Peer victim card played with report cards

It's tempting to claim you were the victim of evil peer influence when your report card grades end up lower than parental expectations.

The first parent-teacher conference of the year is such an eye-opener for the parents of school-age kids, isn’t it? As both my kids are pretty bright and engaged learners, I wasn’t too worried about their grades. Until I actually saw them on paper, outlined in red (or was that just my rage?). You got a WHAT in that subject?!

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, the lower than expected grades received by both my fourth grade daughter and fifth grade son in a couple of academic areas were not due to lack of comprehension, but lack of follow-through, plus over-socializing: They were either too busy chatting with friends to complete their work or didn’t bother to turn it in.

When asked in front of their teachers about the over-socializing, both my kids placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the person with whom they had been chatting. Or perhaps I should say the silver-tongued conversationalists from whom they never stood a chance of disengaging, let along escaping to work on in-class assignments. Yessiree, my children were the victims of evil peer influence. Just ask ‘em!

I should not be surprised by their defense. It’s a pretty common one. When I worked as a circuit court probation officer, many a parent explained away his/her child’s abominable behavior as due to peer pressure. “He just fell in with the wrong crowd” and “She was okay until she started hanging out with some bad kids” were frequent-flyer rationalizations.

Funny, but in my years of working with offenders, I never once encountered a “peer pressurer.” You know, the ringleader of the wrong crowd or the instigating bad kid. No parent ever told me, “You should hold my kid extra accountable because he/she not only DOES bad things, but we suspect may actually be THE bad seed and responsible for leading countless others astray.”

Nope, the law enforcement and criminal justice systems seem to catch only the white sheep, never the blackest ones, which makes prison one of the safest places to work: The really bad criminals always get away with the crime. Just ask their victimized peers who habitually get left holding the bag and doing the time!

So, I took my children’s respective peer victimization defenses with several grains of salt, knowing full well other kids were implicating them during their respective parent-teacher conferences, attributing abysmal grades to the evil peer influence of my children.

To my credit, I did not rise to the defense of my wayward children and neither did their father. We both have been classroom and workplace rabble-rousers from way back and have no problem taking credit, where due, for evil peer influence.

While evil peer influence can often be eradicated through simple rearrangement of a classroom seating chart, failure to turn in work assignments looms a larger problem. When I heard my son was simply not turning in his homework, I pictured his bad habit blossoming into an ongoing adulthood issue.

Connor will be the driver whose vehicle gets impounded for failure to pay parking tickets. He will be the homeowner whose garbage piles up because he forgets to put the Herby Curby out by the road. He will be the taxpayer the IRS prosecutes for failure to file his return. He will be guy whose roommate stiffs him on rent for neglecting to replace the roll of toilet paper. He will be the employee who didn’t get paid because human resources got tired of tracking him down on timesheet day.

I read that and more into Connor’s future when his history teacher informed a 50-point American Indians report was still missing in action, along with a certain 11-year-old brain. Sure, most of this is developmental, but the absent-minded professors of the world had to get their start somewhere and I doubted it was via peer victimization.

On the drive home, my kids said I was driving too slowly. Blabbing with them and pondering how to jump-start their futures, I hadn’t been paying attention. So I placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the slow driver I had been following, quietly convincing myself it must be his fault.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Janet Koehler
    Nov 25, 2011 @ 14:43:33

    I can relate to your feelings about this subject after having 3 sons….I’m glad to report, all three of them are doing fine in their adult lives now…so keep the faith, your kids will do fine!


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