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Teach your kids about bucket dippers

Photo by Jorgen Haland on Unsplash

There’s a game played by primary school children in the Middle East. Each child is given a bucket and a number of blank slips of paper. The child is encouraged to write kind descriptive words (such as “friendly”, “caring” or “smart”) on these slips of paper. They all then go around the classroom, placing these words into other children’s buckets.

The teacher asks how everyone is feeling. “Pretty good about myself,” is the usual response. The children are buoyed on the praise, support and encouragement of their classmates. The teacher then asks the students to walk back around to each bucket and remove kind words from their colleagues. After the buckets are depleted, the mood in the room drops. The children no longer feel so great anymore.

The purpose of this exercise is to show the difference between “bucket fillers” (people who fill your bucket, and make you feel great) and “bucket dippers”: the humans in your life who somehow manage to make you feel just a little bit worthless. People who rub off the shine, who take from your bucket and make you feel “less than”. It’s a great way to teach children about who to trust, and who to avoid.

Domestic violence flourishes in a society that doesn’t acknowledge that there are givers and takers. If you believe that everyone is innately kind and compassionate, you become a target for long term intimate partner abuse. Because every time your partner selfishly puts their needs before yours or criticises or belittles you, you accept that this behaviour must be well-meaning or appropriate. And it’s not.

To my mind, there are two types of bucket dippers – hoarders and hurters. Hoarders take from other people’s buckets to keep in their own. They are inherently selfish and hoover up all the love and success around them. More concerning are the hurters, who take pleasure in others’ pain. They take because they get a thrill from watching the flash of emotion (such as disappointment or fear) which taking from other people’s buckets elicits.

In my view, the journey to end domestic violence begins with a very small shift in awareness and understanding. We need to accept that not everyone wants the best for the people around them, even the ones they’re supposed to love. If we can acknowledge that a small proportion of humanity enjoys taking from the rest of us, we have laid the groundwork for understanding why perpetrators commit domestic violence.

If you’re in a relationship where you constantly feel confused, undermined or afraid, you may be dealing with a bucket dipper. Understand that their behaviour is not your fault, nor can you change it. For as long as you allow them to take from your bucket they will do so. Leave, if you can. And if you can’t, try building healthy boundaries around yourself. Protect yourself from your taker and fill your own bucket instead.

As Henry Ford said, "Givers have to set limits because takers rarely do."

If you need legal help in escaping from a bucket dipper, connect with



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