Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How to Embarrass Your Tween

"Memories ... light the corners of my mind. Misty watercolor memories of the way we were."

Sing it, Barbra!

Some of my fondest memories revolve around the times when (as in, "way back when") I was still the apple of my daughter's eye. Like the handful of afternoons I was able to leave work early and pick her up at preschool. Her face lit up; she raced across the room and jumped into my open arms. Or, the times she asked me to chaperone her class trips, happily walking hand-in-hand through an afternoon of apple picking, museums and historic walking tours. All the kisses, the hugs, the public displays of affection.

Ah, yes — audible sigh — the way we were ...

Back to reality. My darling daughter is thirteen and these days, it isn't just that I'm not invited to go on class trips ... I'm absolutely, positively and in no uncertain terms forbidden to even sign up.

Persona non gratis ... that would be me. Sometimes, it really hurts.

However, I have a secret weapon, one that gives me the upper hand, one that I am not afraid to use. And, one that my daughter is completely and oh-so-painfully aware of. I have the ability to publicly, perpetually and permanently embarrass her.

If you're the mom of a tween, you too have this awesome power. But with great power comes great responsibility. We need not use this gift to feel its effect. In my experience, the mere threat of some public parental humiliation is enough to keep the targeted tween in line.

Here are my top five sure-fire ways to embarrass your tween:

5. Be positive and supportive ... out loud, in public

She may not admit it, but your tween really does want your love and support. But, "Hello? Only in private. Duh!" It's easy to embarrass her when you choose to proclaim your devotion out in the open. For example, when your tween leaves the car outside school, wait a beat and then yell "Have a great day, honey! I'm so proud of you!" Customize the embarrassment with specifics, like "Break a leg at the audition this afternoon, sweetie!" Or, "Good luck on your social studies test, sugar-pot! I know you'll make a hundred!"

4. Post mushy mom notes on her Facebook page

Online social media has opened up a whole new world of tween embarrassment. Let's see ... You can post revealing baby pictures "I see England, I see France, I see someone's underpants." Offer up digital relationship advice, "If you-know-who asks you to go to the dance, don't say 'yes' right away." Comment on her friends' comments or — worse — correct their typos. Or simply put your love for her out there for all to see; after all, your nickname for her may be "Munch" (short for "Munchkin"), but her 303 friends don't need to know. Sheesh!

3. Help her try on clothes at the mall

Your tween daughter may ask you to take her shopping. But, she's not really interested in your opinions; she just wants a chauffeur and a credit card. If this becomes too frustrating, there are several ways to make the shopping trip uncomfortable. You can insist on joining her in the dressing room. You can insist that she come out in each new outfit so you can comment on it and fuss with hemlines. You can ask salespeople and random shoppers for their opinions. "Do you think the top's a little too big? You know, her boobs haven't really grown in yet."

2. Have fun (how could you?)

This is an unexpected source of tween embarrassment, about which we must be ever vigilant. When you are with your tween and her friends, try not to have any fun. No. Fun. Ever. Smile, laugh, or — God forbid — sing along to the radio and you will make your tween squirm. Apparently any joie de vivre you once had must be forever buried once you take on the role of mother. Keep a straight face and do your job. You're not being paid to enjoy yourself. (Wait-a-minute, you're not being paid at all.)

And, the number 1 way to embarrass your tween ...

1. Act like her friend instead of her mother

Nothing bugs a tween more than a thirty- (or, yikes, forty-) something mother trying to act like one of the cool kids. If you really want to see her cringe (and, let's face it, once in a while, you do), jump enthusiastically into conversations with her peers. Bring up well-meaning, but completely off-target observations, like "I'm on Team Jacob, which team are you on?" or "Wow, do you think Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez will get married someday?"

These are just my top 5. Like grains of sand on the beach where you insist she wear a straw hat, SPF 50 and a tee shirt over her tiny bikini ... there are countless other ways to embarrass your tween. If I've left out one of your favorites, let me know.


  1. A friend of my recently mentioned that when he wants to embarrass his teen kids, he drops them off at school and, as they are getting out of the car, he calls, "Bye, honey. I love you! Make good choices today!"

    I think that one is hysterical!

    I am already sad thinking about the days when I can't get those big smiles and hugs when I pick up the kids. I know it's coming...


  2. Hi Renay!

    Yes, you do miss the smiles and hugs, but they still surface every once in a while. On the way to summer camp for example, or when the tween/teen is sick. A psychologist I know told me that she believes older children do want you to hug and kiss them, but they have to put on a good act or be seen as uncool.

    Thanks for reading. And ... make good choices today! Ha!


  3. Read this: