How to Embarrass Your Kids

Category: Weekly Columns

Embarrassment photo

I like to think that I’m the cool dad. And, in many ways, my boys and their friends confirm that thinking. But, in other ways, I’m the dad that does too many embarrassing things. I think all parents do this but it’s the degree and particulars that will make a big difference to your kids and will hurt your ability to get close to them and their circle.

Parents doing embarrassing things

There are so many different examples of different types of embarrassing things we parents (and I) do. Try to avoid them. It’s one thing to be “the fun parent.” It’s another thing to be the one that causes your kids and/or their friends to roll their eyes. And, like sending off an angry or inappropriate email, text, or tweet without reflecting on it, the dangers are pernicious and my fervent advice is to hold off if you are not SURE that what you are going to do is going to be okay with them.

This last sentence is the key – “okay with them” – because it is NOT about you. At various ages, our kids are asserting their independence, seeking acceptance from their friends, and otherwise trying to figure out their rapidly changing lives and bodies. As parents, it’s our job to help them navigate these turbulent transitions but not to aggravate them by our silly behavior.

Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction

Let’s consider my particular situation in which I’m a minor public figure that occasionally talks, writes, or otherwise publicly posts material about my family. I’ve tried to follow rules of discretion in which any time I think there’s the least bit of potentially embarrassing material in a column, video, photo, or Because I Said So comic strip, I clear it with them before publishing.

This mostly involved columns such as this in which I would be more specific about incidents. Invariably the boys read it – or didn’t read it – and said they were fine with it. My wife, on the other hand, would point out an error I made such as describing the dress she was wearing as blue when it was really powder blue! I became so accustomed to their so-called approval that I let my guard down on other things.

It's cool

One of these came back – years after the fact – to bite me in the you-know-what. And, to give me a very troubled night’s sleep. What I did – when this was brought up to me – was clearly not cool but it so easily could have been avoided had someone at this event (my family or the host) simply asked me to stop it. The other night we were at a concert and I love to take photos and/or videos. A woman behind me very politely asked me to refrain from doing it when the main act came on. At first, I was sort of flustered and irritated until I realized that I had been holding the camera up near or above my head, clearly causing interruption of her view. I stopped. She dealt with it and me with incredible grace. I wish that had happened in the other not-to-be-mentioned incident. I quickly would’ve stopped and realized my faux pas.

Right now, I’m feeling so embarrassed myself that I feel like I’m going to crawl into a hole at any public event – especially if my family is present. Hopefully this experience will moderate future behavior.

Funny dancing photo

So, what are some “takeaways” for you?

~~ When it comes to photos and video, choose your moments when you must capture it. When you become that annoying dad or mom moving around at your child’s event, pushing people aside with “excuse me’s” and otherwise disrupting everything by the inner Ansel Adams in you, you are embarrassing not only yourself, but your kids ARE CRINGING.

~~ Ask permission from your family for any photo taking. Ask so before an important event and simply seek a short time for your photo needs and then put away the camera.

~~ Men, let your wife dress you. ‘Nuff said.

Funny urinals

~~ Cute pet names for your kids or partner, while perhaps “cute” in the privacy of your home, are not “cute” in public.

~~ Do not sing around your kids. I don’t care if you’re Luciano Pavarotti!

~~ Never NEVER make a joke of any kind on any Social Media platform that your kid’s friends populate. For that matter, if (and you should be) you are your “kid’s friend” on Facebook or similar platforms, NEVER post anything – even a compliment. When their friends see YOU there, YOU are toast.

~~ What you think is funny most of the time is NOT funny to your family. Guys, I’m talking to YOU.

Embarrassing photo

I hope I’ve learned my lesson. Knowing me, the shame of this moment will fade, but I’m hoping I will moderate my behavior enough so that my family will not exclude me from their big events in the future.

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Book Cover from The Empty Nest