In today’s world of parenting, mom and dad are supposed to act nothing but proud. The picture perfect parent stands on the sidelines and watches their child with a sense of admiration derived straight from Disney movies. Parents are prepared for this. They know the minute their child is born, that they will always be ‘the best’ and that no other person will every come before them. Then they start to grow up. From tantrums to disrespect in public, to acting ungrateful and spoiled. They throw mashed potatoes on the floor at dinnertime and pout every time they don’t get their way. This is just a glimpse of what will happen during the teenage years when they develop a deep opinion of their own and an attitude to go with it. Suddenly, parents are embarrassed of their children.
Then, one day you find yourself walking a swift 5 steps ahead of them in the grocery store because you don’t want others to think they are with you at all. The torn jeans and the shirt worn just a little too tight is just the tip of the iceberg. The expression of disdain and boredom for all things non-teen written all over their face is embarrassing all on its own, but then some lady runs into them with a shopping cart. Your angelic little child, just a toddler a short time ago – says something rude and unexpected as a retort. In that moment you would do anything to turn them back into the raving toddler throwing a fit because you wouldn’t buy them a baby bottle pop! And sadly, you are the one red faced, questioning every parental decision you have ever made that evolved your child into the person that they are.
Every parent has been there. Whether it is with a small child or a growing teen, children embarrass their parents much more than the parents embarrass their children. But it has nothing to do with bad parenting and even more so, is nothing to be ashamed about. Some parents truly feel upset, guilty and wrought with pain because they feel this way about their own child. Yes, it is possible and often positive to dislike your own child. But you have to realize that just because you gave birth and raised this child, they are still their own person completely separate from you. Your guiding light and your rules may have a huge effect on shaping them, yet they still have a lot of unchartered territory to cover that requires them to test the waters and embarrass you (and themselves) along the way.
The biggest mistake a parent can make when their child embarrasses them in public or in school is to make the apology for them. If your child’s teacher calls you in for a conference and discusses the horrific behavior your child has in class, it isn’t for you to say sorry. It is your child’s responsibility. The teacher may be looking at you as though you are some monster of a mother with no control over her child but the bottom line is that it is your child that has done wrong. Unless you have specifically taught and encouraged this behavior, you are not responsible for it. Instead, find useful, effective, and meaningful ways for your child to be responsible for their own behavior! Make them apologize and definitely tune out those feelings that YOU are constantly responsible for your child. The next step is to follow through.
Parents are constantly taught to raise their children with praise. Well, in many cases praise and turning a negative situation into a positive one is a disservice to your child. If they think that mom and dad will always be smelling the roses instead of the doo-doo they stepped in, children become unaffected and complacent about their behaviors. They also begin to think that mom and dad will fix everything. Add that to the fact that you have been telling them for a lifetime that you will always love them no matter what, that you may not like what they do but you will always like them you are giving your child a free pass to disrespect you and others in life. In addition to that, its bull. You won’t always like your child and there will be things that they do or say, that you will never forget or forgive them for. And you know what, that’s okay!
When children embarrass their parents, whether they are 4 or 14 they should KNOW about it. It might not be such a bad idea to retaliate with the old two wrongs making a right thing. For instance, if your 16 year says a curse word in front of your colleagues, completely astonishing you show up to their school wearing curlers. Fair is fair, right? Your job as a parent is to teach your children about life; not to cover-up or suck up every ridiculous thing that your children do. In addition to that, you don’t have to feel guilty about being fired up, angry, embarrassed, and completely humiliated that your child belongs to you. Luckily, the feeling goes away. However, while it lasts, don’t be afraid to share it with your children. Tell them, ‘you embarrassed me!’ Knowing that they embarrassed you and realizing how difficult you could make their life in return is a good bargaining chip to getting the behavior you want from your child. Especially in public.
Years from now, you will look back at your teens ridiculous outfits, the crazy things your four year old used to do in pre-school, the antics of your middle schooler and realize that they weren’t quite as bad as you thought they were at the time. You will also realize that you still love your child. The undying, fairy tale adoration and self-righteousness that many parents believe is part of being a good parent, isn’t real. It is impossible to love someone so much as you love your child, and not ever be disappointed or let down by something that they do or say.