Being lied to by your child is frustrating. Whether the lies are obvious or you catch them later, feeling betrayed, frustrated, upset, angry, and hurt is natural. Like most parents catching their teenage sons in a lie, you likely have had many talks and consequences for the lies, yet the lies persist.
As we work with troubled teenage boys—many of whom struggle with lying—here at Sundance Canyon Academy, we wanted to share our insights into how to deal with your son if he is a chronic liar. And much about how to deal with a chronic liar starts by understanding why teens lie.
Consider Why Your Teenage Son Is Lying
First, parents should understand that most teens aren’t lying in an attempt to hurt you. There are many reasons why your son may be lying to you, and most of those reasons revolve around their own personal struggles. By taking your son’s lying personally because you believe they should trust you enough to be honest, you can create an atmosphere where your son will try to lie better to avoid hurting your feelings. So, it doesn’t do you or your son any good to take the lies personally.
Instead, consider these common reasons why a teenage boy would lie:
Attempting to get out of trouble – One of the most common reasons why anyone lies is as an attempt to get out of trouble. Young children will often try to lie even when caught red-handed, and this habit can carry on into the teen years.
Trying to get attention from others – Telling tall tales, exaggerating exploits, and other forms of lying for attention is also something your teen may be dabbling in lying. Even if you provide him with plenty of positive attention, your teen may have formed the habit of lying for attention while still young.
Wanting to establish individuality from parents – Children can go from wanting to wear matching outfits with their parents to trying to be completely opposite in a couple of short years. While that is a normal part of human development, opting to lie is a maladaptive way to create a separate identity from one’s parents.
Seeking to build up identity – Along with lying to separate themselves from their parents, many teens will resort to lying to try and establish their identity as an individual. Lies from saying they hate a common popular brand or item to lying about personal interests are just some of the ways teens will lie to create a personal identity.
Avoiding hurting the feelings of someone else – Lying to avoid hurting someone’s feelings is probably the least offensive reason to lie. However, this type of lying can also get out of hand, and a teen’s judgment about what might hurt someone’s feelings can become skewed.
As you can see, there is often more to your teen lying than just trying to pull one over you. By considering what your teen is lying to you about, you can get closer to effectively managing your teen’s lies.
How To Address Your Son Lying
Addressing your son’s tendency to lie is a multi-step process. While this process may need to be tweaked to suit why your teenager is lying to you, it generally can help you as you try to help them free from their lies.
Skip The “Don’t Lie” Lecture
When you catch your teen lying for the umpteenth time, it can be tempting to rehash the “why you shouldn’t lie” lecture, as it is clear that your teen didn’t hear you the first fifty times. But you need to resist that urge.
For one thing, teens can smell a lecture coming from a mile away. Once you fall into a lecture, it is likely that your teen effectively stops listening except for the breaks in your speech where your teen knows they have to respond. If they aren’t listening, don’t waste your time and burn up your store of patience.
Give Specific Examples Of Problems
Some lies don’t come out until later. If that is the case, you will need to make time to address the lie with your teen. When you go to confront your teen about lying, stick to the current lie.
For instance, say your teen lied about doing their homework, and you checked online, only to find that your teen has a bunch of zeros for the homework your teen promised they did. Instead of connecting the homework lies to all your teen’s other lies—of which there are probably plenty of examples—stick to the issue at hand.
Once you point out you know your teen lied, set up a clear way for your teen to repair the problem as well as the consequences of lying.
Keep It Short And To The Point
Let’s face it, your teen isn’t likely to give you any good feedback when it comes to addressing their lying. Parents can fall into lecturing and ranting as they feel more frustrated with their teens’ lack of change and positive response.
However, that is an emotional black hole for both you and your teen. It will just drain your energy and upset you further as well as make it more likely for your teen to lie to you to avoid the next blowup. So, when you next address that your teen lied to you, keep it short and to the point without dragging in other issues.
Be Open To Listen
As you saw above, some of the reasons why teens lie aren’t malicious; they just lack the experience and tools to cope appropriately with a given issue. That’s why it is essential that if you ask your teen about why they lied that you are prepared to listen.
For instance, say your teen lied about going to school. It can be easy to jump to the idea that your teen is being lazy, or is doing poorly in school. But if you ask and are patient, you may find out that your teen is skipping school because they are being bullied and don’t know how to handle the problem any other way than skipping and lying to you.
Consider Therapeutic Boarding School
Even with your best efforts, your teenage son may feel like he has lied so much, so often, that there is nothing to do but keep lying. To help break the cycle of lies, broken trust, promises, and more lies, having your son attend a therapeutic boarding school can help.
At a therapeutic boarding school, your son can learn more effective coping mechanisms than lying as well as receive tailored therapeutic help, academic assistance, and many other benefits.
Sundance Canyon Academy Can Help With Teen Lying
Here at Sundance Canyon Academy, we offer troubled teens the therapeutic environment they need to overcome many maladaptive coping mechanisms and destructive behaviors.
If you have been unable to find a solution for your teenage son that works, and you believe our program may be just what he needs, feel free to contact us. Our program advisors can tell you more about Sundance and help you determine if our program is the right fit to help your son.