It can be extremely frustrating when our teens lie. Many of us remember being youths ourselves and not being completely honest with our parents, but today we are dealing with so much more — especially when young people have an entire life online in addition to their real life offline.
It’s very challenging for parents to keep up and even more important to keep your lines of communication open.
Teenagers know how to push their parents’ buttons. Instinctively, they come with an arsenal of tools to get what they want, avoid getting into trouble, or cause their parents to blow a fuse out of frustration. How do you prepare to parent all of that?
-Is your teen manipulative?
-Is your teen dishonest about where they are?
-Does your teen stretch the truth to get what they want?
-Does your teen twist the truth to avoid trouble?
First let’s understand why teens lie.
Overall, teens lie to cover protect themselves or someone they care about. They want to avoid getting in trouble (punishment or consequences), conflict or even save face. In some situations they believe they will have a better chance of getting what they want or having things their way.
Dealing with Teenage Lies
1. Don’t panic, stay calm. Knowing that lying is usually based in fear, acting in threatening ways will only push your teen more into hiding. As much as lying may be triggering, it’s important to approach your child calmly.
2. Dig deeper, find out why they lied. One of the top reasons teens lies is to protect themselves or someone else. Maybe they are embarrassed or afraid they’ll be rejected. They could be protecting someone else or be afraid of getting in trouble.
Does your teen have an environment that welcomes honesty, even if it’s uncomfortable? Are you and their siblings good role-models?
Be open and honest, even when it’s uncomfortable. Keeping a calm, non-judgmental atmosphere welcomes honesty and openness.
4. Help them connect to the truth. Sometimes your teen may not even realize they’re lying — they’re caught up in wishful thinking. The teen wishes something were true so much they actually start to believe it.
5. Bonding with your teenager. By strengthening your relationship, you can lead the way to building a strong and meaningful connection with your teenager. Let them know how much you value them and how important trust is to your relationship.
Be patient, but don’t be afraid to get help, if needed. Maybe from now on, they have to offer extra accountability or proof of their truth-telling. Trust has surely been eroded.
Forgiveness is free, trust is earned.
Not only this, but after you’ve gotten to a place of safety and honesty in your communication it’s important to lay out the external consequences of lying. For instance, if your teenager is lying about their whereabouts, it could be very dangerous. What if something happens to them and you have no idea about it or how to even find them? It’s important to help them see the risks that lying to you presents.
If the lying still continues and it appears your teen is a compulsive liar, it may be a sign of a more serious issue, like mental illness. Reach out to a local therapist for extra help to determine if there is more going on.
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