FamilyLife Today® Podcast

10 Ways Parents Embarrass Their Kids

with Michael and Hayley DiMarco | August 1, 2007
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Michael and Hayley DiMarco, bestselling authors of numerous books including "Not-So-Stupid Parents" and founders of "Hungry Planet", talk to Dennis Rainey about the 10 things parents unknowingly do that embarrass their kids.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Michael and Hayley DiMarco, bestselling authors of numerous books including "Not-So-Stupid Parents" and founders of "Hungry Planet", talk to Dennis Rainey about the 10 things parents unknowingly do that embarrass their kids.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Michael and Hayley DiMarco talk about the 10 things parents unknowingly do that embarrass their kids.

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10 Ways Parents Embarrass Their Kids

With Michael and Hayley DiMarco
August 01, 2007
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Hayley: Well, if you ask a teenager what's the most important thing that you want from your parent, across the board, it's just they want your time.  Because when they see you going to work at 6 in the morning and then they come home, and you're not there, and then you get home about 6 or 7, that's the worst thing that they could experience.  And, in their minds, they're getting none of your time.

 And time doesn't always mean want to go do something.  Time can mean when I get home there's actually somebody there.  I say "Hi," I go to my room, but they're there, and I know that you're there.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, August 1st.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Don't get offended, but we're going to talk today with the authors of a book called "Stupid Parents" and see some things all of us can learn.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  So what would you think if you walked into your son's bedroom, you know, your 15-year-old son's bedroom and there on the nightstand right by his bed there's a book called "Stupid Parents."

Dennis: I'd go into our bedroom and find my copy of "Not-So-Stupid."

Bob: As long as you're both going through it together …

Dennis: "Not-So-Stupid Parents."  Both books have been written, by the way, and we have the authors of both of these books with us today – Michael and Hayley DiMarco.  Actually, Michael didn't write them, he helped launch them, but Hayley is the author of these books.  Welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Hayley: Thank you.

Michael: Appreciate it.

Dennis: Just in case you missed that, they have authored a book called "Stupid Parents," which is aimed for the nightstand of the teenager.

Bob: Right.

Dennis: And "Not-So-Stupid Parents," which is aimed at the not-so-stupid other half of the equation.

Bob: The nightstand of the not so stupid.

Dennis: Exactly.

Bob: You know, there's something, again, about the title where you just go – do I really want to read a book that insults me from the very get-go, you know what I'm saying?

Dennis: Michael is the CEO of Hungry Planet, which is an outreach to the next generation of young people and trying to stay on the edge, and Hayley is the Chief Creative Officer, also a mom, and they really have teamed it up together to speak to this generation about how we do raise our children.

Michael: And with the titles, "Stupid Parents" and "Not-So-Stupid Parents," that's an outgrowth of what teens have told us in that there really are only two categories of parents – stupid and not so stupid.

Dennis: Is there a not-so-stupid parent, seriously?

Hayley: It's a possibility.  First of all, I'd say the truly stupid parent is the parent that thinks they're never going to be stupid, because there's always going to be a degree of it.  That's why the two choices are stupid and not so stupid.  So don't kid yourself and think you're ever just going to have it made.  That's a category of parent that we talk about in the book of "the best friend" parent, and that can be a problem.

Bob: You're saying the best-friend parent can be a stupid parent.

Hayley: Yeah, because they're ultimately believing that they can escape stupidity.  In other words, they think, "If I give them everything they want" …

Dennis: By being a buddy.

Hayley: Right, by being their buddy – by not being a parent.  If I'm not your parent, how can I be a stupid parent?

Dennis: Abdicate your role; remove the authority.  Now, all of a sudden, I'm my teenager's best pal.

Bob: And you're saying if you went to the teenager with that, they'd say, "My dad is still clueless, my mom is still" …

Hayley: Yes.  The difficulty there is they learn a more heinous understanding of communicating with authority because they start to lose respect for any authority …

Bob: Just manipulate authority.

Hayley: Exactly, they begin to manipulate you.  So that's not your best option for escaping stupidity.

 But if you look at teens today, there is a big difference from what you had in, say, the '50s.  Teenagers are living in a world that's just completely different.  I mean, the world is opened up to them through the Internet.

Michael: As Hayley and I have said before, we're not parenting experts, but we study teens quite a bit, and the way they communicate and the way they live.  The thing about the digital age is that the teen today has been taught that their opinion counts for everything, whether it's electing their favorite American idol or weighing in on a blog with their comment or giving kudos to someone's photo on MySpace.  Madison Avenue has said that their opinion counts just as much as anyone else's.

 And the truly stupid parent, as Hayley writes about, is the one that either buys into their teen's opinion is equal to theirs, and it is a popularity contest, or they totally abdicate all parenting and let the teen self-parent by absentia.

Dennis: And, frankly, I can't think of a more dangerous situation.  This is the least-parented generation in the history of our nation because of this very equation you're talking about, of how teens begin to think and how parents begin to think wrongly about themselves.

 Let's go back to the beginning.  God gave us the Ten Commandments.  The first commandment that has anything to do with human relationships, which on is it?  It's the Fifth Commandment – "Honor your mother and your father."  The concept of honor means respect, weight.  It means to respect the position that God has given them and not dishonor them either in attitude or in action.

 If you look at our country, we are a long ways away from the Fifth Commandment.  We have really – both as parents and as children – have ignored God's command and in the process of thinking, we're finding freedom and choices and this democracy you were talking about Michael.  Now, I couldn't agree with you more.  This is such a nation of human rights, and everybody has a vote and everybody has an opinion that counts. 

 The family is not a democracy.  It is a place of equal value, equal worth that God has clearly established authority in the family for a purpose.  We dare not miss that purpose today if we're going to achieve God's objectives.

Michael: And isn't it so shortsighted of appeasing the votes of today and the feelings of the teen today and not preparing them for what it's like to live in a world where there is authority.

Hayley: Right.  Well, the whole foundation, really, of stupid parents is to help the parent and the teenager both to learn the lesson of living under authority, because that's where the teenager learns it first – at home.  And if they've not learned it at home, boy, are they going to have a heck of a time once they get to work.

 I worked with some inner city kids, and I remember a girl who got a job at a McDonald's, and within a – she liked it, but within a few weeks, she stopped going to work.  I noticed I'd go by her house, and she'd be at home, and I'd say, "Why aren't you at work?  What's going on?"  And she said, "Well, I quit," and I said, "Why did you quit?"  "Well, I didn't like what he was telling me to do.  I didn't like the way my boss was telling me that I had to do whatever he wanted me to do, and so I quit."

 She could not conceive of living under authority even though it was her livelihood, and she would do that at each job she would go to.  Once they would do something that she didn't agree with, she'd be gone.  That was because she wasn't learning it in the home.  The parent in the home couldn't deal with and couldn't manage her.

Bob: So when we're talking about stupid parents, we're talking about those parents who are either abdicating that issue of authority or who are – some parents who are just so heavy-handed with it, that it's crushing a child.  It can go either way, can't it?

Hayley: Sure, it can go either way.  If you're deciding to be a dictator, and anything you say goes, and you don't listen to them, and they're just pawns in your world, they're not going to respect you, they're not going to understand how to respect authority.  They're going to rebel from that once they get away from that.  "I'll get away from you" …

Bob: "I'll do my time, and once I'm out of here" …

Hayley: Right, and they can get out.  There's not just those two categories.  I don't want to make the listeners think, "Well, I'm not a stupid parent because I'm neither of those."  There are shades of gray where kids might consider their parents stupid, and the parents aren't necessarily doing anything wrong.

 For example, when you look at the picture on the cover, you see the couple from Nerdville.

Bob: They look pretty nerdy, yes.  He's got high-water pants, and he's wearing white socks with black shoes, and she's wearing her – what do you call those things? 

Hayley: Slippers.

Bob: Houseslippers, but it looks like she's out, and she's got her hair up in curlers and a thing over …

Dennis: You know what?  I'm looking at this picture, and I just had to smile because Laura is currently a senior in college.  She's dressing me all the time, because I'm not as bad as the cover parents you have here on the book.

Bob: Well, I don't know about that.

Dennis: Well – and according to Laura we really don't know about that, but it really is kind of funny how our children grow up and say, "Dad, Dad, no, no, no, you can't wear that."

 But the point you're making is, as parents, there are a lot of ways we can be irrelevant to them, and what I want parents to realize, there's two key issues they have to understand that they're in constant tension with.  One is the authority issue we've been talking about; the other is having a relationship with your child.

Hayley: Exactly.

Dennis: You have to keep those two in proper tension.

Michael: Teens are crying out right now and live their lives by the call for authenticity.  This is the most heavily marketed-to generation in the history of the world, and so for a parent, the most important thing in communication for teens is to hear and see authenticity; to see an authentic life that a parent is living out what they're telling their teen to do.  And the other thing goes to time, and the myth of quality time with your child is really a myth to a teen of today.

Hayley: Well, if you ask a teenager what's the most important thing that you want from your parent, across the board, it's just they want your time. 

Dennis: Attention.

Hayley: Right, and I think we bought the lie that quality is just as good.

Bob: Well, now, hang on, because the teenager is selling you that lie.  They are saying, "I want time," and then you go and say, "Hey, want to go play putt-putt, want to go to a move, want to go shopping?"  And it's like, "No."

Hayley: Well, time doesn't always mean want to go do something.  Time can mean when I get home there's actually somebody there.  I say "Hi," I go to my room, but they're there, and I know they're there.

Dennis: Presence, then?

Hayley: That's right.  It doesn't have to be, "Oh, let's spend all our time together."  That's going, again, to the quality concept of, "Oh, it's got to be quality time."  It doesn't have to be quality time.  It has to be they know that you're there.  Because when they see you going to work at 6 in the morning and then they come home, and you're not there.  And then you get home about 6 or 7, and you're angry, and you're tired, and you're complaining about your day, and then they go to bed.  That's the worst thing that they could experience and, in their minds, they're getting none of your time.

Dennis: When our children were teenagers, there was an evening when my son, Benjamin, came in, and I'll not get into the story, because I've told it here on FamilyLife Today before, but he plopped down on the bed, he threw himself across the foot of the bed and began to tell me of something that occurred during school that day that completely woke me up.  I mean, I wasn't asleep, but I was moving in that direction.

 But if I hadn't been there, I would never have caught it.  And the thing was, I had to physically be there, and I had to also have my ears and heart on to truly hear what the child was saying to me, even though he was a – I think, a junior in high school at the time, man, it was a critical issue.  I mean, he was facing some tough situations of judgment, and he needed a dad to shoulder that with him.

 And if you're not there, either physically and/or emotionally to be able to listen, you're not going to be able to meet those needs at that point.

 I want to ask you something just practically, because I think parents need coaching in this.  You talk about 10 ways that parents embarrass their children.  Could you just help us out here, as parents?  Because some of us, we do this unconsciously, you know, and, frankly, Bob – Bob needs some help here.


Bob: I beg your pardon?

Dennis: What are 10 ways parents embarrass their teens, and we're going to put these on the website, if it's okay with you guys.

Hayley: You bet.

Dennis: – you can get these later.  But just rattle these off real quickly.

Hayley: Okay, if you're doing any of these then chances are you're embarrassing your teenager.

 Yelling at them in public; dressing like a dork …

Bob: Okay, I've got to tell you a story here on dressing like a dork.  Can I do this?  My son calls me the other day, he's in college.  He says, "Dad."  I said, "Yeah?"  He said, "You know, a couple of years ago when you were wearing black jeans, and I said 'Dad, no. Black jeans, what are you doing with a pair of black jeans?'"  I said, "Yeah, I remember."

Dennis: Looking like Elvis.

Bob: I said, "I remember."  And he said, "I'm wearing some black jeans.  They're cool again.  You can get yours out of the closet if you want."


 So I know exactly what you're talking about there.

Dennis: This is what Laura is trying to reshape her father – is get him out of the dork category.

Hayley: Sure, it means a lot to a teenager – well, she's not a teenager, but …

Dennis: Well, but, it's important not to have a dorky dad.

Bob: Okay, "dressing like a dork."

Hayley: Okay, well, there's also "trying to be too cool."  Being too loud and drawing attention to them like when you're out in public, or being too affectionate in public.

Dennis: With them or with your spouse?

Hayley: That's a good question.  When I wrote it, I meant with them.  But that could be embarrassing.  I should put that in there.  That would be pretty embarrassing.

 "Treating you like a kid" in front of your friends.  Grilling the boyfriend or the girlfriend too hard.  That can be very embarrassing.

Bob: Oh, yeah, they don't like that one at all.

Hayley: Now, keep in mind that even though those are embarrassing, I'm not saying you never do any of them.

Michael: Or that they're not necessary.

Dennis: I appreciate you adding that, because if you let the kids, they'll push you out of some of these areas where you'll not do anything.

Hayley: That's right, and you have to be willing to be embarrassing sometimes.

Bob: I do the grilling of – maybe not boyfriend and girlfriend, but other friends, when they're over at the house …

Dennis: Yeah, sure.

Bob: "So what's going" – I mean – we get into all kinds of kids.  I learn a lot during those sessions.

Hayley: Of course, and you should.

Dennis: But the word "grilling."

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: Actually, what you're doing, Bob, because I have heard you talk about this – you're just being real shrewd in the questions you ask.

Bob: Just investigating a little bit.

Dennis: That's right, and there really is a spirit in which a parent can do this, and it's not going to embarrass their son or daughter.

Hayley: There are ways to do it, that's right.  Somebody ought to write a book on that.

Dennis: Grilling your kids, yeah, really.  Keep going.

Hayley: Okay, saying something stupid in front of their friends which, again, kind of hard to not do that.  Obviously, drinking too much or doing drugs, and then not taking care of your body.

Bob: Wow.  Yeah, I'm thinking of Josh McDowell, who was on our program, and I remember him saying that his dad was an alcoholic, and his mom was overweight, and he said, "I was embarrassed by both of them and didn't want anything to do with either of them."

Dennis: He actually took his dad out to the barn and tied him up so his dad wouldn't come stumbling into the house while his buddies were over there, he was so embarrassed by him.  So some of these really aren't funny.  Some of these are really tragic.

Hayley: They're tragic, and I think they're important for parents to look at from the perspective of – if I want a better relationship with my teenager, if there's a problem that I sense that maybe they don't trust me, they don't want me to be around, they aren't talking to me – then kind of look at this list and see if there is anything on there that you might be willing to change for the ones that aren't that terrible.

 Maybe you dress like a dork.  Okay, so be willing not to go out in your shorts with your black knee-high socks on, Dad.

Dennis: I do not.  Hayley, I do not do that.

Hayley: I didn't even look at you.

Dennis: I want to go on record, my daughter did not have to redeem that.  Actually, I feel like I do a good job dressing, but the problem is with young people today, they've got their standards, and they've got their desire for dad and mom.

Bob: You look at a list like this, and you go, "These are 10 ways that parents can embarrass a teenager."  So, as parents, you said that doesn't mean you don't do them?

Hayley: Well, some of those things on the list aren't tragic, like "dressing like a dork."

Bob: Thank you.

Hayley: Some of you aren't going to get beyond that.

Bob: Right.  I got it.

Michael: And the other thing about this list to remember is it comes out of the book for the teen.  So Hayley's being empathetic with the teen, saying, "Yes, these are the ways that your parent can embarrass you."

Hayley: Empathetic but also saying, "Some of these, teenager, you've just got to get over it."

Bob: And that's the point you make to the teenagers.

Hayley: Right.

Bob: Your parents are going to be like this sometimes, deal with it.

Hayley: You have to deal with it.  Now, see, what goes through the teenager's mind when you do something embarrassing in front of their friends is, "Oh, my gosh, my friends totally think I'm a dork," because they take it on themselves.  It's kind of transference.  But the truth of the matter is, their friends don't think that.  Their friends just think your parents are dorks.


Dennis: They're just confirming the facts.

Hayley: They're just saying, "Yeah, I feel sorry for her.  She's got a dorky dad."

Bob: I will never forget – I was in 7th or 8th grade, I don't remember exactly whether it was 7th or the 8th grade, but I was with a friend of mine one night over at my house, and my parents had gone to a party that was down the street, and my dad had gone down there and had had too much to drink at this party, and he came home for a while, and then went back to the party.  I don't know why he came home or what it was, but he came in, and my friend and I were – I don't remember what we were doing, but we had music on, and there was a Diana Ross and the Supremes song playing.

 So my dad comes in and goes, he says, "Is that Diana Ross?"  I said, "Yeah," and he starts singing – "Oh, Diana Ross," and he starts singing along.  I'm dying, right?  Now, here we've got a number of these things.  We've got dad trying to be cool but drinking is also an issue in all of this, and I remember the feeling, as a teenager, which is "I would like to distance myself from you, not just right now and tonight but because I don't know when you might act like this again, I would just like to kind of stay clear of you for a while until something changes with you," you know?

Hayley: And that's the thing that I address in the "Not-So-Stupid Parents" book – is some of these things are not life-threatening, they're not going to change your child's future drastically, but if you have the chance to improve the relationship and maybe save their heart in a few instances, why not take it.

Dennis: Right, and some of them are dangerous, and some of them, like Bob's talking about, that's just not the kind of modeling you want to see occur there.

 I want to read the Fifth Commandment from Exodus, chapter 20, verse 12 – "Honor your father and your mother that your days may be prolonged in the land, which the Lord your God gives you."  Now, that's one of the Ten Commandments, one of the basics of the foundation of a civilization, because that's who God gave it to – a new nation.  He wanted to establish them as a strong nation.

 Well, you know what?  There was a message I heard, as a young man just emerging out of my teenage years, I'll never forget this.  Dr. Henry Brandt, a Christian psychologist at Estes Park, and he gave a message called "Worthy of Honor," and it was a message to parents to be worthy of the honor that the children were supposed to have for them.

 And I think the message, what we talked about today, is, yes, children need to honor their parents, they need to be respectful, but we, as adults and as parents, we need to be worthy of honor, and that means having the right sense of authority; having the right relationship with our children, keeping those things in tension, although you're never going to do it perfectly; admitting your faults; being authentic; but keep stepping into your children's lives as the parent, as one who is worthy of respect.  That is the mandate for this generation.

Bob: And the tension between being the authority and having the right relationship is one that, I think, is an ongoing tension for us, as parents, trying to find the right balance in them.  That's really what's at the heart of the book that the two of you have written – the book, "Not-So-Stupid Parents," which is the book for parents designed to help us understand what's going on in the heart of our teenager better so that we can fulfill both of those responsibilities – the responsibility to connect relationally with our son or our daughter, and the responsibility to lead them as moms and dads.

 We've got that book in our FamilyLife Resource Center along with the book that you wrote for teenagers called "Stupid Parents."  You can go to our website at and click the red "Go" button that you see in the middle of the screen.  That will take you to the area of the site where there is more information on both of these books from Michael and Hayley DiMarco.  Again, the information is online at, click the red "Go" button that you see in the middle of the screen.

 You can order the books from us at, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329.  Someone on our team will let you know how you can get the resources you need sent out to you.

 You know, when most of us think of the month of August, the month that starts today – I don't know what you think of – whether you think of vacation or whether you think of back-to-school time or I don't know what dominates your thinking for August. 

 One of the things we think of here at FamilyLife is that it's the end of our fiscal year.  We come to the time of the year when we have to close the books on one year and launch a whole new year with a lot of new objectives and new priorities for us as a ministry.

 We've been spending a lot of time here at FamilyLife talking about those new initiatives and those new priorities, and we want to ask you to consider doing something during the month of August.  We'd like you to consider making an end-of-the-summer gift to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  It winds up being an end-of-the-fiscal-year gift for us.

 But we want you to think about doing something else as well.  When you contact us to make your gift in August, we'd like you to consider issuing a challenge to other listeners to make a gift as well.  For example, we heard from a listener recently who went on our website to make a $50 donation and jotted down a note and said, "I want to challenge all of the listeners in Chicago – those folks who have been to a Weekend to Remember conference or who listen to FamilyLife Today, or who use your resources or go to your website, I want my fellow Chicagoans to take the challenge and make a donation to FamilyLife Today as well.

 That's the kind of thing that we're hoping you'll consider doing this month – not just making a donation but issuing a challenge to other moms, to other homeschoolers, to other people who are in your profession or who got to your church.  We're hoping that during the month of August, you will make a contribution to the Challenge Fund, and you can do that either by calling 1-800-FLTODAY and making your donation over the phone and just issuing your challenge when you do that, or by going online at  As you fill out your donation form, there is a place there for comments, and you can type your challenge in there.

 So I want you to know we appreciate you listening, and we do hope you'll consider making one of these end-of-the-summer donations to FamilyLife Today and issuing a challenge while you're at it.

 Again, our website is  You can make a donation online, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, and we appreciate your partnership with us.

 Well, tomorrow we want to talk about what we do as parents when we try to connect heart-to-heart with our teenagers, and they say, "I'm not interested.  In fact, I wish you'd just kind of leave me alone and let me live my own life."  We'll talk about that tomorrow.  I hope you can be back with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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