Sunday, September 11, 2011

Don't Be A Bucket Dipper!

"Don't be a Bucket Dipper, be a Bucket Filler!"

I can't even begin to tell you how many times a day I hear this phrase from Sassy Britches. The metaphor of the bucket and dipper and the idea of a Bucket Fillers program is based off the educational programs of Merrill Lundgren, the "Bucket Man". The children's book "Have You Filled a Bucket Today?( A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids)" by Carol McCloud is based on his programs and pioneering work in schools all over the country.

My daughter's school, of course, has adopted this program as part of their school-wide positive behavioral support program. It is designed to establish a culture of positive interaction. The expectation for all staff and students is to be a "Bucket filler" and not a "Bucket dipper". The bucket filler metaphor is used throughout their classrooms and campus to help remind them that as they continue to fill the buckets of others, they also fill their own.
We all carry an invisible bucket. This bucket contains our feelings. When our bucket is full, we feel great; when it’s empty, we feel empty. A bucketfiller is someone who says or does nice things for other people. By doing this, they are filling other people’s buckets and filling their own bucket at the same time. On the other hand, a bucketdipper says or does things to cause other people to feel bad. This simple but profound philosophy applies to every aspect of life.

Different classrooms have various cutesy ways of incorporating this such as cups or buckets which the children fill with pom-pom balls (AKA little warm fuzzies, like the warm fuzzy feelings being a Bucket Filler brings), marbles, gems, etc. Usually there is some type of reward. Students can add pom-poms to others who have shown them acts of kindness and it adds to their buckets as well. If a student said someone "dipped" from their bucket, a pom-pom was taken out of both the dipper's bucket as well as the dipp-ees bucket. This discourages tattling because a pom-pom would be taken out of their bucket as well.

Since Sassy Britches kept bringing it up, and it obviously was working in the classroom, I figured we might as well use the concept in our home as well and I thought it would be very helpful in reinforcing the concept with interactions outside of school.

 Since the  buckets would be set out for all to see, I decided to make them simple but attractive. As cute as the little neon sand pails were, they did appear a bit tacky in a home setting and were much better suited for a colorful classroom. I used glass containers I found in the small floral section of my local dollar store. To fill the buckets, I used those little glass gems also found in the floral section. To assign each person in the house a bucket, I used little scrapbook stickers- "S" for Shaylee (aka Sassy Britches), "K" for Kaylyn (aka Little Big Stuff), a "D" for Daddy, and a "M" for myself, Mommy. The whole project for all four individual buckets, the gems, and the big glass vase to keep all the gems in cost me $10. I am thinking I might add a little ribbon at the top to not only dress them up a bit more but also serve as a "filled line".

Even Little Big Stuff, only being 10 months old, can earn gems for her bucket by touching the dog gentle, giving kisses, not pulling Sassy Britches hair, etc. While she has no concept of what is going on, Sassy Britches does. It's just as important to be sure she understands that everyone must treat people kindly...and besides, the program will grow with them both and we want the program to be fair for all right from the start.

Our filling and dipping concept is the same as it is in school. If she plays quietly while Little Big Stuff naps or helps entertain her while I use the restroom, she earns a gem. While my husband and I could care less about earning a reward in the end, Sassy Britches is very concerned! If Sassy Britches gets mouthy or an attitude when we ask her to do something, a gem is removed from her bucket as well as ours. She is quick to tell us we are being bucket dippers when she is being scolded for something or when she doesn't get her way, as if that somehow gives her the upper hand, but quickly changes her tune when we tell her that is she feels that way she needs to take a gem out of our buckets as well as hers. If she wants to add a gem to someone's bucket, which will also add one to her own, she must state out loud why that person filled her bucket, just to keep her honest and not just adding gems to others buckets just to assist in filling her own. I am not sure if these details are incorporated in her classroom but I find they work at home.

So far we have been using the program only for a few days but it seems to be working! Sassy Britches is eager to help out and offer compliments. The Hubs and I are still working out what rewards we might offer but we do have things like 'go get ice cream', 'stay up 30 minutes later than bedtime', 'pick a treasure from the treasure box', and stuff like that. We just need to decide when it comes time to cash in her gems, what monetary amount the gems have. Obviously bigger rewards like '$10 spending limit at Build-a-Bear' would be worth more gems than, say, 'pick out movie for family movie night'. I can see this being a very good way to teach my girls how to treat others.

Moms- what type of positive reward incentives have you used or are using? Do they work?


  1. Sounds like this is going to work out really well. I hope so!


  2. Dylan's school did this last year. What a a great idea to do it at home!!! You have no idea how much we need buckets in our house! I love your blog Shawna!