Parenting Blog

The Parents’ Guide to the X-Plan: How to Hold Up Your End of the Bargain

You may have seen a recent post by a dad, Bert Fulks entitled X-Plan: Giving Your Kids a Way Out.  The article recently went viral, and for good reason. In it, Bert shared a powerful strategy that helped his children safely remove themselves from situations that were dangerous or uncomfortable. With a bonus – they could still save face with their friends.

Here’s how the X-Plan works:

If one of his kids were ever out and found themselves in a predicament in which they realized they were in over their heads or headed for trouble, they would text a member of the family with just the letter “X.”

In return, that family member would text back a message which expressed an urgent need for the child to come home immediately, and that someone was on the way to pick them up. 

To make it plausible for the teen, the agreement was that there would be no questions asked. If the child chose to share what happened – great; but there would be no pressure, helicoptering or lecturing involved.

The beauty of the X-Plan is that the child doesn’t have to feel embarrassed or be mocked by his peers because the reason for leaving is a family emergency. And, most importantly, the child is SAFE.

As the X-Plan went viral, most parents agreed putting a safety system like this in place is a great idea and one that could potentially keep a lot of kids out of harm’s way.

However, the “no-lecture, no-pressure, no-prying” part of the plan is where it gets tricky for a lot of parents. I get it. As fear kicks in, you want to know every detail about what was happening that made your child uncomfortable enough to signal for help.  And, you want to ensure it won’t happen again.

It’s hard.  But, a deal has to be a deal. This kind of safety plan ONLY works if the parent does their part.  We have to give our kids the space to make the tough call (or text in this case) without the expectation of getting in trouble or hearing a sermon. If they fear punishment, lectures and life-lessons, it’s game-over.  They won’t reach out with the X-Plan, which can most certainly put them in harm’s way.

Instead, try these strategies to cultivate a relationship where your kids aren’t afraid
to let you in:

1. Take a deep breath first. It’s easy to over-react when we know our kid has been in a potentially dangerous situation. Unfortunately, that will be the undoing of the safety plan. Instead, stop for a minute. Give yourself time to settle in. When you do, it’s easier to spare them the sermons, support your child, and keep your end of the bargain.

2. Save the life-lessons for another time. Take advantage of teachable moments outside of an incident by talking about your own experiences at their age, or using a news story, a movie or magazine article as a catalyst for talking about difficult topics. Role play the words to use in uncomfortable situations. 

3. Acknowledge and appreciate honestly. When your child tells you the truth, especially a tough one, let them know you admire their courage to do so and that you are proud of them. 

4. Reinforce that you love them unconditionally. Let them know that no matter what, you are there for them.

5. Change the way you look at mistakes. Mistakes are part of the learning curve for all of us. When your kid feels like it won’t be the end of the world to come to you when they’ve messed up –  you’re on the right path!  Let them know you’re there to support them, help them learn from mistakes and move on.  You’ll find they’ll be more likely to turn to you when they need help again.

Kudos to Burt Fulks for raising awareness and creating an opportunity to jump start safety conversations between parents and kids all over the globe.  Our world is filled with potential tough spots for kids, so helping them navigate those decisions safely while finding their tribe is a powerful way to be a great parent.

I encourage you to do just that. Use Fulk’s article to talk to your kids and work together on a code word and a plan that is unique and makes sense for you and your family. Stay safe!

How I Changed from a Toxic Mom-Manager to an Encouraging Soul Builder

From New York Times bestselling author, Rachel Macy Stafford

There was a time in my life when I barked orders more often than I spoke words of love … when I reacted to small everyday inconveniences as if they were major catastrophes … when normal human habits and quirks raised my blood pressure to dangerous levels.

Rather than nurturing my family members, I took it upon myself to manage my family members until there was no room to bend or breathe.

My artistic, busybody, dream-chasing older daughter’s desire to start projects, try new recipes, and leave trails wherever she went received disapproving looks on a daily basis. 

My stop-and-smell-the-roses younger daughter’s desire to buckle in stuffed animals before we drove off, accessorize every part of her body before walking out the door, and move at a snail’s pace drew exasperated breaths and annoyed frowns.

My fun-loving, laidback husband’s spontaneous approach to weekend plans and ability to totally chill out got the silent treatment more times that I could count.

The people I was supposed to love unconditionally possessed qualities that irritated, annoyed, and continually derailed my carefully planned agenda—an agenda that was all about efficiency, perfection, and control.

I was not acting as a mother or a wife or even a decent human being. I was acting as a surly manager who was intent on creating a toxic environment—a place where it was pretty hard to show up each and every day.

How do I know?

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One Simple Strategy to Help Make Homework Time Easier

It is time to retire the red pencil?


How many of us have been guilty of subscribing to “red pencil mentality?”  You know, when we focus on the homework mistakes rather than on what’s correct?  Probably most of us; because it’s human nature.  However, focusing on our kids’ mistakes or the wrong answers can be a big source of homework power struggles.

Let’s put ourselves in their shoes.  What happens when someone points out our mistakes?  It makes us feel judged.  The same goes for kids. When we focus on what they got wrong, they feel judged and discouraged, which makes the situation ripe for eye rolls and power struggles. 

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6 Essential Tools to Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety

A Guest Post from Julie Sams, MA, LPC


Anxiety stems from your child’s reaction to stress, and according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America affects one in every 8th child.  From the child who is deeply afraid of bees to the child who will not leave their home out of fear, anxiety is a real condition that can be debilitating.  No matter what the level of anxiety, or what causes it, it is so hard to watch your child miss out on things you know they should enjoy.

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4 Tips for Pokemon Go Safety

A Guest Post from Child Safety Expert, Amy Tiemann, PhD

thumbnail_PPS Pokemon Safety

The new mobile game Pokémon Go has won the hearts and minds of millions of Americans with over 7 million downloads in its first week of release. This has happened so quickly that many parents are just catching up with this new craze.

What makes this game different is it features “augmented reality” technology, which means players look at their mobile phone screens and see animated Pokémon creatures superimposed on the “real-life” background generated by their phone’s camera. To the player, it appears that they are throwing balls at a Pokémon monster right in front of them. The game also calls for a lot of walking to reach virtual map targets like a PokéStop supply station or a Pokémon Gym where players can battle to capture that location, or to incubate and hatch Pokémon eggs.

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Four Daily Habits That Build Connection

A guest post from author, Rebecca Eanes

four smiling fingers that are very happy to be friends, family concept

Looking back on my childhood, the summer vacations to the amusement parks and over-the-top Christmas celebrations do stand out in my mind, but the grandiose doesn’t take up the biggest places in my heart. It was small things – fishing at the lake on a hot summer’s day, playing Scrabble at the table, gathering over mashed potatoes and baked chicken – that made me feel connected. It was the ordinary regular occurrences that made us feel like family.

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