First things first, let’s get real and transparent about this. There is no such thing as perfect parenting or perfect kids… dealing with your teenager who’s lying to you (and/or others) is not a reflection on you; it’s not like you’re alone with this issue and usually in the scheme of things it isn’t a lasting problem.
It’s frustrating for sure, but right from the start please try not to get too tangled up in knots about it.
That said, it does need addressing (yes, they need to know you know…. If you know what I mean… hahaha) and so you’re probably reading this looking for a good way to approach your teenager who’s recently been lying to you.
Maybe you’ve got solid evidence, or possibly it’s just currently a hunch and suspicion… but either way you’ve landed here curious for ways of dealing with your teen fibber. Let me say, big pat on the back, mum you’re doing a great job by looking for answers and strategies! Many just toss it into the ‘too hard basket’ and that doesn’t always end well.
For many reasons, most teens go through a stage of not being entirely honest. Sometimes the lies are so blatant it’s near impossible to tell what’s truth and what’s fantasy, and in other less severe cases the fibs centre more around the information that conveniently gets left out of a story.
I know it’s normal teen behaviour, because over the span of 30 years I’ve dealt with more parents than I can count whose teens have lied to them – ranging from ‘little white lies to avoid a consequence’ right through to some ‘massive whoppers’ which have had completely unexpected and unwanted consequences. And just so you know, I have dealt with my own teenagers who’ve needed to be called out when I’ve sprung them being less than truthful.
But first, let’s talk about the act of “LYING”. Have you ever asked yourself this question:
WHY DO PEOPLE LIE?
When someone is seeking to avoid something – be it a person, event, situation, consequence etc – lying is a relatively common act. It’s human nature to act in a way that avoids unwanted experiences and in such cases telling an untruth is often seen as the means to an end.
Telling a lie does not necessarily make anyone a bad person and an isolated lie is not a reflection on someone’s character. It really does depend on the unique situation.
Some people lie to:
- Protect themselves
- Protect others
- Avoid confrontation
If this is what your teen is doing, then let’s not project a lifetime of anti-social behaviour on them because their lies are likely to be quite harmless.
I mean, really even as mums we lie sometimes ourselves…. like when we tell the mother-in-law how we love her cooking, when we call in sick at work just because we don’t feel like going that day or even when we spent all those years playing along with the whole Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy caper.
And we know these lies do not make us a bad person, right?
Your teen’s lying is not something you should panic about if it’s for a good outcome.
When then, should you be concerned? As a guideline, I believe it’s worth starting to worry about your teen lying when the tales become
- Bolder and more brazen
- More frequent
- Sneaky and underhanded
- Related to illegal or unwelcome activity
- Intended to mislead you
- An indication that he/she may not be dealing well with reality
We’ve all been through the teen stage ourselves and know from experience that growing from a kid into an adult is a very confusing phase of life. The teenage brain undergoes such a rapid transformation that jokingly adolescence is referred to as a “little temporary mental disorder” that will settle itself within a few years! We also know this period of development is when personal values are determined and so addressing the issue of lying is important.
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SO, How Are You Supposed To Deal With Your Teenager Who Lies?
Some mums might like to say that the years will pass and lies are just an accepted part of growing up and their teen behaving like a teenager. But, this type of head-in-the-sand parenting, and ignoring the issue, may sometimes lead a teen to bigger lies and very unwelcome consequences.
My view? You shouldn’t just turn a blind eye to dishonesty.
Yes, we are mums and we’re supposed to love, support, understand and protect them. That’s a given. But we also need to teach and guide them. Ignoring a teen’s lies – big or small – almost is an endorsement for lying and can very well encourage them to become less and less truthful.
Here then are some steps you can take when you catch your teen telling lies:
- Be careful how you react when questioning your teen about something you feel they may be lying about.
- Be upfront about it, but also be prepared when they may have difficulty admitting it.
- Don’t lose your shit when they open up, it will scare them and discourage future open communication. The more shocked and pissed-off you are, the more likely they won’t tell you the truth when it matters.
- Now, if your teen has lied about sleepovers or nights out at parties, deal with this issue separately. Address things calmly but in a serious manner. The lying is one issue, their safety is another.
It’s hard, isn’t it? But, believe me, it’s crucial to choose your timing carefully and your words effectively!
When dealing with a teenager; It’s hard to keep composed… especially when you know you’ve been fooled by them. But, if you show your genuine concern and keep calm when addressing their lies the chances of having an open conversation is greatly increased and they may even shed some light on what they’re going through.
At the end of the day, focus on your need to be able to trust them. In return, your response and communication style needs to measured so your teen feels they can trust you as their ‘safe place’ when speaking the truth.
Shari, isn’t there a MIRACLE approach to deal with teenagers who lie?
Teenagers come with their different and mysterious personalities that as their mums we need to figure out. But hey, we’ve all got spidey-mum senses and need to trust our instinct and our understanding of the kid we’re raising.
Truthfully, there’s no magic wand or miracle approach to stop a teen lying. It takes diligence, patience, a consistent approach and most of all TIME.
If you can relate to this issue and have some experience you’d like to contribute, or other effective approaches to this, please don’t hesitate to comment it on the section below and share your thoughts.
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