When Do You Become An Embarrassing Parent?

05/11/2012 12:13 | Updated 22 May 2015
When do you become an embarrassing parent?Rex

Chances are, you'll never feel as adored as you do for the first few years of your child's life.

That's the golden era when you get plenty of cuddles, and frequently hear that you're the prettiest, kindest, best mummy - or the strongest, bravest, greatest daddy - in the world.

You'll hold hands every time you walk down the street and you'll always get a kiss before school and another before bed.

But, as junior school beckons, you might just notice that things begin to change.

"My daughter had a special assembly last month and she told me that I was only allowed to come if I promised not to wear lipstick," says Becky, whose daughter is seven.

"I thought it was quite funny but I did as she asked. I don't want to be an embarrassing mum."

Louise, whose son is six, has been warned not to kiss him in public. "I feel quite sad that I'm not allowed to kiss him goodbye when we get to school," she says. "As soon as we get to the school gate he rushes off without giving me a backward glance. He's already asked when he can walk to school by himself."

And Ben, who bought a Vespa scooter for his 40th birthday, is gutted that his eight-year-old daughter Evie is too embarrassed to ride on the back of it - even though he bought her a funky pink helmet.

"She hates it when I drop her off at her friends' houses on the scooter," he says. "She's worried that they'll laugh at her."

We all know that there will surely come a day when we stop being the most fabulous, funny and amazing person in our child's life and start to become a bit, well, embarrassing - but that doesn't make it any less of a shock when it happens.

Not least because we can vividly remember being shown up by our own parents - and we vowed that we'd never put our own kids through the same horror.

But the irony is that the harder you try to be cool, the more likely you are to inadvertently humiliate your kids.

According to a recent survey by Specsavers, it's dads who are the worst offenders, with eight in ten 13-21 year-olds saying that they are embarrassed by their dad - usually because of his dodgy fashion sense and tendency to think he's cooler than he really is.

Try to be down with the kids at your peril. They'll stick their fingers in their ears if you dare to sing along to Radio 1 and will disown you if you consider any kind of public display like SingStar or, God forbid, karaoke.

Bust your best Lady Gaga moves on the dance floor and you might as well book them straight into therapy.

So how do you cope with the crushing realisation that you've become an embarrassment to your kids?

"This reaches a peak during the transfer from primary to secondary school, although it usually starts a few years before that," says parenting and child behaviour expert Eileen Hayes, who is patron of Parenting UK.

"At this age, children are just beginning to develop a social identity and it really starts to matter what their friends think of them because they want to fit in.


It can be hard and upsetting for parents because it feels like a huge rejection, but it helps if you can understand that it's absolutely normal and happens to us all.


"As parents, we all want our children to be independent in the end, and this is part of that process."

And, as time goes on, you might just discover that embarrassing your kids is one of the more entertaining aspects of your job description.

"I still cringe when my dad sings along, loudly and tunelessly, whenever there is music playing in restaurants or shops," says Jane, who is 39. "He knows it embarrasses me so he does it on purpose."

You might even begin to realise that it can be very liberating when you stop worrying what other people think of you - and that's something that only happens with age.

"My mum takes great pleasure in telling my friends all about her prolapse," says Greta, 36.

"They look horrified as she tells them all the gory details, but she just doesn't care what anyone thinks. Excruciating as it is, I kind of admire her attitude. And she's actually done me favour: thanks to mum it takes a lot to embarrass me these days."

Do you delight in being an embarrassing parent? What's the most cringe-worthy thing you've done (from your child's point of view)?

Bet you're not as embarrassing as these...

Suggest a correction