Life’s Most Embarrassing Moments
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Do you remember your most embarrassing moments? I’m sure you do. Funny thing about embarrassing moments…they aren’t usually funny for the person experiencing them. And, they stay with you… not necessarily for the good. Upon recalling an embarrassing moment, many people will immediately get red in the face and feel as though they are reliving it all over again.
Most of us remember our most embarrassing moments as things that just happened by chance…kind of like toilet paper on the bottom of your shoe, or a skirt hem tucked into your underwear. But what about those moments that were created by people who wanted to embarrass their kids on purpose?
How about the 15 year-old Tampa boy forced by his mother to stand on a street corner wearing a sign announcing his 1.22 Grade Point Average (GPA?) I am pretty sure that this will be one of the most embarrassing moments of his entire life. And not necessarily for the good. Now, I know his mother says she is just trying to get through to him. She wants him to take his school work seriously. But how can he take anything seriously when he is made to feel like a piece of crap? How does humiliation and degradation turn him into a good student? Gee, let’s make him feel really bad about himself…that should bring his grades up!
I do give this mom a lot of credit for wanting what’s ultimately best for her child. She wants him to get an education. I get it. I just think that purposely devising your child’s most embarrassing moments is a poor choice of strategies. How will he live down the shame, even if he wanted to try harder? Does this mom really think that he can return to school without serious social consequences? My guess is that he will slink back to the classroom with a cloud of shame over his head and a target on his back saying, “I’m the fool who was on the corner; make fun of me.” That should really give him a strong incentive to stay in school and do well.
Here are the options being created for him: Stand on the street corner and look like a fool, or go back to the classroom and have everyone treat you like one. According to news reports, this mom tried lots of other strategies that didn’t work, including grounding him and taking away his cell phone. But what I didn’t hear in any of those reports was what she might have tried from a positive approach.
Here are some questions I would ask and some of the advice I would give this mom, although she didn’t ask:
• WHY does he have a 1.22 GPA? Why did he only answer 4 questions of the FCAT (a mandatory Florida test that he has to pass at the 10th grade level in order to graduate?)
• Does he care? Why or why not?
• In hindsight, I wonder how he got to the point of being 15 years old with a 1.22 GPA. Does he have a learning disability? Did he need extra remediation? Does he have an attention problem? A drug problem? A history of failure?
• Does he have any money? How did he get it? What does he do with it?
• How is he spending his time? What’s he allowed to do? What does he do when grounded?
• Does he have good role models for being a good student? My guess is that he doesn’t, and his mom doesn’t want him to repeat the pattern and be a bad role model for his future kids.
• What kind of peer group is he hanging with? Is it OK to get good grades or do you have to be failing to be cool?
• What kind of supervision and assistance has he gotten along the way to be sure he had good study habits and academic skills?
• Has he dug himself into such a hole that he feels that there is no way out?
• Is it easier to fail than to try and still fail? How does he feel about himself? Does he see himself as capable? (Well, before he was made to feel like a fool.)
• What’s being done to try to help him?
• Have you tried any positive motivation along the way, or has everything been negative?
Here’s advice that would be much more helpful than creating his most embarrassing moments:
• Figure out the answers to the above questions.
• If he doesn’t care about an education, why not? How can you help him understand the importance of getting an education? How about letting him talk to some folks in the jails, shoveling poo or unemployed? Let him go talk to some day laborers about how hard it is to find work without a high school diploma or college. Or go to a homeless shelter and live that life for a day. Help him get a glimpse of what life is like without an education. Take him to a recruiter who will tell him he can’t even join the service without a high school diploma. Let him get a real feel for what it’s like to be without an education. That will give him a lot to think about. Better than standing on the corner experiencing some of his most embarrassing moments. That’s not what his life is heading for. It’s not a life of embarrassment. It’s a life of hopelessness and despair. Or jail time.
• Connect him with a positive role model, someone he respects and looks up to.
• Give him the opportunity to earn rewards, rather than be punished, humiliated and degraded. Offer incentives that will appeal to him. This could be money, use of his cell phone, video games and so on. Or, he can earn a pizza, a movie night or a round of golf. Find the things that he would be willing to work for…and then make the requirements reasonable enough that he can earn his rewards.
• Set realistic expectations. If he is going to improve his GPA, it obviously won’t happen over night. Yet, it will be important to help him start somewhere. If he hasn’t been doing his homework, then start there. Not bringing his books home, begin with that. Doesn’t know how to read? Get him a tutor and reward him for his efforts. In other words, help him make strides by creating opportunities for success. Even if that means baby steps. The main thing is that he starts taking some steps in a positive direction.
• Support him and rewarded him for his efforts.
Use your creativity and ingenuity to help raise him up by providing ways for him to have some of his most empowering moments rather than some of his most embarrassing moments.
Enjoy your kids!
What do you think about this situation? Would you set your child up for humiliation and embarrassment?