Teenagers all think they have the most embarrassing parents. Well, guess what? Sometimes parents are embarrassed by their teenagers, too. Here a mom and her son share what embarrasses them about each other, and our expert weighs in with advice on how to handle those moments where we embarrass those we love most.
PARENT | Devorah Katz
Here’s what you need to know about our oldest son, Yoni.
He’s a good-looking guy. But the joy of raising a 15-year-old boy who thinks he is good looking (and is good looking) means you spend a lot of time competing with his mirror. I find the constant flexing of his muscles mildly embarrassing, especially when the house is filled with company.
With three younger brothers and one older sister, Yoni often sets the stage for what is and is not acceptable in our family. His hair was a shaggy blond mane for a while, until he shaved off almost all of his hair and vaguely resembled a Marine on leave. A little embarrassing, yes.
The whole dabbing thing embarrasses me, not only when my kids do it, but maybe when anyone does. I’d love for that fad to move on. Yoni sings loudly, and there are definitely a number of songs on his Best Hits list whose lyrics cause me to bite my nails and reach for chocolate.
Yoni is also a runner, and while I admire his determination and focus, I less admire his short running shorts (must they be that short?). I recognize in teenage years it is a veritable given that I am just another one of those stereotypical embarrassing parents to my children, and I am pleased to see that there are moments when they embarrass me as well.
Devorah Katz, age 43, is the mother of five children who writes for www.challahcrumbs.com and lectures about parenting in the 21st century.
TEEN | Yoni Katz
My mother is okay — mostly.
Here are the parts that embarrass me about my mother. She tries to be funny around my friends, and she is not. She is only sometimes ever funny, mostly when no one is around. Sometimes when we give my friends rides, she talks to them and asks them questions … and then more questions … and then more questions.
She spends too much time touching my hair. When my mom rolls down her window and tries to yell at bad drivers, it’s very embarrassing. When she thinks she is playing good basketball and she is not, that is embarrassing.
When I was cocky and challenged her to a one-on-one in front of my friends and neighbors and she won, that was exceptionally embarrassing. When we watch baseball games together and she pretends to know what is happening—that can be embarrassing. And her sneezes are crazy loud. Very embarrassing.
She is still one of my top two parents, but there’s room for improvement.
When Yoni Katz, age 15, isn’t being embarrassed by his mother, he can be found jogging, taking photos, and making short videos.
EXPERT | Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D.
Embarrassment is not a trivial emotion; however, it is never something another person can do to you. Usually socially stimulated, it is always self-inflicted.
If you make a mistake in public, even if you are laughed at, you decide to feel embarrassed or not. You decide whether or not to blow the incident off or to give in to one or more of four fears that feed embarrassment.
1. Fear of exposing oddity or inadequacy
2. Fear of being teased or ridiculed
3. Fear of lasting damage to image or reputation
4. Fear of isolation for appearing unacceptably different
Parents and adolescents each need to take responsibility for choosing to feel embarrassed by each other—for inflicting this experience of fear upon themselves.
That said, they can be forthright about their sensitivities and ask each other not to act in certain ways to which they are embarrassment-prone.
For example, the teenager might ask the parent: “I know feeling embarrassed is up to me; however, it would make life easier when you are spectating my game if instead of loudly cheering and yelling out my name, you could just sit quietly and enjoy watching.”
The parent might ask the teenager: “I know feeling embarrassed is up to me; however, it would make life easier when we are together in public around your friends if you don’t act like I wasn’t there and something was the matter with me or us, but instead could also treat me in a friendly way.”
Don’t blame the other person for embarrassing you, but do declare your sensitivities and needs.
Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., is a psychologist in Austin, Texas, and author of Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence. His next parenting book about adolescents will be out in 2018.