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Q&A: X-Plan Parenting Author Bert Fulks on His Favorite Parenting Strategy

Photo by Laura Fulks

Bert Fulks, author of X-PLAN PARENTING, shares some of the inspiration behind his innovative “X-Plan” to establish trust with his kids, a parenting tactic that went viral in 2017. The way it works is that a child can text a simple “X” to parents/siblings/relatives whenever they feel stuck in an uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situation. After receiving the “X,” that family member will provide the child with an excuse to to leave the party or gathering and then come pick them up, no questions asked–ever. Thus, a sense of trust develops between the family member and child. In the exclusive Q&A below, Bert Fulks answers some questions regarding his new book, how it has strengthened his own family dynamic, and his #1 parenting strategy.

#1. Did any part of your own upbringing influence the X-Plan?

I had incredibly loving parents, but they were a bit naïve about what my life was like as a boy. My siblings and I were taught right from wrong—we knew how to act like “nice kids”—but our family dynamics didn’t encourage honest discussions about the things we faced on a daily basis. I couldn’t talk to Mom and Dad about sex, alcohol, and drugs. I was just told “don’t do it.” That wasn’t enough to help me navigate my teen years, and I often felt lost, alone, and ill-equipped. These days, the stakes are too high for kids to feel like that. I wanted our kids to know they could come to us about anything.  

#2. How, if at all, has implementing the X-Plan changed your family dynamic?

The X-Plan rescue text was a natural extension of how our family functions. It didn’t change our family’s culture, but it reinforced the message my wife and I have always tried to send our kids: you’re not alone and we’ve got your back. However, I’ve heard from parents from all over the world who started talking with their kids about using the X-Plan and it changed everything for them. It opened the door for some difficult, honest conversations. Those intimate talks always lead to stronger, healthier relationships. Our kids face more challenges than we can imagine, and too many of them feel like it’s them against the world AND them against their parents. As parents, we have to earn our kids’ trust and help them grow beyond anything the world throws at them (while letting them take some risks and make mistakes).

#3. Do you think this parenting style encourages children to speak more openly to their family members?

That’s the goal. An early working title of the book was I’ve Got Your Back, and I still love that one, because that’s what kids need to hear from their parents. However, we need to be careful about blurring the lines between parent and child. I’m not advocating being your child’s “friend.” X-Plan Parenting is about creating an alliance with your child, walking alongside her, and guiding her as you work together to reveal and strengthen the person she was made to be. That’s no easy task, and it requires open dialogue, reflection, and constant course adjustments.

#4. Do you have any other notable parenting strategies you use in your household aside from the “X-Plan”?

The X-Plan rescue text is just one tool (and a small one) in the X-Plan Parenting toolbox. My role as a father is to help my kids discover who they are.  If we can unleash that authentic life force, we accomplish what the book promises—raising strong kids in a challenging world. In order to do that, my wife and I are always evaluating how we’re directing our children and asking hard questions (such as “Is our praise encouraging or damaging our child?”). In the book, I reveal how my own brokenness has crippled me as a parent, and that’s a key parenting strategy—acknowledging the wounds we carry and inviting some healing into those places. We’ve got to be honest about our own lives before we can help our kids with theirs. But my favorite parenting strategy? Play, play, play!  Whether board gaming or backpacking, share some adventures, embrace a little chaos, and never stop having fun with your kids.  Play nurtures relationships like nothing else.

#5. Are there any situations in which you don’t think the “X-Plan” should be used?

Again, the X-Plan rescue text is one tiny cog in the X-Plan Parenting engine.  How that engine runs depends on fostering relationships that encourage honesty and vulnerability from both parent and child.  But we have to be careful about how our kids perceive our intentions.  If kids suspect you’re only trying to connect with them in order to control or manipulate them, you risk them pulling away from you.  We have to consider the messages our kids are receiving when we’re reaching for them.  “Dad’s got my back” can easily be twisted into “Dad’s a control freak.”

#6. Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?

Several readers have said they were misled by the title, X-Plan Parenting.  “I expected a book about Christian parenting—and it is,” one reader said, “but this is so much more.  This is really about relationships, and I’m already applying what I’ve learned at home, at work, with my friends … my whole life!  This book isn’t just for parents.  It’s for anyone who wants to develop deeper, more meaningful connections with other people.”  I certainly wrote it as a parenting book, but after hearing responses like this, I must agree.  Whether or not you’re a parent, the book offers a unique blend of healing and connection through some tears, laughter, and transparent storytelling.

Check out this new parenting technique by picking up X PLAN PARENTING!

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