Each person has an invisible space inside them that houses the love they receive. It’s an imaginary description that helps us understand how to love each other well. You might have heard them called “emotional banks” or “relationship banks.” In our house, we have always referred to them as love buckets.
Love buckets are invisible “containers” that represents how a child feels loved. Each child has a different sized love bucket within them and they get filled up in a variety of ways individual to each person. Just like a real bank account, love buckets need regular payments over time to bring reward. While neglecting them leaves a negative balance which can cause problems.
There are a lot of tough things that happen in the life of a family: moves, job loss, divorce, remarriage, and so much more. Plus, the everyday things such as losing your temper, being late to pick someone up from practice, forgetting a performance, and more. There are tough conversations and tough seasons to get through together. When we take the time to make daily deposits into love buckets no matter what, it pays off later when we need everyone to feel the togetherness and grace it takes to get through hard times.
Full love buckets provide a special oil to relationships which can help on days when you need a little understanding, a little patience, and little trust. A child with a full bucket will be more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt when you do something wrong. They accept apologies a little easier because the time and energy spent filling up love buckets does more than just fill up love, it gives support to your relationship. Your children know you and trust you because of the way you have invested in the relationship.
Filling Up Love Buckets Happens Everyday
Both filling up and taking withdrawals from love buckets is an everyday part of parenting. Like any close relationship, emotional banks must be filled up regularly to balance the withdrawals that are made each day. Life requires a constant transaction of deposits and withdrawals – it never stops. You can’t keep from making withdrawals, so as parents we’re careful to deposit as much as possible. For example, you spend time asking your partner about his or her day or do something nice for them just because which puts a deposit into a relationship bank; later you lose your temper which causes a withdrawal. Additions and subtractions from an emotional bank account happen daily.
Because love buckets fill up and empty each day, the best thing to do is fill a child’s buckets up every chance you get. Don’t wait or put off making your deposits until the right moment or when the mood strikes you. Fill them full as often as possible – make them overflow. Teach your children the concept of love buckets so they can practice this too.
When my kids were young, my favorite way to fill up a grumpy toddler’s love bucket was to pull them into an embrace and kiss their cheek over and over, until a smile broke out all over their face. Usually this didn’t take me long, but depending on their mood, it might take a moment. I would persist until I saw a smile break out or a giggle bubble up because it signaled a big enough deposit had been made to overcome their grumpy feelings. The love they felt on the inside was now flowing into their bodies changing their mood.
I have discovered over the years of parenting that each kiddo’s bucket is a different shape and they are filled uniquely. Some kids have buckets that are easy to fill up, while others take a bit longer. Some withdrawals make a real dent in while others don’t cost so much. Children who have been through trauma or have trust issues will be harder to fill up but the benefit of doing so is so good it’s worth the time and effort. Be mindful to put in more than you take out, if possible. Don’t yell at your teenager when a simple conversation will do, don’t scream at your kids in the checkout line when getting down on their level and speaking directly to them will get you out the door in one piece. Don’t waste your good work whenever possible.
A few years ago, Gary Chapmen wrote a book about love languages and how each person has a particular one. The recommendation is to learn the way a heart “hears” love and love people with that language. This is a good practice as a parent, too. Each child experiences love in a different way. It’s worth taking the time to know the love language of your kiddo. One child might feel love when you spend special time together while another feels love if you do one of their chores for them. It’s a process learning to speak someone else’s language correctly but it pays off as you see love buckets filled up and experience an ease within the relationship.
How to Learn Love a Child’s Love Languages
One way to learn a child’s love language is by watching how they express love to the others around them. My youngest daughter has loved to write notes for people since she was tiny. Even when she could barely write one word, she would leave sweet drawings or notes on someone’s bed. When she was just a little bit older, maybe 8 or 9, she started creating personal mailboxes to put by everyone’s bedroom door so we each had a special place for her letters to go. She is now 16 and still loves people by leaving special notes. Her tools have upgraded to include calligraphy pens, special stationary paper, and even a wax seal to close the envelope with flare.
One year while she was in 7th grade, I started a notebook for her and would leave little notes in them each week. I wanted her to have her own special notes and receive love the way her heart gave away love to others. I wanted to love her the way she “heard” love. Her response was a feeling of being seen and known which delighted her. That result was worth every ounce of time it took to write in the journal.
Learning a New Love Language Can Be Challenging
It can be challenging to love someone who has a different love language than yours. This process can prove difficult to lots of people because we all feel more confident loving others the way we naturally understand love. It can feel odd to put yourself out there and express love in a new way. That’s ok! Most often it’s the intention rather than the action that means the most anyway. Like anything else, you get better the more you try. Keep working to love your kids the way they “hear” love and you will find yourself becoming more and more comfortable speaking in their language.
Fill Up Love Buckets With Words
Another way to fill up love buckets is by our words. As a parent, don’t ever feel afraid to use the simple words “I love you” to your kids over and over each day. Tell them you like them, too. Say it simply and often so there is no chance for miscommunication. They say actions always speak louder than words (although when it comes to telling someone you love them don’t leave your actions to do all the talking) so make sure your actions back up what you are saying.
Kindhearted Parenting Builds Upon Itself
Have you noticed that a lot of what we talk about goes in circles and builds upon each other? We’ve learned about kindhearted parenting, setting good boundaries, self-development, actions to take, how to spend time together, and attachment making activities. All of these things are built by the same elements. Attachment fills love buckets which creates a solid relationship. Kind words fill love buckets which form attachments and sow into the heart of your child their worth. Every aspect of this parenting feeds and builds on the other. As you use these tools you end up building a foundation under your children that is wide and strong.
This is great news! It means you don’t need to feel pressure because you’re already doing so many important things by accomplishing each daily activity. It all works together.
We find we aren’t parenting in all these different ways to get all these different results, we’re actually parenting in one direction for great results.