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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!

About the Author

Amy McCready

Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic – A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.

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