3 Ways To Handle Your Teen’s Lies

By Guest Blogger Blanca Cobb, Body Language and Lie Detection Expert

All teens will lie to their parents at some point. More than likely they tell more than one lie. In fact, Nancy Darling, an associate professor of psychology at Oberlin University, found that 98% of teens have lied to their parents. It didn’t matter if the teens were honor students or average students. The teens lied about all kinds of topics from whom they were dating to places they were going. I recently discovered a Twitter stream #LiesIveToldMyParents where teens share lies they’ve told their parents.

Some noteworthy lies on #LiesIveToldMyParents are:
~ “I never got a text? *deletes text from conversation.*”
~ “Everybody failed the test.”
~ “I was in class. I probably was in the bathroom when the teacher called roll.”
“No their parents are gonna be home.”

There are a variety of reasons teens lie to their parents. They lie to get out of trouble; avoid conflict with parents, chores, homework; protect themselves or someone else from getting hurt either emotionally or physically; or boost their ego by making themselves seem more skilled or better at something than they really are. A surprising finding in Darling’s research is that teen lies to avoid parental worry. They don’t want their parents worrying about their friendships, grades, college aspirations, career choices, etc. While teens strive to become autonomous and independent from their parents, they may lie to maintain some level of privacy in their lives. They don’t want to report any single detail of their lives to their parents. This is the reason teens may lie about where they’re going, who they’re hanging out with, what movie they’re going to see. Teens may not be lying because they’re necessarily doing anything wrong. Although you know that they’ll lie about drug, alcohol and sex. They may want some freedom to make their own choices without reporting back to their parents. The problem is that teens tend to think in the present only, the here and now. They don’t think about long-term consequences. With their aura of invincibility where they falsely believe that nothing bad will happen to them, they don’t quite understand the long-term implications of lying.

Now that you understand some of the reasons your teens lie, what can you do about it? You handle lying similarly to how you handle other rule breaking behaviors.

1. The first step is to take your emotion out of it. It’s typical to feel angry, hurt, embarrassed that your teen pulled the wool over your eyes. When you get emotional then you’re giving the deception too much power. Your teens will quickly learn that lying is a trigger point for you and may continue deceiving you.

2. Second, find out the reason behind the lies. Sometimes teens will lie because they either don’t think of other ways to solve a problem or they think that it’s easier to lie than to tell the truth. Once you identify the reason for the lies, you can help your teens find better solutions. Say, your teen lies to you when her friends are around. A simple solution is to have conversations outside of her friends’ earshot so their presence doesn’t influence her behavior. Or, say your teen lies because he wants some privacy in his life without having to report every detail to you. You can set up situations about what he can and can’t keep private.

3. Third, you should develop consequences for lying such as grounding your teen, taking away mobile devices, etc. Your teen should know that lying won’t be tolerated and there will be consequences. The key is to have two consequences. There should be one consequence for breaking the rule and a second consequence for lying. Let’s say your teen wants to hang out at his friends’ house and tells you that his friend’s parents will be there. Just happens that you run into the friend’s mom at the grocery store. Your teen broke two rules. Therefore, there should be two consequences. There should be one consequence for breaking the family rule of not having adult supervision. And there should be a second consequence for lying. Having two separate consequences should help your teen think twice before lying to you again. It also reinforces to your teen that there’s a double penalty for lying when breaking rules.

What about you? Have you caught your teen in a lie? Can you share advice to other TMoM readers who may be experiencing this for first time or need advice on how to manage this challenge?

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