loved, I am complimented, I am made welcome, I am home."

That last example especially resonated with me and caused me recently to make a goal that whenever any of my children walk in the door, I go up and kiss them and tell them how much I love them. In this way, I am helping to fill their buckets. I believe this practice has made a difference in our home. I recommend it!

1st quilt My 1st Quilt

Now, let me give three personal examples in my own family of filling or dipping from buckets:

2nd quilt My 2nd Quilt

1. My wife is an expert quilter. She is always making quilts. She loves this hobby and her enthusiasm, curiously, rubbed off on me. I like to learn new things and her excitement got me wondering if I could make a small quilt on my own. She had previously assured me that there are lots of men quilters out there. (And I did have a sewing class in Jr. High, ha ha). My wife is very good at filling buckets so she happily encouraged me to try to make one. I took the plunge and started a fairly simple one-- compared to hers. As I was making it (with her verbal guidance) she was always filling my bucket, giving me encouragement and praise. When it was finally done, she said, “WOW! I think you are better at this than I am! I think you are so naturally talented at this. I can’t wait to hang this on the wall. . . you need to come to Quilt Guild with me and show this off to the ladies there. . .” (Uhh. . . no thanks. I’d rather get a root canal). She made me feel so good if fact, that I actually made another, more complicated quilt.

These quilts were only made because my wife was always filling my bucket!

2. I was with my brother Maurice once and someone started talking to him and accidentally called him by my name: “Wesley—Oh, I mean, Maurice. Sorry about that--” Maurice immediately replied, “No need to apologize. I can’t think of a greater compliment than calling me by my brother’s name.” Wow, did that immediately fill my bucket to overflowing! So much so, that today I still bask in it.

And now a regrettably negative example from me. I only share this negative experience so you can learn from my poor example: 3. Once, my daughter was backing the van out of the driveway but there was a neighbor’s scooter right behind the van, so it got crunched. The daughter came in to me and told me what happened. I immediately thought of the money needed to buy a new scooter for the neighbor and I was a bit angry. I don’t know exactly what I said but I remember it was something hurtful; this of course, dipped from her bucket. How stupid of me! It would have been so easy to fill her bucket with a comment like, “Oh, I’m so sorry, that must have made you feel terrible!” Fortunately I did later ask for her forgiveness and replaced a little of that self esteem and happiness that I had earlier taken.

One of my favorite books is, “The Power of Positive Parenting” by Glenn Latham, a behavior analyst. I love it because the whole focus of the book is on being positive with your children—focusing on the good. Here are some quotes from that book, all dealing with filling our children’s buckets with praise and love:

“Negative consequences are ineffective in controlling children’s behavior. . . The better way, the way that has more lasting and beneficial results is to take advantage of the many opportunities that occur every day to attach a positive consequence to an appropriate behavior. That positive consequence can come in the form of a hug, a kiss, a pat on the back, a word of encouragement and praise, a smile, a wink, a token in an a jar or a point on a good behavior record, and the list goes on. But what is really wonderful about this approach is that when used appropriately and consistently, the incidence of inappropriate behavior goes down dramatically while the incidence of appropriate behavior increases dramatically and maintains. It is predictable. You can bet on it. It is lawful. It is a well establish matter of fact that in homes where parents smile at their children, laugh with their children, have lots of positive and appropriate physical interactions with their children (hugging, kissing and patting), and talk to their children a lot in pleasant, supportive, nonjudgmental ways, the frequency of problem behaviors in those families goes down, down, down, and the frequency of pleasant parent-child relationships goes up, up, up!”

“There is no better way to establish a positive, supportive, constructive environment in the home than by being positive, supportive, and constructive in our interactions with one another in the family. There is no better way!”

“Catch every member of your family doing something right, appropriate or pleasant.”

“Each day have an appropriate, positive physical interaction with your children and spouse. Hugging is a wonderful way of communicating love and tenderness to members of your family but every physical interaction doesn’t need to be a hug or a kiss. It can be a pat on the back, rubbing one’s back, wrestling and scuffling around.”

“Looking for that which is right and appropriate and then attending to it using positive reinforcement while ignoring—whenever possible—inappropriate behavior, is absolutely the best way to go.”

Just as filling buckets--or focusing on what our kids do right--helps build strong bonds of love, self esteem and improves behavior, it seems that even in the business world, they have discovered the benefits of filling buckets—corporate buckets. The model for this is called “Appreciative Inquiry.” Appreciative Inquiry is an organizational development method that focuses on what an organization or business does well rather than talking and focusing on where it needs to improve. Some researchers believe that excessive focus on dysfunctions can actually cause them to become worse or fail to become better (just like with our kids!) Appreciative Inquiry argues that when we focus on the most favorable features of a business, we tend to head in that direction and great improvements can be made. The human brain has a tendency to fulfill its most dominant thought. In the business world, as in life with kids and family, when we focus on strengths and successes and what is done well, we tend to head in that direction. Where the focus is, is where we will head.

In suggesting that we cultivate the art of strengthening, encouraging and complimenting, I am not suggesting that our conversation be nothing but honey. Growth does come from correction. I am just suggesting that we ignore inappropriate behavior whenever possible, and give more attention to what our loved ones are doing right. I am suggesting that, perhaps we can all do a little better at filling our kids’ or spouse’s buckets each day, helping them feel love, self-worth and happiness.

This article started with a quote from Oddball, so let’s end with another one:

“I mean like, so many positive waves... maybe we can't lose!" ~Oddball

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