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May
09

Covert Code for your Kids

By

I wrote a previous article about teaching your kids a code of ethics/values.  It was awesome and you can read it here.   

This article is about the type of code that is a lot more clandestine . . . that is to say “secret,” and can help your kids manage social interactions without their peers becoming aware.  It’s especially valuable in helping your kids stay safe as they start visiting other friends and are out of your watchful eye.

Here is a situation:

Mel has been playing over at your house all afternoon.  You, being the great dad that you are, have been helping your wife make dinner (or, maybe she’s helping you) while you keep an ‘eye’ on the kids playing.

At some point, Mel, asks your kid if he can stay overnight for a sleepover.

Your son/daughter still sleeps with a stuffed Snoopy, and doesn’t want to have to explain that to Mel because he/she will be the laughingstock of the school the next week.

So, your offspring comes to you:  Dad, can Mel spend the night?  We can put up the old camping cot in my room . . .

You have arranged a secret ‘code word’ with your kid . . . and “camping cot” is the term that means:  “please say no to a sleepover.”

So, you reply, “Oh I’m sorry, but we have to [_insert excuse_] and you can’t do a sleepover tonight.

Your son/daughter turns to Mel, “Oh rats! Sorry, maybe next time.”

Crisis averted!

You can see by the above example that the idea is simple:  Set up a secret code with your kids to give them an appropriate social ‘out’ if a situation is tense, uncomfortable, or unsafe.

I suggest having a family meeting and arranging some codes.  The sleepover one is good.  You might also want to construct one for friends that ask to stay for dinner, etc.  You might need to have the codes work both for kids wanting to stay at your house, and transversely when kids invite your child to social engagements. 

Codes can be non-verbal also.  Rubbing your head (I’m bald and this one works for me) could mean ‘come rescue me from this conversation.’  Rubbing your elbows could mean ‘say no to anything I ask.’  Rubbing your forearms could mean ‘steal second base.’

Quick note:  Kids need to learn how to be assertive and tell people ‘no’ and speak honestly.  However, there are always those situations where visiting kids don’t pick up on social cues, or beg, or situations that might involve protection from social ridicule or embarrassment.  It’s probably a good idea to discuss the difference with your kids in a family meeting. 

There are many uses for a family code and one of the best is to keep your child safe.  When kids are teens, they are sometimes invited to social engagements that turn illegal or illicit.  What if your kid rode with several other kids to a party?  Then, the party gets ‘out of hand’ and drinking/drugs are involved?

Peers:  Come on!  Stay, it will be fun.

Your Child:  No, I think we should go.

Peers:  We’ll I drove, and I’m going to stay for a little while.  I’m not going to drive you home and come back.

This is a great opportunity for your kid to call to check in (because you have set up that they check-in on a regular basis throughout the night – good job Dad!), or to have your son/daughter drop you a quick call/text that includes the code.

For phone calls, the code can even contain a prompt for you to start asking questions.

[Ring]

Child:  Hey dad, I’m checking in. (dramatically rolls eyes to friends to show that he hates having to call to check in) I’m excellent.

Dad:  [Recognizes that your child used the code word “excellent” instead of fine] Do I need to come and get you?

Child:  Yeah, we are just messing around playing ping-pong and stuff.

Dad:  Ok, I’ll come.  Do I need to create some emergency text and excuse to get you?

Child:  Sure, I’ll check in again later.

Dad:  [Hangs up.  Waits about 15 minutes, then texts “Hey, something came up and I have to come get you.  I’ll explain in the car.  Tell your buddies sorry.”

Child:  [Shows friends the text and feigns disappointment while cursing all parents for being ‘losers’]

I recently read online about using a similar system where the code is just a texted ‘X’ to mean “make up an excuse to come get me because things are ‘not good.’  The article even added a little suggestion that is worth including.  If you have to rescue your teen/pre-teen from a “not good” situation via the secret code, then don’t ask any questions about the situation on the ride home – that way your son/daughter won’t have to elaborate how they got into a rescue situation.  They can bring it up on their own time.  (Kids will always bring things up later if they can trust you.)

Codes don’t just have to be for extraction.  In our house, we have the accepted code “for real” to mean “tell the truth.”  If my wife or I think that there is a lie involved in something we are hearing, we say, “for real.”  That gives our kids, or each other, the prompt to tell the full, gritty truth because it will be worse if they don’t. 

Wife:  Did you kill that enormous spider in the bathroom?

Me:  Yeah. Guts went everywhere.

Wife:  For real.

Me:  No, It was freaky-big.  I was trying to figure out how to kill it, then the little sucker ran at me and I panicked.  Turns out it was just a feint and it ran under the cabinet to escape.

Wife:  Great.  Now we have to burn down th bathroom.

Here is something you might find interesting:  They used secret codes in the Bible, and early Christians also used a code to stay safe.  When the idea of ‘church’ had just started after the first Easter . . .  the FIRST Easter, the one where Jesus rose from the grave and ascended into heaven . . . people that followed Jesus and met together could be arrested or killed by the Roman government.  Christians would draw a fish on their door as a secret code.  The Greek word “ΙΧΘΥΣ” means “fish” and those letters are also the initial letters of the phrase, “Lesous (Jesus), Xristos (Christ), Theou (God), Yios (Son), Sotare (Savior).  If you saw the fish drawing, then you knew there was a secret meeting of Christ-followers that met at that location.

Well, either that or a bass angler lived there . . .  which probably led to some awkward situations.

Also, I learned recently that the book of Jeramiah has a few words that scholars think were written in a secret code to avoid detection by the Babylonians.  The code is called atBash and might be a fun one to use with your kids because it’s simple letter substitution.  Here is the Wikipedia explanation.

Dads may want to institute a family code for all of the above reasons.  Creating and using a code identifies you as a member of a family or organization; it’s secret only to those members.  Such talk about secret codes might prompt you to think, not only about codes for your family, but what about codes to show that you are a member of God’s family?

Which brings me to the preview for my next article now that I’m ‘back’ in the article writing “groove:”  Being Set Apart – it is sure to be as great as this one.  Or better.  Who knows?

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brad Washburn is a father and husband. He has helped hundreds of people over the last 15 years. In particular, he desires to see fathers be “men after God’s own heart” — a description of King David in the Bible who was a lover, fighter, sheep herder, and harp player . . . .

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