Do Your Kids Embarrass You?
One summer day before going to camp, Marissa asked for my opinion of her outfit. She had put on her special occasion, dressy shoes — silver glittery Mary Janes — along with her tank top and shorts.
Just a few years prior, I might have told her that she couldn’t wear the dressy shoes because they looked ridiculous with her outfit or that she’d ruin them at camp. I would’ve thought to myself, “The other kids will make fun of her” or, “What will people think of me letting her out of the house looking like that?”
She would’ve been upset that I opposed her wearing them, and we would’ve gotten into a power struggle over it. Yelling and tears probably would’ve been involved, too. Then, if I did decide to let her wear them, I’d have been sure to tell everyone that she had insisted on it, to absolve me from blame.
This time, I simply suggested that she look in the mirror and decide for herself. When she did, she said, “Hmm. That looks kind of silly,” and decided against it.
I must admit, I was remarkably proud of myself for the way I handled that situation (and thank goodness she made the right choice…….kidding!).
I’ve come a long way from the mother who used to think that every decision my children made was a reflection of me. I no longer feel responsible for every choice they make or embarrassed by their behavior. But it took a while to get here.
When Your Kids Embarrass You
My mom loves to tell about how I used to embarrass her whenever she exaggerated the truth. I would pipe up and say, “Mommy, that’s not what happened.” Then there was the time my sister pointed to a man in the grocery store and shouted, “Look, Mommy! He’s fat!”
Some parents become extremely embarrassed when their kids have a tantrum in public. Or when they have poor table manners at a restaurant. Or when they come home from college with a tattoo. The list goes on.
Underneath the embarrassment is the fear that others will judge us or that our kids will be judged and rejected. The fear can be so strong that we sometimes react by getting angry with our kids instead of examining it.
Examining the Fear
When we first feel embarrassed, all kinds of automatic thoughts start firing.
- “People will think I’m a bad parent.”
- “My child will be teased.”
- “We won’t be accepted.”
- “I’m morally opposed to tattoos.”
- “I thought she looked more attractive with long hair.”
Sometimes our reaction is based on a past event or “trigger.”
- “I wasn’t allowed to do that as a child.”
- “When I cut my hair I regretted it.”
- “I was teased as a child for doing that and it left an emotional scar.”
Sometimes we’re actually angry with ourselves.
- “I haven’t been consistent about teaching good manners.”
- “I went against my better judgment and didn’t listen to my gut.”
We feel responsible for others’ behavior and feelings.
- “I’m responsible for everything my child does and therefore, his actions are a reflection of me.”
- “I’m responsible for other people’s feelings, so if that man gets offended, it’s my fault.”
Our expectations are unrealistic.
- “She should know better.”
- “We’ve been over this before.”
We aren’t seeing the real problem.
- “Why do I always feel the need to exaggerate my stories?”
- “Why do I have so much trouble letting go of control?”
Holding Up the Mirror
Our children have the incredible ability to reflect back to us all of our “issues.” When we feel embarrassed by our kids, it’s never about them. It’s about our thoughts about them. It’s yet another opportunity to learn about ourselves and grow. We can’t assume that our children will have the same experiences or the same reactions that we had.
We don’t know, for example, that our kids will get teased at school for wearing dressy shoes with shorts. It could turn out to be the next fashion craze! And even if they do get teased, we don’t know how they’ll react. Maybe instead of feeling sorry for themselves, they’ll feel a sense of courage for doing something out of the norm.
While it’s true that some people will judge you, that’s about them, not you. Ask yourself why it’s so important to you what others think. Most of the time, we project our own judgments onto others. We think other people are judging us, but really, we’re judging ourselves.
One of my favorite sayings that I like to remember is, “You wouldn’t care so much about what people think of you if you knew how seldom they did.”
What do your kids do that embarrass you? How can you use that situation to learn more about yourself? Please leave a comment below and let me know. You can use this forum to get support from other parents and your input is so valuable to other readers, too.
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Until next week…