Bert Fulks remembers when he was a young teenager, and “sex, drugs, and alcohol came rushing into my young world; I wasn’t ready for any of it.”
But at the same time, he was more afraid of being left without friends.
“I still recall my first time drinking beer at a friend’s house in junior high school—I hated it, but I felt cornered. As an adult, that now seems silly, but it was my reality at the time,” Fulks wrote.
It was much easier to go along with others, “forcing down alcohol,” than deal with nagging and ribbing from friends. The term “peer pressure” seems like a frivolous term for how serious this is—and he never wanted his kids to feel that way.
So he came up with an X plan.
“Let’s say my that my youngest, Danny, gets dropped off at a party,” Fulks explained.
No questions asked—Fulks would give his son a way out.
What happens next is that he would give Danny a call, and it would go something like this:
“Danny, something’s come up and I have to come get you right now.”
“I’ll tell you when I get there. Be ready to leave in five minutes. I’m on my way.”
Any of his kids are free to use this “lifeline” any time, Fulks wrote—and there will be no questions asked. “It’s completely up to him.”
“The X-plan comes with the agreement that we will pass no judgments and ask no questions (even if he is 10 miles from where he’s supposed to be),” Fulks wrote. It can be a hard thing for parents to agree to, but Fulks assured his readers that the trust building and sense of security it gives kids far outweighs that.
Fulks is a teacher and youth ministry leader, and a recent session with teenagers recovering from addictions pushed him to share this “X-plan” with other parents. On his blog, he detailed how the plan works, and why it is so important.
“Recently I asked these kids a simple question: How many of you have found yourself in situations where things started happening that you weren’t comfortable with, but you stuck around, mainly because you felt like you didn’t have a way out?'”
“They all raised their hands. Every single one of them.”
Fulks wanted to emphasize how important having a “way out” can be to a child of this impressionable age.
But his technique wasn’t received without controversy. Some parents commented that this method might encourage dishonesty or encouraging avoidance. Fulks cautioned that tips and tricks shouldn’t replace honest conversations and important talks with your children.
“It actually presents an opportunity for you as a parent to teach your kids that they can be honest (something DID come up, and they DO have to leave), while learning that it’s okay to be guarded in what they reveal to others. They don’t owe anyone an explanation the next day, and if asked can give the honest answer, “It’s private and I don’t want to talk about it.” Boom! Another chance for a social skill life-lesson from Mom and Dad.”
After spending time with the recovering teenagers—who were in the program for 6 months, Fulks felt his message was more important than ever.
“You never know when something so simple could be the difference between your kid laughing with you at the dinner table or spending six months in a recovery center … or (God forbid) something far worse.”