I do a fair amount of training to acquire the skills and knowledge to protect my family. Keeping my family safe and healthy is my primary responsibility as a husband and a father. Whether that training is firearms, martial arts, medical, financial or preparedness related, I am always looking for a fun and effective way to learn new skills and increase my knowledge and effectiveness.
I met Brian and Shelley Hill from The Complete Combatant separately in classes I had enrolled in. While their personalities and enthusiasm are the first things that impress you, their philosophy and unique approach to training is what makes them both leaders in their field. The Image Based Decision Drills program is a great contextual and wholistic approach to self-defense training. It’s such a brilliant method. When I found out Shelly was developing the Smart Choices system for helping our children learn about the dangers and difficult decisions around them, I could not wait to see the result. I am also very impressed and inspired by this project. Shelley worked very hard to launch this product and it shows. It is a great reminder for all of us that anyone can develop a good idea into a successful product that can really help people. It just takes tenacity, drive and compassion for your customers.
I initially bought a copy of Smart Choices just to support a friend who I admire. It’s a great idea that I believe in, but since my son is only 4, I thought he wouldn’t get much out of it. I anticipated that it would sit on the shelf for a year or two until he was more mature and able to understand some of the cards. I was wrong. I think I often underestimate what my child can learn, and it really showed when we started going through the cards. My son is very curious, and he wants to ask questions and learn about things that he does not understand.
There were a couple things that continually surprise me when we spend time working with the Smart Choices system.
For anyone else with very active children, I would like to share a couple great ways I have found to use this system. Like every other modern parent, I’m guilty of letting my boy zone out with the iPad just to gain a few minutes of silence and bring some peace and calm into my day. Anyone who says they are above that kind of behavior is a liar! I feel guilty about this though, so I do try to limit the screen time. I find that a great place to substitute Smart Choices for the iPad is in the car. It stimulates great conversations with him and when we play as a family it allows my wife to bring up points from a female perspective and from someone who was raised in a large metropolitan environment. I get to drop a little country boy perspective and my boy gets a ton of insight on every situation.
Sometimes just sitting at a table can be a challenge when you are four years old. One way we have found to keep his attention and engagement is to hide a few cards around the house and then have an Easter egg hunt for them. Once we find a card, we talk about it in that location. Changing locations every few minutes and adding some activity adds a new dynamic.
One final benefit that I really appreciate is, as we are gong through the cards it helps me evaluate my environment, plans, and supplies, and systems to keep my family safe and healthy. The conversations we have help me think of things I need to do, that I probably would not have come up with on my own.
I am incredibly happy and impressed with this entire project. I am a very satisfied end user and as an entrepreneur and business owner I am incredibly impressed and a little jealous that I did not develop this myself. For the small price paid, this is going to pay dividends that I cannot even calculate. Hopefully along with many other factors, these cards can help me with my responsibility of raising a safe, smart, and compassionate young man. A man protecting his family rarely ever involves guns, knives, trauma kits, or chokeholds. We spend a lot of time and money training for something that hopefully will never happen. The real way we protect our children and spouses is by having discussions about the difficult decisions we face every day and give our children opportunities to practice making Smart Choices in a controlled environment with us before they need to make them alone in the real world.
Chris Weinrebe lives in Phoenix Arizona with his wife Melissa and son Nathan. He is an airline pilot and entrepreneur. He is the Director of Operations at Force Projection LLC, a company that uses dry-fire shooting simulators for mobile training, entertainment, and education.
We have been using Smart Choices for about 6-8 months now. I love having a resource that helps with communication prompts between my tween son and I. We start with all cards in its burlap sack. And my son pulls cards out one by one. We do this by hanging out on my bed. This is absolutely a “nonjudgmental time.” It’s simply a time that we can both communicate using Arlo to guide us into creating a safer ending in these different situations.
The first time my son pulled out the tourniquet card, he asked “What’s this?” I went and got our house first aid kit and pulled out our tourniquet. And proceeded to show him, how to use a tourniquet and more importantly why. Every time we cycle thru our cards, I am always listening to how much information he has retained from previous times. BTW, he is almost ready to take a basic first aid course.
As a mom, I/we always talk to our children about “Stranger Danger.” But do you talk about finding a stranger “unconscious?” On the back of Smart Choices Card’s, Arlo has helpful hints to help guide you and your child to discuss various bulleted points for this situation. Would your child feel comfortable shaking the foot of an unconscious stranger? Would you feel comfortable with having your child shaking the foot of an unconscious stranger? As a mom, I would like my child to be safe. And I want him to still take care of a someone in need of help, but from a safe distance. To do this, you have got to have a plan. And Smart Choices give you the opportunity to create a plan.
The other night we were trying to pick our top 4 cards. My son picked out the “Peer Pressure” card. And I picked the “Safe Word.” As we were discussing a situation that happened over at his friend’s house. I could tell by my son’s body language and his tone; he was not entirely comfortable relaying the conversation. I gently reminded him this was our nonjudgement zone and time. He relayed the conversation, and it really struck a chord with me. So together we came up with a plan that helps him to have a “out.” Up till now, in our house, our “safe word” has been used as a spoken term. Now, our safe word can be used in a text message. And If I receive our safe word in a text message, that means my son needs me to pick him up asap. And we wait until we are home, to discuss the situation.
In closing, I am extremely happy that I purchased Smart Choices for my family. They give us an opportunity to communicate and grow our family safety plan. And to create a new family safety plans as we grow. “Thank You to Shelley Hill,” for creating these! They give us a reality check of what our children may or may not encounter in today’s world. And some of these cards are straight up fun to talk about! Thank you so much Shelley and Arlo! We are very excited to see the expansion packs!
When Shelley and Brian first introduced Image Based Decisional Drills and later followed by Smart Choices for kids I was immediately intrigued. In my own training curriculum I use visualization drills to stimulate different types of learning at critical moments in the progression of skills development. These card decks allow for an even greater level of engagement, conversation and depth of learning on the range, in the classroom and at home. I ordered my household's Smart Choices kit online and put it to use as soon as it arrived. These image cards have become a household favorite that facilitate quality family time and lots of learning and laughs. From our family to yours, we know you will love SMART CHOICES, too!
-Tatiana Whitlock and The Whitlock Family
“Hey guys! Come join me in the living room. I want to share something fun with you.” I called, attempting to lure my kids away from their devices. Out crawled two groggy pre-teens reluctantly humoring their Mother and slumping down on the couch beside me. “So, I have some pretty awesome friends and they came up with a game for families to play together. I want to introduce you to Arlo.” As predicted they both rolled their eyes, scanned the card deck and stickers laid out on the coffee table, and shared in the sentiment that they were too old for little kid card games. I explained that the stickers were probably for the little kids but this wasn’t necessarily a little kid game. In fact, this “game” has only a few rules and the three of us get to make them. This family activity was about choices and how they would react in different situations. “So it’s like the game, Life?” asked my son. “Exactly!” I replied. “Only better. Let me show you how it works…” They were intrigued, I had their attention, and we dove right in.
The Smart Choices card deck provides 84 vibrant photographic image cards which act as conversational prompts. Some images clearly depict danger such as a photo of a snake, while others are more benign such as a cell phone and leave much to creative interpretation. These are an ideal tool for families looking to engage their children in a “What would you do if…” dialogue while avoiding the pointed-finger-parenting of our parents sitcoms. The how-too booklet that accompanied the kit offered a few methods of utilizing the deck and recommended choosing one or two cards per sit-down together. I hoped this experience would get my own kids talking, asking questions and keep them away from their laptops for a few minutes. Spoiler alert - it worked! It worked so well, and in such unpredictable ways, I am an absolute believer in this program.
We spread the cards across the table to get an idea of what we were dealing with. The bright colors and variety of photos worked their magic as each child reached for different cards that caught their eye. “Look at this one!” “What’s going on here?” “Hey neat, check this one out.” I knew this was going to be good! As is typical for my kids they straightened out the deck, got the ipad ready, and decided to establish the ground rules. For our first dive into Smart Choices my crew came up with these five rules:
#1 - No cell phones!
#2 - All ideas are good ideas and we will listen to the WHOLE idea.
#3 - If we don’t know or aren't sure, say so. We can always look it up.
#4 - Personal stories are awesome and sharing is great.
#5 - No one can laugh at anyone's stories or ideas.
Each card was a gift. I didn’t have to dream up a prompt; the image provided the subject matter and an organic discussion flowed from there. The back of each card has helpful hints to keep the kids engaged, thinking and verbalizing. This really helped us build momentum and challenged them to dig deeper and see if they could explore each card to it’s max. Cards such as the vegetables on a cutting board sparked conversations about age appropriateness, cooking skills and kitchen safety. Another card shows a young boy drinking from a plastic water container. My kids instantly focused on how sharing water bottles was not safe because of germs. They also educated me about making sure your name is on your bottle and what rules they had at school associated with sharing food and beverages. Needless to say, I learned a lot about school policy from that one card.
Given that firearms are a well respected and common tool in our home, when the image card of a handgun with ammo appeared my kids leapt off the couch and my daughter immediately spewed knowledge. “That's a semiautomatic and those are self defense rounds. But we don’t know if it’s loaded and that’s not cool. Who didn’t put that in a holster? Where is the Mom? That would never happen in our house.” Now, clearly I was beaming with joy but kept the conversation going by asking, “So, if you were at a friend's house and found this on a table in the guestroom what would you do?” My son was quick to contribute both in song and dance, “I’d do the Eddie the Eagle and STOP, DON’T TOUCH, RUN AWAY and TELL A GROWN UP.” I was thrilled that he remembered the safety training he received three years ago in his youth rimfire rifle league. When the giggling subsided he added in a serious tone, his hand on my shoulder, “Mom, I wouldn't’ mess around. I’d tell their Mom and call you to come get me and bring me home.”
While it is reassuring to discover that some skill sets are present in your child's consciousness it is also illuminating to learn where the missing skills are too. We often hope our kids just know because we do, how to react and what to do in difficult situations. Some cards made it clear that it was time to “level up”. Two wooden figures are staged in the act of performing CPR on one card with helpful hints about life saving skills on the back. I was interested to learn that both of my kids expressed interest in taking a safety class as we all realized that they were now old enough to take action. Not only did they want to learn how to tell if someone needed CPR but they wanted to know what they would have to SAY if they had to call 911 for someone who needed that kind of help.
Some cards could be perceived as “easy” yet prompt a whole new level of interaction. The fire extinguisher card got a chuckle when it came up on the deck. My son almost moved to the next card but paused and gave it another more thoughtful glance. “Hey Mom, how exactly do you use one of those things?” A google search and a few youtube videos later and my kids were locating the extinguisher in our kitchen, checking it’s expiration date and informing me that we needed to update our equipment. They also agreed that it should be staged in the kitchen in a location that anyone of access, not just the tall adults. That one card made the entire experience worth it! One image prompted a conversation, exploration, learning, positive sibling engagement and home safety planning.
Out of curiosity I slipped out of the room and left them alone with the card deck for a few minutes. They were so engaged with the cards and working with each other I wondered if they would stay focused or instantly abandon ship and fly back to their laptops if I wasn’t there to lead the experience. After about 10 minutes or so I quietly snuck back into the kitchen and overheard the following conversation:
“Well, it’s dark behind the person.”
“Yup, can’t see her face, only a question mark.”
“Since we don’t know her, can we trust her?”
“I’d go get Mom.”
“This one goes into the dangerous people pile.”
“Yeah, I agree.”
While I was gone they had begun discussing each card and sorting them into category piles. There was a pile for dangerous places, dangerous people, dangerous things and for dangerous situations. The conversations that were taking place for the different cards were fantastic to listen into. As a parent it was a great opportunity to witness what my kids' attitudes and concerns were with each card and what specific images captivated them more than others. In the deck are a few cards of groups of kids standing or sitting together.
These social cards posed the greatest “what if'' questions and we found ourselves lingering in deeper discussions. Each kid shared stories about peer pressure, bullying, and feeling unsure about how to manage interactions with the “tough” kids. Some of these stories I had heard before and others I was surprised to hear for the first time. We had the opportunity to talk each one out and offer strategies to avoid and clear courses of action if faced with similar situations going forward. While this dialogue alone is a major Mom win, the home run was when my daughter stood up and with hands on her hips proclaimed, “Ya know. I’m just going to tell you about everything from now on. I can’t believe I could have just done that one thing and avoided a year of bullying on the bus!”
Almost two hours flew by before we packed up the deck and put it with the other favorite family games. “Hey Mom, can we keep those out for later?” “Absolutely!” While Smart Choices isn’t intended to be a traditional “game” that one word took the pressure off for my kids and opened them up to being receptive to engaging and learning. These invaluable conversations within a family while often quite serious in nature can be explored in a relaxed and trust building atmosphere through simple graphic cards. SMART CHOICES is brilliant, dynamic and fun. Gunslinging Mom and pre-teen approved!
Brandon Fisher lives in Twinsburg, Ohio and brought Smart Choices into his Okinawa Karate Of Twinsburg Dojo during COVID. This was a way for his Youth Programs to still train and benefit yet respect the COVID 6 foot separation rules, etc. His kids and parents liked it so much that Brandon has incorporated Smart Choices into his "learning program" and "mindset training" permanently. Thank you Brandon. We look forward to hearing from you in the future on which cards have made a surprise impact on your students.
We are a distracted society. It has never been easier or faster to communicate, and with that comes the constant pull for our attention. What used to be common sense, learned through everyday experiences, is lost unless it receives specific attention. I am constantly looking for ways to teach my daughters to be cognizant around them.
What a useful tool for teaching children about situational awareness. Learn more about Smart Choices at smartchoicesimagecards.com. To enter the Smart Choices Image Cards giveaway (April 1st, 2021 - April 14th, 2021) visit my blog at juliegolob.com/blog
Handwriting vs typing: is the pen still mightier than the keyboard? | Neuroscience | The Guardian
The Importance of Handwriting in the Digital Age - HealthyChildren.org
Biological and Psychology Benefits of Learning Cursive | Psychology Today
The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens - Scientific American
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CHAMPION, AUTHOR, VETERAN, HUNTER, AMBASSADOR & MOM Author and IPSC World Champion Julie Golob is one of the most accomplished professional shooters in the world with more than 130 championship titles in international, national, and regional marksmanship competitions in 7 different shooting disciplines. A veteran of the elite U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, she was named both U.S. Army Female Athlete of the Year and AMU Athlete of the Year. The 15-time USPSA Ladies National Champion is also the first and only woman in history to win national titles in all seven practical pistol divisions. Her list of titles also includes the prestigious Bianchi Cup, Steel Challenge, USPSA, IDPA, and IPSC competitions. A SHOT Business Person of the Year and mother of two, Julie is a dedicated ambassador and industry leader who shares her passion for gun safety, firearms education, shooting sports, hunting, and family as an outdoor television personality and host, instructor, guest speaker, and author. Learn more about Julie and about the shooting sports with Julie’s book, SHOOT: Your Guide to Shooting and Competition at JulieGolob.com.
"Smart Choices is mainly designed to help parents educate their kids about physical and emotional dangers and to help kids make better choices to keep themselves safe. A while back Shelley and I were having discussions about various things that I was doing w my kids, including putting my teenagers through Image Based Decisional Drills. As teens they have new found freedoms and I didn't want them going into town and encounter a drunk at a convenient store and had never considered what to do in that situation. Smart Choices Image Cards really are props to help the parent shore up any areas they have not covered with their kids because kids will always surprise you no matter how prepared you try to be. I want to talk to you guys today about some stuff I have been doing. Maybe it will give you some ideas and spur your creativity as well to help keep our kids safe because ultimately as parents that is PRIORITY ONE!"
Father of 4: Toddler, daughter age 15 and twin 16 year old boy.
Chris was one of two main inspirations to make Smart Choices and we will be forever grateful. He planted a seed and it just kept growing! Chris a retired Special Forces Medical Sergeant/18D and is part of a team at Citizens Defense Research that focuses on courses geared towards civilian self-protection with John Johnston and Melody Lauer. We highly recommend you check out Citizens Defense Research's schedule to see if they are coming to an area near YOU! Oh, here is a link to Image Based Decisional Drills that he mentioned. Thank you Chris!
"This is a really cool resource for parents that is a subset of Image Based Decisional Drills and I think this is a fantastic and valuable tool! These Image Cards are for children ages 4-13 but children older will also benefit. Each of these 84 cards is NOT designed to make kids make "snap decisions" but for mom & dad, or educators, or a trusted person in their life to talk to children about self defense related and smart decision related stuff that is age appropriate. Each card has "discussion points" on the back and lets the PATENTS SET THE RULES. These cards lead families to really good discussions and allows the parents to be the "drivers". Once again, you are proactively helping kids make good decisions to help them stay safe in a way that does not intimidate children, does not scare children, but sets them up for success. This is one I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND."
John Correia of Active Self Protection
Active Self Protection
Active Self Protection YouTube Main Channel
Active Self Protection YouTube Extra
NO ONE CHILD IS THE SAME SO IT IS SAFE TO SAY THEY DO NOT LEARN THE SAME with Marla Luehder and Shelley Hill
This is the first BLOG for Smart Choices and it was so fun to make! I dedicated Smart Choices to my parents Thomas Oscar Henry Luehder and Marla Ann Smith Luehder so to have mom in my first BLOG made complete sense to me. Thank you mom for sharing a piece of you with us called "I Have Always Loved You best". You are without a doubt the best mom and "need filler" EVER!
In this video she shares a customized poem (originated from Erma Bombeck) with you. I chose this as our first video because I thought it showed how mom knew how each child worked, learned, and expressed themselves at a very early age. She knew immediately that I was the creative one, the animal lover, the one that loved friends as deeply as family, I never lied, never accepted the word "can't", but I was also the one that had the hardest time learning.
Below is a section out of our "Setting You Up For Success" booklet/page that you will receive when you order Smart Choices Image Cards (BAG or CARDS ONLY). I hope you find value in this short video and really think about HOW your child learns the best.
Make sure you pick “age specific” Smart Choices Image Cards:
Smart Choices REVIEWS
Shelley is the creator of Smart Choices, a public speaker, and a supporter of THINKING AHEAD. Smart Choices BLOG is a mixture of stories, Q & A interaction, new thought provoking ideas, guest BLOGS/videos, and MORE!