Teens might lie to avoid punishment for misdeeds or substandard performance, to be allowed to engage in certain activities or even to cover up another lie. This does not mean you are a bad parent or your child is a bad person. What it means is that teen lying is a normal part of growing up. Even though you cannot prevent all adolescent prevaricating, you can render the results distasteful for your teen. You must take this behavior seriously. Refuse to tolerate the lying and discourage its progression with appropriate discipline.
Set irrevocable house rules regarding truthfulness. Have an unequivocal discussion with your teen before he surprises you with a lie out of the blue. Demanding honesty is a reasonable parental expectation. Tell him that lying is a serious offense that will not be tolerated. Stress clearly that lying will be disciplined.
Point out how costly your teen’s lying will be for her. In a 2009 "Psychology Today" article titled “Surviving (Your Child’s) Adolescence,” psychologist Carl Pickhardt advises that you address some of the negative repercussions that lying produces. Lying hurts your feelings, which could make her feel guilty. You will no longer believe what she says so you will not trust her to be unsupervised, resulting in denial of activities such as going out with friends. She will have to support one falsehood with additional lies, which becomes difficult to track.
Remain suspicious of adolescents who have lied before and create predictable consequences for future incidents. TV personality and psychologist Phil McGraw, at drphil.com, instructs parents to choose a penalty that is meaningful, such as an item or activity that is important to your teen. This will get her attention. For instance, tell her she will lose her phone for two days if she is untruthful.
Confront your teen immediately when you catch him in a lie and do so calmly. Do not overreact, shout or strike him. If you are so angry that you fear a conversation could escalate out of hand, put it off until you cool down. Patiently confront him as soon as possible. Do not wait too long or he might fail to make the connection between the confrontation and the misdeed.
Issue one warning the first time your teen lies to you. Adolescents commonly need their memories jogged for new directives. Remind her that you will not tolerate the unacceptable behavior. Do not argue with your teen, who might try to belabor the issue. Caution her that if she is caught lying again you will discipline her. You have explained your position twice. No further reminders should be necessary.
- Trust your judgment when confronting your teen if you have reasonable evidence that he is lying about his actions. Do not argue when he challenges you to prove it. Tell him that while you cannot prove he did it, you have evidence of the transgression he is lying about. Discipline him for the misdeed as well as for lying about it.
- If you're fearful for your teen’s safety because of constant lying, a behavioral problem or conduct disorder might exist that a professional can help with.
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