If it hasn’t happened in your family yet, count yourself among the lucky. If it never happens, count yourself among the blessed.
The rest of us mere mortals have to deal with the uncomfortable fact that teens lie to their parents. Not always, and not about everything, but it happens – and that’s life. Here are five helpful things to keep in mind if you know your teenager is lying to you.
Top Five Tips to Help Handle Teen Lying
- Stay Calm. Flying off the handle, raising your voice, angry lecturing, and freaking out will not help. Having a discussion in a reasonable tone will help. You want your teen to trust you – blame and shame do not help with that.
- Keep Perspective. Whatever you do, don’t take it personally. When your teen lies, it’s not an attack on you. Teen lying is typically more about them than it is about you.
- Emphasize the Importance of Honesty. We bet you already had the honesty conversation a hundred times when your teen was a toddler or at preschool age. Take the time to remind your teen the following facts about lying:
- It can hurt other people. Being lied to feels like betrayal, and makes the person they lie to less likely to trust them.
- It puts them in double-jeopardy. When they lie, they’re doubling their exposure to consequences. They can get in trouble for whatever they did and for the lies they tell to cover it up.
- It complicates things. When they lie, they have to keep track of the lies in order to keep from getting caught. Just one lie can lead to many more lies, and a person who lies a lot lives in constant fear of being exposed.
- Remind them, especially early in the teen years, that lies lead to lack of trust on your part. Lying about small things when they’re thirteen reduces their chances of being trusted with big things – like driving the car, going to parties, etc. – when they’re sixteen or seventeen.
- Model Honesty. If your teen sees and hears you telling white lies about small things, then that increases the chances they’ll do the same.
- Understand It’s a Process. If your teen is in the habit of lying, it may take some time to get them back on the honesty track. Be patient, be loving, and be calm. It may not happen overnight, because the behavior probably didn’t spring from whole cloth overnight.
Note: Lying to cover up risky behavior like drinking, drug use, or risky behavior is a red flag, and could be an indication your teen is struggling with a substance use or emotional disorder. If that’s the case, or your teen constantly lies with no remorse, guilt, or even recognizing it’s wrong, we recommend seeking the help of a mental health professional.
Be sure to read: Top Six Reasons Teens Lie Their Parents
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.