When you have a teen who’s constantly lying, it’s a challenge. Lying strains your trust, and makes you worry you’ve failed to instill a gppd ethical foundation in your child.
When your troubled teen lies, it also makes you wonder what else they’re lying about. Further, the deception can be hurtful, prompting the fear your relationship isn’t as close as you’d hoped. So what’s a parent to do when their kid seems determined to deceive?
Try Not To Overreact
First, it’s important to know it’s extremely common for teenagers to lie.
In 2012, the Josephson Institute of Ethics surveyed some 23,000 high school students to gauge the moral state of American youth. The good news is more than 95 percent of respondent said lying is wrong. The bad news is 76 percent of them reported lying to their parents. If you think that percentage seems low. Nancy Darling, an Oberlin College professor who studies teens and lying, agrees. She figures the number at 98 percent.
Just because lying’s prevalent doesn’t mean you should shrug it off. These numbers, however, may reassure you that you haven’t failed as a parent.
Understand What Causes Teens To Lie
If you understand why teenagers lie, you can take untruthfulness less personally, allowing you to discipline with less emotion. Your cooler head can mitigate the turbulence of raising a troubled teen. Adolescents lie because they:
Aim to protect friends or siblings, or shield someone’s feelings.
Consider your rules unfair, and their behavior harmless.
Hope to do something forbidden.
Think you’re unable to grasp their situation (i.e. clueless parent syndrome)
Want to avoid punishment or disapproval.
Declaration Of Independence
Teens also lie for a more fundamental reason. Adolescents crave autonomy and may use evasion to safeguard their fledgling independence. Your teen may lie to establish his life is his own–he can do what he likes with his friends, his body and his time.
Make It Clear Lying Is Unacceptable
Even if you understand their motivation, let your teen know lying is unacceptable. You may want to take disciplinary action, but it’s also important to stress natural consequences. Tell them, “When you lie, it erodes my trust and damages our relationship.”
Some Situations Require Total Honesty
When it comes to behavior threatening your teen’s future, let them know you expect complete honesty. This includes:
Risky sexual behavior
Skipping homework or ditching.
Using drugs or alcohol
If your son lies about dangerous matters, like binge-drinking or drug-taking, you might consider the benefits of a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teen boys and the help they can receive from therapists and experienced counselors.
Discouraging lying starts with you. Kids heed actions more than words, so model honesty in your behavior.
If you phone a friend to cancel plans for the night, rather than make up a lame excuse, consider telling the truth. “I’m feeling run-down and want to stay home and veg. Can we reschedule?” Your friend will appreciate your frankness and your children will take note.
Trusting Your Child Makes Them Less Likely To Lie
It sounds oxymoronic, but trusting same child you’ve caught lying makes them less likely to lie. Don’t keep your head in the sands regarding signs of fabrication, but try to start out assuming your child’s being honest.
Kids who are trusted typically try to live up to that trust, according to child development experts like Professor Darling. And remember, teenagers are notoriously sensitive to injustice. Nothing evokes more righteous anger in your child than being falsely accused.
If your faith in your child has been compromised, let them rebuild it. Trust is like a bank account, and it takes instances of good behavior to build a positive balance. You might say, “I know you want more trust and privileges. Well, the best way to gain that freedom is to show you can be honest and responsible.”
Don’t Call Your Teen A Liar
When your teen lies, level your criticisms at the behavior, not your child. Calling your teen a liar is hurtful and can backfire. “My parents already think I’m a liar,” they may reason, “so why should I bother leveling with them?”
Keep Consequences Reasonable
Your child has fallen behind on homework and their grade’s at risk. When they admit to slacking off, you ban them from extracurricular activities, forbid them from attending an upcoming dance and ground them for the rest of the year.
If such unduly harsh repercussions are the norm, your teen’s almost certain to lie to avoid punishment. It’s better to set reasonable consequences, like forbidding electronics use each day until you’ve seen their finished homework.
Leave Room For Negotiation
If your rules are set in stone, your kids are likely to be secretive rather than discussing behavior or attitudes conflicting with your edicts. If you want more open communication, hear out your child’s arguments when they object to a rule. And leave some wiggle room.
If your teen asks you to reconsider his 10 p.m. curfew, rather than digging in your heels you may want to alot him an extra hour. Adjusting a rule doesn’t mean you concede authority. Emphasize you’ll enforce the new curfew as rigorously as the old one.
Is lying just one of your son’s many problems? If he’s overwhelmed by mental or emotional issues and addictive behaviors, consider sending him to a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens. Sundance Academy offers a safe harbor where boys can rebuild their confidence, relationships and academic standing while receiving the therapy and life skills they need to move toward a promising future. Contact us to learn more.