Blink! Think! Make Your Choice Use Your Voice
By Ira Chaleff on January 20, 2016 @ howtolearn.com
Many of us don’t. Let’s see how we might.
We already have a great example of how to do this from another safety activity. It is Stop, Drop and Roll. Most of were taught this at a very young age. If our clothes catch on fire, what do we do?
Stop, Drop and Roll.
This simple memorable saying has saved disfigurements and even deaths.
Relatively few people have ever needed to use this. Yet they still remember it even decades later. Why?
So let’s create a memorable saying we can teach and practice with our children about orders from authorities. The one I came up with is:
Blink, Think, Choice, Voice!
The full expression is Blink, Think, Make Your Choice, Use Your Voice. What is it telling your students or children to remember?
When individuals get an order that surprises them and seems wrong there is an initial startle response. This shuts off their reasoning and the social programming to obey authority can take over, putting them at risk of obeying when they should not.
This is what we want our children to remember when someone in authority (or, for that matter, a peer) tells them to do something that will be harmful to themselves or others:
Explain these steps at an age appropriate level. Then model the steps. Here’s one example:
Have the child be the coach of your sports team. You’re the student receiving the order. The coach tells you to intentionally injure another player to get that player out of the game. Here’s what you do:
BLINK! Open your eyes wide and close them again quickly several times. Do this for a few seconds. You are taking control of the startle response.
THINK! Say what you’re thinking so the children can “hear” your thought process. “I’m thinking this isn’t right. We’re taught to play fair. We don’t hurt others on purpose.”
MAKE A CHOICE! Say the choice you make so the children can “hear” what you have concluded. “I’ve decided this is wrong and I am not going to obey.”
USE YOUR VOICE! Stand up straight, look the coach in the eye and say clearly “No! I won’t do that! I’m going to play fair.”
It is not difficult to devise simple Intelligent Disobedience role plays. Create age-appropriate scenarios involving different authority figures telling your children or students to do something wrong.
Next you want the children to practice doing this. Use the same scenario for the first few times until it is being done well. Then improvise another scenario, working up in difficulty and sensitivity.
Actual events that should have been met with Intelligent Disobedience have included children being told to help restrain other students with duct tape by teachers who have lost control of class behavior, students being given answers to standardized tests by teachers fearful of the consequences of poor test results and, most disturbingly, inappropriate sexual touching by camp counselors, clerics or older relatives.
Include in the role plays some well meaning orders that can still result in harm. For example, a crossing guard who doesn’t see a car coming around the corner and says it is okay to cross the street. You and other parents will have additional examples for role plays.
Imagine If a child’s clothes catch fire and she panics and starts to run. Without prior practice “Stop, drop and roll!” may not kick in as the correct response. The same is true with Intelligent Disobedience. Without some practice, the fight, flight or freeze syndrome may prevail instead.
Children can play both roles of the authority and of the child to keep it interesting and to develop further awareness of the fallibility of authority figures.
After they demonstrate competence in making the choice to say “no”, it is useful to do some role plays in which an authority gives an unusual order that should be obeyed. For example, if there is a shooter in the school and the teacher tells everyone to jump out of a first floor window.
It’s the same process: Blink. Think. Choice. Voice. In this case the choice is to obey and the voice is a silent or quiet “yes”. With older children you can introduce more complexity in which the choice is neither “yes” or “no” but offering a creative and safer alternative. I give examples in my book such as a role play for teenagers who have forgotten their key and are questioned by a police officer when they try climbing through a window to get into the house.
You can advocate for practice in school. It did not take a lot of time to introduce and practice “Stop, Drop and Roll”. It needn’t take a lot of time to practice Blink, Think, Choice, Voice.
But school lesson plans are already heavily loaded. More directly and more practically, you can create your own exercises for use in extra-curricular activities, religious training, etc. If you worry about sending your children on school or church travel programs or to summer camp, you can practice these simple role plays at home.
Blink and Think, make your Choice, use your Voice.
Not only will you keep your children safe. You will prepare them for the ethical decisions they will face as older teenagers, college students, working adults and citizens in an increasingly authority-oriented society.
For that matter, you yourself may need to practice this to use in your own life.
Blink, Think, Choice, Voice.
You are beginning to remember it already.
Stephanie Howdle-Lang, Vice Principal Primary of Renaissance College in Hong Kong, pioneered the use of BlinkThinkChoiceVoice with over one hundred 10 year olds to great success.
She has since made presentations to educators from around the globe on how to introduce the concept and techniques of Intelligent Disobedience in their classrooms.
By explaining to parents that the purpose of Intelligent Disobedience helps keep their children safe, and enrolling their help with this at home. she got full support for this initiative from every parent. It was an inspiration to hear her describe the implementation of these ideas and techniques and to see the early successes this has produced.
Next is an example of the communication to parents that could be used.
Vice Principal Primary
Mrs. Howdle-Lang joined Renaissance College in 2011. She was born in the United Kingdom and has taught in schools in England and the United Arab Emirates. Mrs. Howdle-Lang has also worked with the Ministry of Education in UAE to support local teachers in government schools in offering a student-centred, English medium curriculum. Since moving to Hong Kong, Mrs. Howdle-Lang has taken up dragon boat paddling and finds great pleasure in the sport. She also enjoys developing her cooking and baking skills, and travelling to new countries.