When our son Charlie was in middle school, I received a call from the principal explaining that he and some friends had been caught gambling at lunch. Allegedly, he was the cashier, and his grandmother, whom I’d put on hold to take the call, was very proud. I assured the principal that we would back her up regarding the offense and consequences.

I imagined a revolving poker game at the lunch table, but later learned the boys were filling out brackets for a March Madness basketball pool.

Without hesitation we supported the principal and school policy. Others rationalized that March Madness pools were organized in offices all over the country. They complained, “What’s the big deal?”, but we maintained that it couldn’t go on at school. Word got out that we took the matter very seriously and Charlie announced that his friends thought we were crazy.

This crazy parent accusation got me thinking aloud, “This could work for you, Charlie. I think we should go with it.” I explained the “Good Guy-Bad Guy” concept and volunteered to be his excuse for staying out of trouble until he found his own. When he asked for clarification, I went on to describe various scenarios in which teenage boys could benefit from pulling a “Crazy Mom Card”. I explained that he could use it to avoid being pressured into cutting class and attending unsupervised parties, to name but a few.

Being perceived as over-the-top parents kept us on the radar screen. We had no interest in being Charlie’s friends or his friends’ friends. There would be plenty of time for that. What we lost in popularity we gained in credibility.

Charlie knew we would play bad guy if it meant that he could bow out of sticky situations and save face. With an official “Crazy Parent Card” in pocket, he could find his own voice while falling back on ours.

We understood what our kids were up against since we encountered peer pressure of our own, and had to remind ourselves that what others think of us is none of our business. Our kids wondered why we weren’t concerned about being perceived as uptight or crazy. We assured them, “We lay down the law and follow through on consequences not because we are crazy in general, but because we are crazy for you.”