If you have young kids you’ve probably read all about the
bazillions of different techniques on parenting: how to talk so
kids will listen, how to listen so kids will talk, and so on and so
If you have young kids you’ve probably read all about the bazillions of different techniques on parenting: how to talk so kids will listen, how to listen so kids will talk, and so on and so on. However, if you’re the parents of a middle schooler, I have some good news for you. I’ve discovered a new, often under-utilized parenting technique that I call “Parenting By Embarrassment” (or P.B.E. for short). The best thing about this particular technique is that you don’t need any special classes or training or books because, if you have a teenager, chances are you’re already doing these things without even trying. This is because all you have to do to implement PBE is to wake up in the morning. And everything you do after that, like, say, breathing, will automatically embarrass your child.
As shocking as it seems, most parents don’t realize the full magnitude of their power. We just wander around the planet listening to the wrong kind of music, wearing untrendy shoes and just generally being Uncool. The trick, my friends, is to harness all this uncoolness to your advantage.
Oh, all right. Hold on a minute. All of you Dr. Phil fans out there are probably thinking that intentionally embarrassing your teenager is not only cruel and wrong, it’ll only foster mistrust and decrease self-esteem causing them to drop out of school, give up the violin, and become a drummer in a has-been 80s rock band that plays at county fairs. And, well, you could be right. But I’ll also bet you don’t have teenagers. I’m sure some of you out there (mostly parents of teenagers) are probably thinking: “Wow! This is ingenious! Why didn’t I think of this before?”
Why indeed? And before you Dr. Phil fans go rushing off to alert the Family Values Police let me just say right now you’ll only be wasting your time because, trust me, PBE works.
Let’s take a look at my friends “Linda” and “Susan.” (The names have been changed to protect their teenagers.) They’re both very much alike: they have two kids who go to the same school, live on the same street, and are heavily involved in sports. They drive the swim team carpool three times a week. And they both have quotation marks around their name. But, folks, that is where the similarities end. Linda’s kids run around the neighborhood, stay up late, eat chips for breakfast, and talk back. Susan’s kids, on the other hand, do daily chores, adhere to their curfew, put their dirty clothes in the hamper, and say things like “Gee, you look younger today, Mom. Have you lost more weight?”
How is this possible? What’s Susan’s secret? Yep, you guessed it: Parenting By Embarrassment. Whenever her kids misbehave, Susan stands in the middle of wherever they are, the grocery store, a restaurant or wherever, and belts out “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree.” With FEELING.
A bit extreme? Maybe. Slightly crazy? Sure. Effective? You betcha!
Okay, so now you’ve seen how great PBE works (shhhh!), the next question is how can you use it? First, build up your repertoire of show tunes. Preferably ones written before 1960 with words like “dixie” and “moonlight” and “apple tree” in them. Next, stock up on floppy flowered hats and outdated chunky shoes. Then, just show up in public with your teenager and voila! You are now a big, fat embarrassment. The good news is that, most of the time, you won’t have to do anything more drastic than just being there and breathing. But, hey, just like with any kind of emergency situation, it never hurts to be over prepared.
And, sure, I realize that some people could take being an embarrassment as sort of, well, personal. But I have three words for that: Get. Over. It. Or as they say in more philosophical circles, ” Embrace it. Own it. And for gosh sakes, USE it.”
Because sometimes with teenagers it’s the only power you’ve got.