A father-of-three has shared the way he ensures his kids have an "out" when they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation - and his clever idea is very quickly going viral.
In a post to his blog, youth minister Bert Fulks outlines his "X-plan" - a simple method devised to combat the inevitable peer pressure teens face as they get older. Drawing inspiration from his work supporting teenagers going through recovery from addiction, Mr Fulks writes, "This simple but powerful tool is a lifeline that our kids are free to use at any time."
Here's how it works.
"Let's say that my youngest, Danny, gets dropped off at a party," Mr Fulks explains. "If anything about the situation makes him uncomfortable, all he has to do is text the letter "X" to any of us (his mother, me, his older brother or sister)."
The person who receives the "X" then calls Danny with the following pre-determined script:
"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."
Danny then tell his friends that something has happened at home - and that he has to leave immediately.
The beauty of the "X-plan", Mr Fulks explains, is not only that Danny has a way out, but "there's no pressure on him to open himself to any social ridicule. He has the freedom to protect himself while continuing to grow and learn to navigate his world."
The "X-Plan" in action. Image:Bert Fulks
Describing it as the most loving thing they've given him, Mr Fulks noted that the "X-plan" provides his son with a sense of security and confidence "in a world that tends to beat our young people into submission".
There's yet another aspect of the plan, however, that makes it especially good for teens: once he's been collected, it's up to Danny as to just how much or how little he shares with his family about what prompted the call.
"The X-plan comes with the agreement that we will pass no judgments and ask no questions (even if he is 10 miles away from where he's supposed to be)," the father-of-three adds. Acknowledging that this aspect might be hard for some parents, Mr Fulks notes "I promise it might not only save [the kids], but it will go a long way in building trust between you and your kid."
There is one exception, however. "Danny knows if someone is in danger, he has a moral obligation to speak up for their protection, no matter what it may cost him personally," Mr Fulks writes. "That's part of the lesson we try to teach our kids - we are our brother's keeper, and sometimes we have to stand for those too weak to stand for themselves."
For Mr Fulks, the plan is an acknowledgement that despite the often intrusive nature of technology in the life of our teens ("It drives me nuts when my kids text me from another room in our house," he says), we can also use technology to keep our kids safe.
Urging parents to implement and share the plan, the West Virginia dad writes, "If this somehow gives just one kid a way out of a bad situation, we can all feel privileged to have been a part of that."
Mr Fulks' post has been shared an astonishing one million times and has parents around the world taking note. Others have shared their own similar plans and the different ways they've implemented them in their families.
"We had this for our boys but they could call any adult in our friendship network," one commenter wrote. "This worked because sometimes 'aunts and uncles' are easier to talk to then parents. They all come home safe! It's all that matters."
Many others shared that they wished they'd had something similar as teens. "I cannot imagine how differently my life would have been if I could have used this when I was growing up!" another commenter wrote. "I will definitely implement this in my home with my 2 sons ... thank you from the bottom of this mama's heart!"
While most commenters were overwhelmingly in favour of the plan, some questioned whether "lying" was an appropriate tactic and whether or not the 'no questions asked' policy was the right thing to do.
As one parent noted however, it comes down to what's right for each child and each family.
"Find a mechanism or a compromise that makes you kid feel safe turning to you when they make a bad choice and the situation gets out of hand," they wrote. "The idea is giving the kid a way to get out of a bad situation without having to commit 'social suicide', or fear walking into a (to them) worse situation at home. And to those that say 'it won't work' - it may not work for you as a parent, and it may not work as intended if your kid tries to take advantage of it – but those are specific situational problems that need to be addressed for YOUR family. The principle itself is sound."
What do you think? Do you use something like this with your own kids?