When your child is embarrassed by you….

Or you are embarrassed by them! 

Let’s face it, when we were young, our parents were embarrassing. They dressed like dorks, listened to weirdly quiet music, wiped gunk off our cheeks with their saliva and talked and sang way too much. Not us, we are cool Moms. We are fun Moms!  We watch cool TV shows and rockin’ movies like Bad Moms. We have cute outfits, awesome friends, listen to good music and we are nice and respectful to our kids! Our kids have nothing to be embarrassed about, right?

Friday night I had the fun experience of hanging out, downtown, with a group of 12 year old girls. The enthusiasm and friendliness of the girls was contagious. When it was announced to my group that I’d be their chaperone for the scavenger hunt, they cheered saying, “Yeah! We got the cool Mom!” My heart and ego swelled. It didn’t even bother me that my daughter asked to be in a different group than me. It may have taken me a few decades but I was finally one of the popular girls! 

Until at dinner my daughter complained about having to sit next to me. And gave me a “talk to the hand” when I tried to speak to her. And made me the butt of her joke. And publicly chastised my appearance in front of her friends.

What is going on here?  This girl who follows me around my house talking and sharing every thought in her head. This girl who loves to spend time together shopping and going out to eat. This girl LOVES me, she can’t get enough of me at home! Why did my best buddy in private turn into my public enemy #1?

Becoming embarrassed by your parents, (no matter how amazingly cool we are!) is a sure sign that adolescence has arrived. Gone are the days we were worshiped, when we would show up at school to drive on the field trip and their whole face would light up. Our kids are trying to separate from us, to differentiate who they are, from who their Mom or Dad is. When kids are embarrassed by us, (or we are embarrassed by them) it’s a sign we are over-identifying with each other.

I get embarrassed when my son misses a shot, the same way I feel proud when he makes a good one. This is a sign that I am still enmeshed with him and haven’t separated his identity, and his experiences, from mine. It’s this over-identification that our children are trying to separate from (and frees them up to enjoy the company of other Moms). We have enmeshed our identity with theirs so much that we make their good grades and good behavior, mean we are good parents. You might even comment to a mom about how cute her baby is and hear that Mom say, “thank you”. Why? You were complimenting the baby, not her! It’s funny and so subtle we don’t even realize we’ve done it but this enmeshment makes letting go of our teens that much harder.

You can feel the difference when we think about our parents. They are still as goofy as ever but we don’t get embarrassed by them anymore. They are who they are, separate and distinct from us because we no longer identify with them.
Later in the evening my daughter asked me for a favor and I quietly whispered “No, I’m not going to do that because you haven’t been treating me very respectfully tonight.” She was genuinely surprised, which surprised me! She didn’t even know she was doing it!  I think it’s important that even when we feel disrespected and embarrassed, that we not embarrass our kids back. We know that we could, at any time, torture them by wearing crazy outfits, sing and dance in public, scold and shame them publicly or even just call them “sweetie” in front of their friends. Let’s let the knowledge of our power be enough 🙂 When parents take this action, it drives a wedge in the relationship. Kids learn they can’t trust their parents to understand and a disconnection grows at a time when they really need to feel secure. Even though it’s normal to grow apart from your parents and become independent, it’s still a big, scary thing to do, at a very insecure time and having compassion for what they are going through makes parenting them easier. 

Join me for a free webinar on Raising Teens Thursday, October 13th at 12noon. Learn how to live with teens without losing your mind. Register now at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/got-teens