Did you ever lie to your parents? I did. LOTS!
Whether your teen is lying to you or not, you may never know. However, understanding WHY teens lie and what you can do about it will decrease the odds of it happening and the possible fallout.
My parents were very strict. They loved my sister and I and wanted to protect us, so we had curfews that weren’t to be stretched by even one minute. No amount of begging or negotiating was going to change their minds, so I took matters into my own hands. It was how I survived my teen years.
I knew lying was wrong.
Reason #1 – Exerting independence
I had a wild pension for freedom and adventure that didn’t quite fit into the strict upbringing my parents were trying to uphold. I thought being a straight A student and top athlete should earn me a little leeway, but it got me nowhere. I was headstrong and needed room to explore, so I lied.
Your teen is developing more complex thought processes and deductive reasoning (debatable, I know, and risky, yes) and they’re going to be flexing their independence muscle all over the place! That’s why your teen is no longer the compliant child they once were and are making more decisions for themselves.
Reason #2 – Fear of judgement/criticism
As my relationship with my parents became more strained and even toxic, I felt criticized and judged often to the point there was nothing I could do that was good enough to warrant praise. I was struggling with my mental health and I didn’t feel safe to ask my parents for help for fear of more criticism, so I lied.
Perception is truth. If your teen feels judged by even a fleeting facial expression, they’re on guard. Teens are highly attuned to non-verbal cues (97% of communication) so it’s more than the accidental harsh reaction you had to the way they ate their pizza last week. It might even be something you said about someone else or your tone that they perceived as critical and now they’re holding back. Feeling encouraged and safe is paramount to teenagers because everything in their brain is changing so much including their own identity and sense of self.
Reason #3 – Different values/moral beliefs
My parents had very different values than I did which created another layer of challenge. I fundamentally disagreed with them and not just to be pigheaded or right. I used to sit in my room and ask myself deep moral questions about what I was about to do (hang out with friends) and if I felt it showed bad character or I’d be ashamed of telling others. For the most part, I saw nothing wrong with my actions, so I lied.
Even though you’re doing your best to instill your values and beliefs into your teen, it doesn’t mean they’re going to agree with you (that would be too easy). You’re raising a human, not a clone. Allowing them to discover their own beliefs and values and finding ways you can meet in the middle is far better than trying to shame or control them.
Punishing the lie isn’t the answer.
Whether your teen overtly lies to your face or conveniently skips over key details (error of omission), it stings. As a parent, it’s normal to lash out in anger because your heart isn’t ready for your sweet child to become the younger, full-of-attitude version of yourself, so you punish them. If you get one thing from this article, please let it be this.
Punishment is a version of shaming.
Shaming lowers your teen’s respect toward you.
And the kicker,
Teenagers (humans) are more likely to lie to those they don’t HIGHLY respect.
Do you see the insidious loop? By not addressing the root cause of the lying, you get more lying, more punishment and less respect, and around you go. I’m not saying you ignore the lie! Punishment is about compliance and control which is why it doesn’t work. Consequences come from love and respect while holding a boundary
Focus on the root reason for the lie.
It’s far more important to understand WHY your teen lied and work on improving your relationship in conjunction with a consequence for the lie itself.
When you dig into the conversations with your teen, from a curious and compassionate place (remember that part about teens feeling judged or criticized?) you have a greater opportunity to grow your relationship and irradicate the behaviour.
Why? Because this route is the only one that repairs and builds respect.
No amount of consequences will EVER do that.
If lying is a concern in your relationship with your teen and you’d like more help creating effective consequences and healthy conversations to turn things around, jump into my FREE FB Community where I’m LIVE every week! I look forward to answering your questions this Wednesday at 6:30pmPT. Can’t make it? Just post your question ahead of time and I’ll be sure to address it for you.