There’s a lot of talk about bucket filling in our house lately. My four-year-old’s preschool teacher read a book to the class called, “Have You Filled A Bucket Today?” The basic premise is that we all walk around with metaphorical buckets and when someone treats us kindly, encourages us, or helps us, our buckets fill up. But when someone hurts us, they empty. Our actions also have the same effect on others.
Every so often, I’ll say something to Juliette and she’ll respond with, “Mommy, that filled my bucket.” Thankfully, though she doesn’t usually tell me when I empty her bucket, I know for a fact that my words are not always life-giving.
There’s so much life and joy and gratitude that result when we use our words intentionally. Towards ourselves, yes, but even more so when we speak life over others. Here are some tips on how and why we need to change the way to talk to our kids.
Your Expectations Matter
My daughter just started swimming lessons. It’s been a couple of years since she’s had them and back then she was little enough for the parent-and-tot classes. This is her first time in the pool without me or Chris. I know my little girl. I know that she doesn’t thrive in new situations that require her to be brave or try something foreign to her.
When I was in college studying to be a teacher (a short-lived detour on my educational journey), I learned the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy. In a nutshell, what you believe about someone, they will become. They live up (or down) to your expectations.
In the case of Juliette’s swimming lessons, I could easily have the expectation that she will fall apart emotionally and the endeavor will be disastrous. Whether through my words or actions, she will pick up on this expectation subconsciously and then act exactly as I expect. Her behavior then fulfills my expectations.
That’s what our words do. They set people up to either succeed or fail. That’s a lot of power. And when it comes to my kids, I never want to use that influence and authority to empty their buckets or cause them to believe something about themselves that isn’t what God says about them.
A Speaking Life Experiment
I decided to try an experiment of sorts. I determined to pay attention to what I was saying to my girls, and here’s what I heard (full vulnerability here):
Genevieve, you are the most impatient child I know.
Juliette, are you ever going to learn to eat properly?
You girls drive me crazy sometimes.
Yeah, I know. Convicting. So day-by-day, moment-by-moment, I decided to try to stop my words in their tracks and turn them around. This is what I (sometimes) sound like now:
Genevieve, you are the most impat….You know what Genevieve? I love the way God made you.
Juliette, you’ve got to learn to eat without...actually, I love you no matter what.
They look at me like I’m nuts, but I’m practicing. Nine times out of ten, I forget or get frustrated, but even in that, there is fruit. I am modeling to them what it means to speak life and what it means to grow in Jesus as an imperfect human being. I’m tired of the cycle of guilt and shame that repeats because I’m not being intentional with my words or cultivating the fruit I have right in front of me.
I’ve seen how these words blossom up in my girls. I see the confidence, the joy, and the reconciliation they bring. And this makes me want to fill their buckets even more.
Choose To Speak Life
Choosing to cover your kids with words that overflow with truth, hope, joy, and purpose will change them. We can intentionally choose to use our words to plant seeds in our children’s hearts and point them towards their identity in Christ.
If you’re ready to become more intentional with your words, make a list of the truths you want to go down deep the hearts of your little ones. What do you want them to know about how you and God feel about them? When they get older and life kicks them around, what truths do you want them to have at their fingertips to hold fast to?
For more life-changing resources to help you on your parenting journey, visit the Motherhood and Parenting resource page I’ve put together for you.