Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Why do we (some of us, anyway) actually try to embarrass our teens?

Asked by wundayatta (58638points) October 24th, 2009

In a question about ‘cool’, @Darwin writes, ”I definitely get enjoyment out of embarrassing [my teens], especially in the grocery store.
“Oh, Mom!”

I have to admit that I enjoy embarrassing my kids, too, by highlighting just how uncool I am. I think I’m making fun of the cliche that parents embarrass their teens, but I’m also trying to get my kids not to take their coolness so seriously. Unlike me, my kids actually are cool, or at least, they think they are. In any case, they enjoy a popularity that escaped me at that age.

So what’s going on here? Is this an intergenerational coolness fight? Are we all trying to advocate for our style or way of being in the world? Is it all tongue-in-cheek (at least on the adult side)? Or is there some underlying reason (maybe even jealousy) that drives us to be embarrassed by each other?

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21 Answers

hearkat's avatar

I think it is to challenge them to think for themselves and be independent, rather than following the crowd; to challenge their concept of what’s “cool”; and to help them see that people can have quirks and differences, but we are still loveably human.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I would do it because they would get too absorbed in drama or appearances, and needed a bit of levity. Teens need reminders that the world doesn’t end because something goofy or embarrassing happens, or because you’re not perfect. Perhaps that lesson is best learned by having a dorky parent.

I would never embarrass them in a situation where it really mattered, however. That would be cruel.

dpworkin's avatar

I just find it amusing, and actually, they do, too. Maybe I shouldn’t have yelled out to Max during his football game when he was 12 that it was time for his breast-feeding, but now that he’s 26 he thinks it was pretty hilarious.

I loved inducing “Oh, Dad” from my grown children when they were young, and I have just as much fun inflicting my sadistic sense of humor on my 12-year-old twins, who tell me that all their friends think I’m a “cool” and funny dad.

IBERnineD's avatar

I have no idea, but one of my mother’s favorite activities is to grab my butt in front of company and say, “Look at this butt, I made this butt.” My friends get a kick out of it.

poofandmook's avatar

My dad used to love to stand on the back of the shopping cart and whiz down the slope in the Meijer parking lot after grocery shopping, and go “WHEEEEEEE” in a rather high pitched voice. I wasn’t a teen yet and I still wanted a hole to open up in the pavement underneath my feet.

dpworkin's avatar

My dad was mean and humorless when I was a kid, and I wish he had teased me.

MacBean's avatar

I don’t know why my dad did this, but I’m glad he did. It made me realize how ridiculous it was to take myself so seriously and it stopped bothering me before I even actually reached my teen years. High school (and life in general) is so much easier if you can laugh at yourself. Thanks, Dad. <333

Vincentt's avatar

@poofandmook I do that all the time.

IHateChunkyPies's avatar

I think it’s because as people get older they realize how silly they really are. How things don’t really matter anyone and how “cool” doesn’t mean anything. They just try to poke a little bit of fun at them.

DarkScribe's avatar

My kids would panic if the phone rang and I beat them to it. They never knew what totally humiliating thing I would say to the guy on the other end.

“Can I get her to call you back after she finished feeding and changing her baby”?


“What are you intentions toward my daughter young man”.


“Are you a guy or a girl with a deep voice (then sotto voce) Sweetheart, our daughter’s dating guys again – isn’t that great”?.

and best of all:

“I think that she is out front talking to the neighbour. I’d go get her but my parole officer says that if they catch me out of the house again I’ll be going back to prison. Damn these ankle bracelets.”

Supacase's avatar

It looks like I am the only one who doesn’t find it funny in retrospect. I was so shy and my mom’s favorite thing to say was, “Oh, you are so sensitive!” Well, yeah, I was and her making fun of me for it made me think there was something wrong with me. Pointing it out to others in what she thought was a humorous way was humiliating for me. I could move past the comments to cashiers and the like, but things like making my own friends laugh at me did nothing to help my self-confidence.

I do, however, find the stories about other people quite humorous. Had my teasing not been directed at my personal flaws, I would find humor in those as well.

Darwin's avatar

I tend to agree with @MacBean – It is a way to show my kids how ridiculous it is to take things that don’t really matter so seriously. Besides, it is fun as long as you aren’t cruel about it. Deliberately embarrassing your kids in front of their peers is not a good idea. But in front of total strangers, it’s another story.

And they embarrassed us when they were little, like the time my son stripped naked and went squealing through a birthday party at age three and several dads shouted “Enjoy it while you can, kid!”, or when my daughter removed her pants and diapers unbeknownst to us while we were walking downtown. Or when my brother at age five was so awed by a buffet provided by my father’s company that he said in a very loud voice “Wow, Dad! No wonder you guys are all fat!”

Turn about is fair play, and it helps put things in perspective.

@Supacase – Sounds like your mom took it a bit too far. Of course, maybe her parents did it to her.

sjmc1989's avatar

Because it is sooo easy to

ccrow's avatar

@Darwin – when my son was about 2½, we were at a restaurant & the cook came out of the kitchen, walking past our table. Well, he was a very large person, & my son said (in that piercing, carries everywhere voice that little kids have), “WOW!! Look at that FAT GUY!!!!”

DominicX's avatar

If my parents ever did it (which they definitely did) it was never something that would seriously bother me. It was usually just a joke and it was enough to make me say “mom, please!” or “if anyone asks, I don’t know you”…but it was nothing too serious. I usually did find it funny and it did show some things weren’t as serious as I thought. My parents were never out to truly humiliate me.

janbb's avatar

I used to love grossing out my younger son when he was a teen; it was so easy to do. I usually did it in th privacy of the family though. I once called him a “son of a bitch” in fun, which his friend thought was hilarious.

avvooooooo's avatar

Turn about is fair play? Your parents did it and now its your turn?

ubersiren's avatar

I suppose a little sporty teasing and fun-spirited embarrassment could be good for both parent and child, but I was absolutely humiliated by my mother as a teen and will be very careful with my own children regarding this issue.

filmfann's avatar

After my daughter talked back to me in front of her friends, I picked her up from school, waving a box of lice shampoo. “I got what you needed!”
It didn’t stop her from talking back to me, but she did it a lot less.

UScitizen's avatar

I make it a point to not embarass or humiliate my children. This has resulted in an open channel of communicaiton between us. Both of them actually trust me. They know I will not use their confidences against them.

Just_Justine's avatar

My dad always used to try and make me feel embarrassed, he was a really embarrassing person. He taught me though because of his highly embarrassing ways, never to feel embarrassed.

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