30-Second Decisions

Last week, I was asked to be part of the Year 8 5x5x5 concept. This includes different teachers presenting short (five minutes) talks on particular topics to groups of Year 8 students, each talk having a personal development theme. I used the opportunity to enlighten the boys in the cohort on the concept of ‘30-second decisions’. This is a phrase coined by Celia Lashlie, who worked as a former senior officer in both men’s and women’s prisons in New Zealand as well as in boys’ schools and community-based organisations in the same country. In 2005, Celia wrote a book titled, “He’ll be OK: Growing Gorgeous Boys Into Good Men”. She was an advocate for boys and young men, addressing the behaviours that may lead to them finding themselves in prison. Interestingly, she also believed that over-protective parenting can force young men to prove themselves by taking dangerous risks. One of her beliefs was what she called ‘30-second decisions’ – decisions made without serious thought or reference to the consequences that may follow. While she maintains such decisions are more likely to be made by males, there is no doubt females can find themselves making similarly uninformed decisions. In my five-minute presentation to the Year 8 boys, I referred to a young man I came to know well in my previous school. He was, up until very recently, studying at Princeton University on an elite athlete scholarship, as he was the fastest 20-year-old in Australia over 100m a couple of years ago.  He was convicted earlier this year of a one punch attack outside a nightclub in Perth, and sentenced to nine months in jail. We also discussed the thinking (or lack of it) by the students involved in the drug-taking incident on the Gold Coast earlier this year when seven boys ended up in hospital after ingesting a banned substance allegedly imported from overseas online. Using these instances as ‘serious outcome’ examples, we discussed whether 30-second decisions are part of our boys’ world. We do not need research to tell us that boys are prone to taking risks – it is in their DNA, so we explored the types of risks 13-year-olds take. The world of selfies, sexting, surfing the web, taking drugs, bullying, and unacceptable behaviour towards others were mentioned. As ‘30-second decisions’ are part of our lives, we discussed how we could possibly give ourselves time to make an informed decision before acting. Stop Think Do is a well-developed program designed to improve children’s social and learning skills (note to self – this is not just for children!). While there is behavioural science which informs this program, in its simplest form, the three-stage process is instructive and, by its very words, provides a framework for impulsive decision-making. I encourage families to have a conversation around 30-second decisions and the Stop Think Do response. It could well be a learning experience for all. Footnote: Celia Lashlie passed away in 2015 after a short illness; however, I recommend visiting her website or reading her books, especially the He’ll be OK publication. With good wishes. Stuart Meade | Principal

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