When you place your child in the care of other adults—day-care providers, teachers, coaches, camp counselors—you trust that he will be safe, but you know you can’t be totally sure. When a supposedly trusted authority figure tells a child to do something wrong, the experience is confusing and potentially dangerous. You prepare your child to not get into cars with strangers or walk off with a stranger at the mall. How do you prepare him for the rare but serious situation when an authority figure tells him to do something he shouldn’t?

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. Most of us were taught at a very young age what to do if our clothes catch on fire: 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?

A rhythmic, rhyming phrase is memorable. When it is combined with a little practice, our brains form a pattern for behavior that can activate when the right circumstances trigger it.

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 a Choice, Use Your Voice.

What is it telling children to remember?

It is teaching them how to say “no” instead when saying “yes” would be harmful. This is known as intelligent disobedience. It is a critical skill both for safety and good citizenship. It is taught to guide dogs that support blind people to ensure that they won’t follow an order to go forward if danger is in the way. Surely we can teach it to children.

You prepare your child to not get into cars with strangers or walk off with a stranger at the mall. How do you prepare him for the rare but serious situation when an authority figure tells him to do something he shouldn’t?
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