The Tacky Box Story
“Necessity is the mother of invention.”
This old adage was fully realized for Chris Phelps, the day her daughter Emma, then halfway through her kindergarten year, nonchalantly used her first four letter word. Shocked and unprepared for the moment, Chris panicked –then got creative – and Tacky Box came to be. Tacky Box was a mom’s impromptu attempt to help her daughter choose her words and actions carefully. And, thanks to Emma’s choice to be kind, it worked.
EVOLVED FROM THE MIND OF A CHILD, FOR CHILDREN
The unexpected result was how well it worked – not just on four letter words but also unkind phrases and tacky behavior – and the resulting ripple effect. After the first week, Emma and her little brother, Jake, both began to take pride in distinguishing between what was appropriate and inappropriate and in policing their own words and actions. Even Justin Timberlake made it into Emma’s Tacky Box after using the words “Shut Up” at a music awards ceremony. Proud of their individual decisions to be kind, they began to encourage those around them to make the same choice, and more often than not, they did.
Knowing every parent faces the issue of tacky words and behavior, and longing for a kinder world, Chris and her mom, Cindy Kent, partnered up to share the idea that worked so well for Emma and Jake. As a former educator and professional artist who understands the value of a lesson, Cindy created Margo, Max, and the Wise Old Owl to help tell Emma’s story and hopefully make the job of a parent a little bit easier by creating a visual and hands on tool.
PILOT PROGRAM, AWARDS, AND WHERE WE ARE TODAY
In 2014 and 2015, Tacky Box® was used in schools by a number of educators and counselors across the nation who had been introduced to it through media attention and educational trade shows. In the 2015-2016 school year, with the support of Atmos Energy and advice from members of The American School Counselors Association, a school district in North Texas officially piloted the program in 27 of its elementary schools, impacting over 10,000 children. The success of the pilot turned into a districtwide partnership that still exists in 2023.
In 2016, Tacky Box received the national Nautilus Book award for books that promote “positive social change.” Chris and Cindy had the honor of seeing the Tacky Box set on display at the New York Book Expo, which happened to be on Cindy’s 65th birthday and fulfilled a goal set in her thirties to write a “children’s book series.”
In 2019, Chris competed “Shark Tank style” and was selected for The United Way’s prestigious social innovation accelerator program.
That same year, she was awarded the Kathryn Everest Advocacy award by the Lone Star State School Counselor Association for her work with Tacky Box; this was the first time the award was given to someone outside of the school counseling profession.
In 2020, Tacky Box was selected by school administrators for The Born This Way Foundation’s anti-bullying program, founded by Lady Gaga and Harvard in 2012.
The results of Tacky Box have been astonishing. School counselors, educators, parents and administrators are seeing first-hand the impact that this innovative, multi-sensory program has on children. To date, Tacky Box has served over 100,000 children, has a waiting list of schools across the nation, and is well on its way to making lasting social change.