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How to Embarrass Your Teen By Merely Existing

A teenager sits in the grass, red Converse sneakers showing.
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I am in the grocery store with my son when it happens. Right there in the jams and condiments aisle.

I hold up two different brands of strawberry jam for my teenaged son’s consideration. “Which one?” I ask, smiling brightly, and eager to please.

“Mom!” he hisses from between clenched teeth. “You’re embarrassing me! My friend is RIGHT. THERE.”

Indeed, there is a boy about Gardner’s age, walking towards the ketchup, a couple of shelves over.

I scratch my head, confused. “What?” I asked. “Your friend doesn’t like strawberry jam?

Gardner turns puce. I lean in closer to get a better look. Nope. That is not at all the right shade for the den.

“Oh, geez,” he groans, burying his head in his hands.

Gardner* is the youngest of my 12 children. (Yes, 12.) By now I thought I knew all the parenting pitfalls; the things parents do that humiliate all children of adolescent persuasion.

Unfortunately, I’d missed the lesson on jam preferences. Don’t let that be you.

Just starting on your own journey in parenting a teen? You’ll soon find out they think you do it on purpose — that you lie awake nights plotting, “How can I embarrass little Timmy/Susie, tomorrow?”
Here then, is a partial list of cringe-worthy behaviors that make teens want to die:

1. Speaking.

Especially loudly. When other people are around. And even when they aren’t.

Honestly, it’s amazing you got to be this age. Since everything you say makes your teenager roll his or her eyes. (Just take a lesson from Chandler Bing.)

2. Smiling.

Don’t do that where anyone can see you. It’s incredibly annoying, not to mention embarrassing, like you’re thinking about bunnies and puppies and rainbows or something.

3. Looking at people or things.

Such as another nice-looking teen at the mall, fashionably dressed. You may not even realize you’re doing it until you hear your child hiss, “Mom! Can you please stop staring at him. It’s really embarrassing.”

4. Wearing bright colors.

What’s wrong with you? Your teenager doesn’t want anyone to see you. Do not wear primary colors. Do not wear fuchsia. Do not pass go. Wear beige. Until your child turns 21. At least.

5. Picking lint off their clothes, straightening their collars, smoothing their hair, and etc.

Do not do this. Ever. Especially not in front of their friends. Teenagers generally believe they are mature adults who can wipe their own noses. Even though they aren’t. (Mature adults, that is. They can wipe their own noses.)

6. PDA’s.

Do not ever hug or kiss your teenager in public. It’s not the kind of hugging and kissing they want to be associated with. Trust me on this.

7. Calling out to get their attention.

Consider this scenario: You pick up your kid from school to take him to the orthodontist and you’re running late and he doesn’t see your car, so you roll down the window and call out to him. And now he wants to die. On the spot. EVERYONE heard. Of course, there was no other way to get his attention. But that’s not his fault — why should he be punished?

8. Making small talk with their friends.

Do not, under any circumstances chat with their friends. Do not, for instance, ask what colleges they’re applying to, or say, “How’s your mom?” It’s like you’re trying to be relatable. It’s like you don’t know your own age.

9. Humming.

Say you’re driving your teen and her friend somewhere, you’ve got the radio on, and the jingle comes on. The Kars4Kids jingle. Resist the urge to hum. Just don’t do it. It’s like you think you’re cool or something. OH. EM. GEE.

10. Using words like “random,” “literally,” or “awkward.”

As in, “That’s so random,” or, “It literally makes me sick.” You think you’re using their language and FITTING IN. You think they’ll confide in you if you are this cool mom who speaks their lingo. Not. Bleach those words out of your brain. Until your child is at least 30.

So there you have it. Getting through your child’s adolescence without creating an international incident is easy. All you have to do is not speak, wear bright colors, smile, or look at anyone until your child is of drinking age and you’ll be fine.

Alternatively, you could just crawl under a rock and wait it out. But then, your teenager might get hungry, need a ride to the mall, or run out of clean underwear.

*Not his real name — I wouldn’t want to embarrass him.

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