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I Share a Number of Secret Code Words with My Daughter: Why?

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Ever since my daughter was three, we’ve shared secret code words for everything from her safety to her emotional state of mind. In fact, code words have made both my daughter’s life, and mine, easier. Let’s just say, we’ve pretty much used every fruit as a code word for something, at some point.

‘I really feel like an apple,’ my daughter may say to me. As soon a I hear the word ‘apple,’ I know exactly what my daughter is asking for, or what she needs. (Obviously, I’m not going to share what our code word ‘apple’ means.’ Because that’s just between me and my daughter.’ Which is the point.)

The very first code word we shared was when she was in JK. I had talked to my young daughter about the fact that the only people who were ever to pick her up from school were me, her father, and her grandparents. If anyone else attempted to pick her up, or said something along the lines of, ‘Your mom told me to pick you up. I’m her friend,’ my daughter knew to ask the person what the code word was, a word that I had religiously drummed into her head. If that person didn’t know the code word, she was to run back into the school and find a teacher immediately.

Code words (or letters) are blessings in this day and age of parenting. Last week, one father’s code for getting teens out of uncomfortable situations went viral and was shared over a million times by intrigued parents.

Called the ‘X-Plan‘ the father of three shared his clever way of helping his kids get out of the ‘inevitable peer pressure teens face as they get older.’  It’s easy to see why this has gone viral. It’s a pretty brilliant idea. So, how does it work?

‘Let’s say the my youngest, Danny gets dropped off at a party,’ youth minister Bert Fulks, who works with teenagers recovering from addiction, explains. ‘If anything about the situation makes him uncomfortable, all he has to do is text the letter ‘X’ to his mother, me, his older brother. The person who receives the ‘X’ then calls Danny with a ‘pre-determined script:

‘Hello?’
‘Danny, something’s come up and I have to come get you right now.’
‘What happened?’
‘I’ll tell you when I get there. Be read to leave in five minutes. I’m on my way.’

Danny then tell tells his friends, who have overheard this fake exchange, that something has happened at home and that he has to leave. The exchange gives Danny an ‘out’, freeing him from potential ridicule, which every teen who has been peer pressured into doing something knows all too well. Mr. Fulks says the X-Plan gives his son a sense of security and confidence in a ‘world that tends to beat our young people into submission.’

The X-plan has more caveats. ‘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,’ says Fulks.

This not only can go a long way in building trust between parents and their kids, but shows that sometimes using technology to keep our kids safe is a necessity in this day and age. When my daughter starts really going to house parties, I’m also going to drum in a code word, or code letter she can text me, so I know if she needs to be picked up ASAP (also with no judgment.)

But I’ve found code words useful for other occasions, as well. When I first got together with my son’s father, my daughter not only was introduced to him, but also to his two daughters, who would become her stepsisters. Often, because they were older, she felt left out when she couldn’t get a word in. We came up for a code word so I knew when she wanted to be pulled away, so I could give her a pep talk and remind her how much she is adored.

Like Fulks, who is only looking out for his children with the X-Plan during teenage years, I’ve found having a code word for my tween to be a life saver, not only for me and for her, but for our relationship as well.

Teenagers are moody little jerks and I’ve found that if my daughter is in a ‘mood,’ peppering her with questions about her day, or who she hung out with, or what she learned at school, just makes her moodier. So we’ve come up with a code word for when she needs her space and doesn’t feel like talking. No questions are asked by me, once I hear the code word, but at least I know to leave her be for a while. This, in itself, has cemented our close relationship, because I don’t want to talk to her either when she’s in a shit mood.

We also have a code word for when I think she’s being rude, especially if we’re in public. I work the word into the conversation, and immediately, she will change her attitude. There’s no screaming. There’s no arguing back.

Thus far, these code words have worked. I’ve never been told, ‘I hate you,’ and I’ve never heard her slam her bedroom door. Why? Because the code words we say to each other prevent any unnecessary fights or hurt feelings before there can be a fight or hurt feelings.

And, yes, she very much still remembers our first code word, introduced in JK, when it comes to strangers. It’s not easy being a teen or even a child these days. Code words are easy, and a efficient way to make sure your child is safe, both emotionally and physically, and to build lasting trust.

I’ll leave you with, ‘I really want to take a bubble bath.’ You may never know what it means, but my daughter and I most certainly do.

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