I am a father to two children, and a step father to three more. They are all responsible adults now, and successful in their relationships and chosen careers. But watching them grow opened my generational eyes to the issues and problems they faced, and decisions and opportunities they’ve taken. Of course as a parent I’ve wanted to share my wisdom, and input into their discussions on whatever subject they were wrestling with. But dealing with the parental dilemma of getting the balance right between giving an opinion verses interfering lead me to consider what I should have done better to equip my children for adulthood.
With hindsight, what I could have done was to provide them with the means to make better informed, more appropriate and more realistic decisions. Since what underlies everyone’s thought processes, or how people react to situations, or respond to information given are the values they hold, it occurred to me focusing on the development of positive values at an early age was the place to start.
Such an approach is too late for my children, but it won’t be long before grandchildren are on the scene. This realisation motivated to write The Billy Books. Combined with the fact I am a fiction writer—I make up stories—and I know how favourable children respond to stories, and I have a great resource to call on—my wife, Maggie—I was ideally placed to bring these facets together into a series of children’s books which focus on negative behaviours and developing positive values.
Up to the age of seven children learn from their immediate family in general and parents in particular; this changes from eight years onwards. Children find middle-grade years a confusing time with an abundance of conflicting information coming from a variety of sources including family, friends, peers, teachers, television and the internet. But as the values they adopt now, provide guidance on the journey towards adulthood, middle-grade years are crucial in a child’s development. At this point too, eight to eleven year olds are becoming independent readers, and are encouraged by schools to choose reading materials for themselves. This determined my target age group.
The list of positive values runs in to hundreds, and though they help all of us to develop a clearer sense of what’s most important in life, at middle-grade age such a list would be overwhelming. With the help of Maggie, who is a personal and business development coach, an NLP practitioner and hypnotherapist, we chose a list of eight values which we believe are fundamental to middle-grade children—empathy (or lack of it-bullying), pride, jealousy, lying, stealing, self-belief, the value of money, and keeping secrets.
Using traditional storytelling with a moral or value based plot, chosen from the list of eight, each book aims to move a child alone the path towards being emotionally balanced and thinking positively. The stories illustrate, guide and shape their understanding, and act as an ice-breaker so parents and children can discuss the issue in a safe environment.