Think about the last time you cussed when someone cut you off or stormed out of the room during an argument. Those emotional reactions are part of our basic survival instincts—“fight or flight” is hardwired into our brains. And controlling those responses is a learned skill. Enter BrainWise, a Denver-based program founded by Patricia Gorman Barry, R.N., Ph.D., that provides structured lessons to give kids and teenagers—and even adults—techniques to help them make smart(er) decisions.

Taught in close to 300 Colorado schools, BrainWise is based on 10 easy-to-remember “Wise Ways”—lessons such as knowing who to ask for help, separating fact from opinion, and identifying your options. “Those of us who have thinking skills assume everybody has them because they are so automatic,” Barry says. But that’s not always the case. “[BrainWise] teaches that we do have control,” she says, “but that we need to recognize other people’s behaviors. It’s up to you to use your thinking skills.”