Fill their bucket. You’ve heard me say it a million times. But what does that even mean?

Picture a bucket that gets tipped out a little at a time. Water splashes out here and there all day long. Sometimes you pour it out in large quantities left and right. When the bucket is empty, there is nothing left to give.

When we have expectations of our kids, when we ask something of them, some water splashes out. They are pouring themselves out. When we ask something of them that they find challenging, a big puddle of water is dumped out. When we just go through our normal motions of every day that are filled with little expectations like daily routines, manners, and family expectations, it just splashes side to side, a little here, a little there.

Would you ever want to put your child in a position that they feel they have nothing left to give? We don’t want our kids to be pouring from an empty (or even kind of empty) bucket.

So when I say “fill their bucket”, what does that mean?  Meet your child’s needs for attention, for reinforcement, for relationship, and most importantly for connection.

A bucket with hearts and text: meet your child's need for attention, reinforcement, relationship, connection
text: bucket fillers

What do we actually do to fill their bucket?

  • Make eye contact when they are talking to you. Show that you are listening.
  • Get down to their level so they aren’t looking up at you trying to get your attention.
  • Follow their lead. Just play along with whatever they are doing. Let them dictate how to play, what to play with, the rules of the game.
  • Don’t place demands while playing or talking with them. This means you don’t need to ask a lot of questions- that’s placing a demand for them to respond to you. Just listen or make comments about what you are doing.
  • Give just a few minutes of undivided attention. Put your phone down. Close your laptop. Turn off the TV. No distractions.
  • Provide one-on-one time with each child. Get creative with your schedule to give 5-10 minutes of special 1:1 time with each child to make this happen.
  • Show interest in whatever your child is into right now. I know that kid show they like on Netflix is super annoying, but be interested in it for just a few minutes.

When do we fill their bucket? As often as possible. Do this every day. Do it before you need to ask something of them. Fill their bucket before splashing some out with requests, demands, or expectations.

How long do we need to spend doing this? Starting with just 5 minutes at a time can make a difference. Find what works for your family. If you can find longer periods of time to spend filling your child’s bucket- go for it! If you are frazzled and wondering where you are going to find even a few minutes- start small. Add a pocket of 5 minutes here and there and see what happens. There’s no magic number- it just needs to happen daily to help you connect with your child and prepare them for all the things expected of them each day.


The purpose is to build up and encourage your child. Fill their bucket really connect with your child and strengthen your relationship. The side effects? You just may find that it prevents problem behaviors along the way.

Try it out today. Spend that quality, undivided time with your child. Fill their bucket first. Do it every day for a week and see if you notice a difference in your home.  Let me know how it goes.