Be a BucketFillingFamily

The last few weeks have been a challenge. My twins are constantly tackling each other, screaming at each other and just entirely not being nice to each other. If I pick them up from school they are rumbling. They are rumbling during the car ride home and they are rumbling after gymnastics practice. Quite honestly their behavior is starting to drive me nuts!

While wracking my brain to figure out an effective way to discipline while creating teachable moments I remember my girls love the book How Full Is Your Bucket for Kids by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. It’s a book they read and discussed in school.


I bought the book to read at home. After we read it together I understood more clearly how important it is for my kids to learn just what makes a bucket dipper; and more importantly how to fill someone else’s bucket. Allow me to explain.

This book introduces kids to the concept of empathy. A young boy learns that every one of us carries an invisible bucket over our heads. Every time we say or do something not nice the bucket slowly drips and becomes empty. But, if we give compliments, take time to listen and do nice things we not only fill someone else’s bucket, but our own buckets as well. The illustrations really help bring this concept to life and even young readers can understand it.

Photo: Inner Pieces Gallery
Photo: Inner Pieces Gallery

As soon as we finished the book I was inspired to create a family bucket filler chart. (I used items I found at the dollar store. Everything was pre-cut and I attached with double sided tape. That is the extent of my craftiness). I polled the girls for what they think a bucket filler looks like, sounds like and what it feels like when filling up someone else’s bucket. I hand wrote their words on the chart to serve as our guide for good behavior.

Family Bucket Filler Chart

Each one of us gets a bucket of our own with an envelope attached.

Family Bucket Filler Chart

Every night at dinner I ask each person in our family, “what did you do today to fill sissy’s (mommy/daddy) bucket today?” Each answer is written down on a card and placed in their envelop. For every card filled out I add a drop at the top of the bucket. We read all the cards at the end of the week.

I laminated the buckets using clear contact paper so I can draw each drop with a dry erase marker. I can erase and start over again the next week. If we each have five drops by the end of the week we get to participate in a special activity. This week is a Fro Yo sundae at Sweet Frog.

I attached the coupons for our activity above the chart so we can all see what we are working toward.

The first day or two neither kid got any drops in their buckets. But, once they earned their first drop they caught on quickly how this all works.

We are on week two and already I am seeing some positive effects. Both of my girls are quicker to take responsibility for their own behaviors and seek ways to apologize for and remedy hurt feelings.

I feel like participating as a family demonstrates for my kids we are a team, and everyone has to be accountable for their actions. Taking responsibility for their behaviors  is something my girls struggle with (as most five year olds do). I can’t tell you how often I hear, “she made me do it!”  I also like that it’s a more positive way to nurture good behavior and lay the foundation for empathy.

This is just what is working for us this week! For us, adding the chart brings tangibility to the message of this story and is a great tool for me in creating teachable moments.


What’s working for you this week? Feel free to share in the comments below!


The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

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