Ask any parent and they will tell you that their teenager has lied to them at least once. Even more will tell you that their teens lie to them all the time, and then there are those who just don’t know anymore. At some point in history, teenagers decided that it was better to lie and hide than to be honest with their parents and face the consequences of their actions. After a while, lying becomes so second nature that teens will begin doing it for no reason at all.
For parents, this is a scary thing. You need to know what your teen is up to and you need to know that you can trust him/her. Even if your teen only lies once, it often makes it hard to trust or believe them after that. Teens also often fail to realize that trust must be earned over time and through action. The only way to remedy this is to teach your teen the value of trust in ways that will make an impact. Do not give trust freely; make them truly work for and earn it.
These few tips below just might help you deal with your own lying teen and get back to a relationship built on honesty and trust.
The Many Shades of a Lie
Teens are clever little creatures and will often try to justify their lie in one way or another. Some teens will stretch the truth, tell little white lies, or claim that their lie was a result of a misunderstanding. For example, you ask your child what the name of their friend was who came over that evening. They respond that nobody was there that evening. As the argument continues, your teen may claim that you said, “evening,” but their friend didn’t arrive until 9:00 which is actually night.
Even things like this, as ridiculous as it sounds, are things that teens do on a daily basis. It often seems as if they think they can outsmart you in some way. Let your teen know that a lie is a lie, and no matter how big or small, they all have consequences.
Illustrate the Damage
Even if it takes sitting with your teen and watching Pinocchio, find a way to show your teen what kind of damage a lie can do. As soon as you tell one lie you commit yourself to several more. You have to create more and more lies in order to justify or cover up the first lie that you told. Pretty soon you are entangled in web of your own lies and often can’t even remember what the actual truth is.
You have to make it clear to your teen that their lie has damaged your relationship as well. Guilt, hurt, and disappointment from you go a lot further than anger. Let your teen know that you are disappointed, your feelings are hurt, and that you don’t even know how to trust them. Make it clear that you now also wonder if other things they have said were lies as well. Let them know that you do not trust them, and that one little lie put a huge damper on the relationship that the two of you had.
Be it a lie that is big or so small it may not even exist, there must be consequences for it, and they must make an impact. If you can stop the lying at an early stage, you may prevent yourself from having to deal with it over and over. Besides, how can you keep your teen safe if they are lying to you about where they are going and who they are with?
A few extra chores are not going to teach a teen that lying is unacceptable. Giving them privileges means that you trust them. It means that they are allowed to go and do things because they have earned your trust. One lie takes that all away. As soon as they lie to you, you no longer trust them and they no longer have any privileges.
A few missed parties, no nights out with friends, and long weeks of sitting at home will have your teen thinking twice before lying again. During their time at home, it also needs to be made clear that you don’t trust anything they say. Go out of your way to question them; it may seem silly to you, but it’s teaching them the value of trust.
Once your teen has lied to you, even once, the building of trust starts all over again. Make it clear to them that their previous privileges are gone and they will have to work to earn them back. The problem with trust is that it’s not like money. They can’t simply do a few extra chores to earn more trust. You’ve got to be strict and stick to your guns. If they were previously allowed an 11pm curfew, bring it back to 8 or 9 and let them know that they will have to earn back your trust in order to earn back their extended curfew.
Make it clear that they are starting all over. Question everything, make it clear that you don’t trust them, and wear your disappointment on your sleeve. Broken trust has to make an impact and a teen has to realize what it takes to earn it back.