By: Toni Jordan, Illustrator.
Now that the dust is beginning to settle and things that appeared to be cloudy for a minute, are coming into full focus. From the first call that I got from Kim about illustrating the book, The Sky is the Limit, my focus had been on the graphics and layouts. Now that it has been in print and I have had a little while for the “message” to sink in a bit, my mind has taken our book on many journeys.
For over 2 decades, I worked as a counselor and a children’s advocate. What I found, in my experience, both personally and professionally, is that babies come to us with virtually a blank slate. In parenting, mentoring, teaching, nurturing, we, water them, prune them, train them, by our every action and deed, as well as, our words and communication. In the best of situations, that is such a wonderful thing. However, in the worst of situations, it can be really sad.
I have found that children who get “bent” in negative ways, grow that way, without intervention. Of late, I had the opportunity to share our book, as a model for redirection and behavior change. I shared it with an entire District of Guidance Counselors and Interventionist’s. Using the book, I spoke about the 5 stages to change behaviors. In the Bay District School System, on the Elementary level, they have replaced their ISS (In School Suspension) with what they call the Promise Rooms. They are trying to use this as a means to reach the children who display bad behaviors. They have realized that unless something happens internally to change the mind of the child, then the ISS approach, virtually, is like putting a Band-Aid over a tumor.
When you open our book, Kim wanted to start it with a “pledge” or promise page. Isn’t it ironic how it fits so well with what Bay District is doing?
I Promise to:
Always try my best
Believe in myself
Follow my dreams
Never waste my gifts and potential
Never be afraid to be different
Believe I have an equal right to the best in life
It’s so important for children to really believe that, yes they “can” be successful, productive, contributive, responsible, and a valued asset to this life and society. They must have an inner belief in themselves for it to manifest outwardly.
In many cases, where children’s hope for a future have been breached, they begin to spiral into behaviors that thwart any positive productivity. Their “box” gets small and they are unable to see beyond its confining walls. In this case, I see The Sky Is The Limit as a resource to be used to start breaking down the walls of confinement, to give hope where perhaps hope had been squelched.
In my presentation, as I stated before, we talked about the 5 stages to change behaviors. The first is, Precontemplation. Precontemplation is when the need to change is presented and it’s time to give it serious thought. The “need to change” usually presents itself because of bad behaviors and/or learned bad behaviors. In Bay District Schools, this is where the child gets referred to the Promise Room.
The second stage would be Contemplation. It is defined by thinking about the change that needs to happen and activating a motivating belief. This is where The Sky Is The Limit comes into play. Children need something to shoot for. They need goals. They need to feel like they can succeed and achieve goals. They need to have something in sight. The Sky Is The Limit opens up the idea that they can set goals, shoot for the moon. They need to know that they are not a product of their circumstances, but that they are a product of their decisions. They need to know that there is a world out there full of hope for their future, a world much bigger than their inherent “box”.
The 3rd stage to behavior change is Determination. The human being is equipped to muster up an unlimited amount of determination when motivated by a deeply held “belief”. When hope for the future has been breached or squelched, “belief” for anything positive seems abstract or cloudy. This is when belief in one’s self has to be made. The ideas in the book, The Sky Is The Limit, gives flight to the possibilities that could be out there. The “ideas” are presented like new files, new data, hopefully replacing the infected ones. You can be an architect….You can be an ice sculptor…You can be a nurse, You can be…etc.
The point is: YOU CAN!! The key new belief is that you can be anything, ANYTHING! You do not have to let bad behaviors or habits define who you are or who you can be.
The 4th stage to behavior change is Action. At this stage, we start putting energy into our new belief. This is where wisdom, in the form of behavior, finally manifests. If you believe you can do anything that you can dream, what are some of the things that you need to do to plan for it? What are the “actions” you must do? What are the steps? Be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, set your focus on your goals and dreams, have a focal point.
And lastly, comes Maintenance. This is the continuing of the new learned belief and/or behavior. Maintaining the behavior is the most challenging. The key to maintaining the changed behavior, believe it or not, is to be happy, to find joy. If our mood is low, the wisdom to behave differently seems to disappear and we may go back to the bad behavior/belief/habit. However, if we maintain a “high life-condition” the changed behavior will manifest as action. When you are feeling good, feeling positive is easier because the “belief” remains powerfully stirred up and therefore is motivating. The key to maintaining the new belief is to keep the goal before you, keep the end in sight, stay focused on your dream, stay “stirred up”!
A great resource for “maintaining” is the link we have on our website to encourage discussion, delve into vocabulary, and help encourage empathy, as well as a sense of accomplishment, even IF there are perceived challenges, or challenges much like I have written about today, those challenges that are seen through negative behaviors.
In closing, The Sky Is The Limit is such a valuable tool to open up new ideas and stir up hope to dream big and accomplish much. I’ve heard it said before that, “we must shoot for the moon and at the very least, we will land among the stars.” I encourage all those with a child in their sphere of influence to get this book, read it, then re-read it and read it again. Give light to some little one who may very well blaze a trail for others later on.