Fair   51.0F  |  Forecast »

Tweens, Teens and Lying, What Parents Should Know and Do

How good is your lie detector? Fibs are normal part of adolescence, to an extent. Here's how to tell when they're being untruthful – and appropriate consequences

Did you ever lie to your parents when you were a teenager? Be honest, now. Not even a teeny, tiny lie? Here is a typical scenario: You started out studying with Mary, but you wound up at John's party afterward. It really wasn't in the game plan, but you conveniently left the latter part out when you arrived home and your mom asked why you were late. Fact: Kids aren't perfect, and lying is common in adolescence. Fiction: "Good" kids don't lie.

Telling tall tales

Parents may unintentionally serve as bad role models when it comes to fibbing. Adults often use "white lies" to spare hurt feelings or embarrassment. For instance, you might tell a friend her haircut is adorable after discussing in your child's presence that you would never use that salon.

"Many parents teach children that social or 'white' lies are acceptable," says Dr. R. Andrew Harper, medical director of the University of Texas Harris County Psychiatric Center and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

"For example, most parents tell their children to express thanks and pleasure for gifts, even if the gift is something the child does not want," he says. "Parents also teach children that some thoughts, while honest, do not always need to be related to others when they might cause hurt feelings or discomfort."

By adolescence, however, teens understand the difference between lying to spare feelings and lying to get one's own way. Teens lie for a variety of reasons, such as trying to avoid getting into trouble or seeking more freedom than parents are allowing. If a teen has learned that bending the truth will help him get his way, lying may seem like a good option.

Loren Buckner, a psychotherapist and the author of ParentWise: The Emotional Challenges of Family Life and How to Deal with Them, explains, "Pleasing their friends becomes more important than following the rules. When teenagers have to choose between lying to parents and disappointing a friend, parents often lose that coin toss."

Be a lie detective

How does a parent recognize his teen is lying? Is subtle body language a good indicator, or should parents look for other things, such as conspicuous changes to a story?

"There are behaviors that may indicate your teen is lying, such as avoiding eye contact, subtle facial expressions and changes in vocal pitch," says Dr. Harper. "However, many parents have learned through experience when to be suspicious of what their teen is telling them. Explanations that are inconsistent or seem to shift on retelling may be clues."

He warns, "Many teens learn to lie to their parents without being detected, particularly if the lie is well planned in advance."

Buckner suggests that parents look for patterns. Teens who stick to curfew, do their schoolwork and show up when and where they're supposed to can generally be trusted.

Choosing consequences

Parents should discuss various scenarios with their teen to illustrate what can happen when a lie leads to putting oneself and others in danger. If parents don't know their teen's whereabouts and something bad happens, they are unable to help when help is most needed. Teens should be told that lies, no matter how big or small, can lead to more complicated problems with more severe consequences.

Harper points out, "Some lies have consequences that flow naturally and help teach important life lessons. For instance, a teen who lies about completing homework will lose points or get a lower grade. However, lies that place someone at risk should call for more serious consequences from parents."

Parents should be concerned if lying becomes more frequent. This can be a sign of a more serious problem. However, belittling or shaming a teen can make matters worse.

"Teens need to know they're loved, even when they get into trouble," says Buckner.

Oct 23, 2012 11:29 am
 Posted by  Laura19

Great points for dealing with teenagers. Lies do have consequences. In our family, the problem isn't outright lying. It's teens who don't tell the whole truth. But the effect can be the same.

Add your comment:
Advertisement

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Tennessee Law Prevents Parents from Giving Child a Hybrid Last Name

Tennessee Law Prevents Parents from Giving Child a Hybrid Last Name

Carl Abramson and Kim Sarubbi mashed together their surnames for their first two kids, but Tennessee law says they can't use the last name 'Sabr' for baby No. 3.

Sticky Fingers Duct Tape Book Offers Easy Bow Making How-To

Sticky Fingers Duct Tape Book Offers Easy Bow Making How-To

Sophie Maletsky's new guide, published by Zest Books, is packed with fun crafts and DIY ideas kids and families can make out of colorful duct tape.

Paper Craft Fun with Handprints, Garland and Kawaii Art

Paper Craft Fun with Handprints, Garland and Kawaii Art

This versatile craft material transforms into an acorn fall creation, decorative ribbon, cute Japanese critters and cool dividers for your kid's closet.

How to Prevent Your Child from Choking

How to Prevent Your Child from Choking

Mealtime can turn from pleasant to panic in a matter of seconds. Protect your child from this mishap with our list of dos and don’ts.

YouTube Moms Parody Iggy Azalea's Hit Song 'Fancy'

YouTube Moms Parody Iggy Azalea's Hit Song 'Fancy'

The rapper's had the hit of the summer, but these clever mothers made it their own, riffing on pregnancy and motherhood in some pretty funny viral videos.

Biscuit Recipes: From Classic to Chocolate

Biscuit Recipes: From Classic to Chocolate

September is National Biscuit Month, but you can bake these any time! These recipes, including classic biscuits from Betty Crocker and cornmeal biscuits from Martha Stewart, will have you reaching...

Little One-Yard Wonders Book Review and Play Mat Project

Little One-Yard Wonders Book Review and Play Mat Project

Check out a new title that promises lots of sewing projects you can make for kids. Also, for the skilled seamstress, try one of its cool play-oriented patterns.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement