Behind Closed Doors: Understanding Why Teens Lie

“Does my teen lie to me?”

This may be a common question that many parents ask.  The answer is yes, most likely they have lied to you about one thing or another at a certain point in time.  The question you need to be asking, however, is how often are they lying to me and about what?

To understand more about teenagers and lying, we must first identify what they are lying about.  Second, we need to understand why they do it.  Usually, most teenagers lie about one or more of the following things; who they are hanging out with, where they are going, if they’ve completed their homework, parties, underage drinking, and whether or not they are dating. As a teenager gets older they also become more private.  It’s no surprise that a teenager wants to have the freedom to do the things they want and they also want to experiment.  Not every teenager is going to immediately want to discuss everything they do with their parents.  Let’s face it, can any of us say that we told our parents everything growing up?  The response is probably not!

So why do teenagers lie?  And what can we do to reduce it?  First and foremost, teens tend to lie for many various reasons.  They may want to protect a friend from getting into trouble.  They may feel uncomfortable discussing a certain topic with their parents.  They may have a fear of embarrassment if it comes to a personal problem.  Whatever it is, there is usually a reason behind the lie.  As a parent, it’s important to not quickly assume that your child is in the wrong for telling the lie.  Before jumping down your child’s throat, let’s look at some constructive ways to decrease your teen or child’s lying.

Don’t Label

Do not label your teen as a “liar” the second you find out they were being dishonest with you.  Instead, find the root of the lie and ask your teen to explain why they felt the need to lie to you in the first place.  Chances are that they will most likely have a reason for it.  Does it mean it’s a good reason?  Not necessarily, but you still need to give your teen freedom to explain the situation to you.  It’s important not to challenge your teen’s character.  When you label your teen, this could have a negative effect on their self-image and with being honest with you in the future.

Avoid Setting Traps

Try not to ask your teen a series of questions that will trap them into telling you the truth.  If a teen feels as though you are manipulating them, the trust will be hard to find down the road.  It will feel as though you are attacking them and making them look dumb.  If you are expecting your teen to be honest with you, it’s important that you are truthful and honest in your attempt to understand the circumstances too.  Most likely, a teen will also hold a grudge and resent you for using a tactic such as that. Overall, it’s best to avoid trapping your teen – keep in mind you are a parent, not a detective.

Learn to Compromise

Rather than keeping the house on lockdown and having consistent strict rules in the home, try to find a little bit of balance here and there.  For instance, try to find room to budge if your teen asks for a bit of leniency on curfew.  Perhaps a friend is having a party that is going to run a bit late.  If you allow your teen to feel comfortable asking for an extension and you don’t shoot them down each time, they will be more likely to be honest with you.  Showing your teen that you trust them will make them less likely to feel they need to lie.

Don’t Judge

Some teens may feel uncomfortable telling their parents things because of fear their parents will judge them or think poorly of their decisions.  Have frequent conversations with your teen about the importance of openly communicating with one another. Let them know that you are always there for them if they need to talk and while you may not always agree with something they did or said, you will still be there to help.  Let them know there will be no negative judgment.  Some teens tend to lie out of fear of being belittled or ridiculed.  It’s important to build a strong foundation of security and openness in the home so they are more encouraged to speak to you when they have an issue.

Model Honesty In The Home

Most importantly, make sure you are a good role model for your teenager.  Make a conscious effort not to keep things from others or to tell white lies.  Even if a lie is meant to be polite or prevents hurting someone’s feelings, try your best to avoid doing this too often.  It can be very easy for a teen to observe your actions and pick up some of these behaviors.  If you continuously do this in front of your teen, eventually it will be second nature to them to tell a lie in order to keep peace and void conflict.

Teenagers are going to lie at some point in their life.  That is a fact.  The best thing you can do for your teen is be there for them, understand why the lie happened, and guide them towards a better choice for next time.  Most importantly, don’t give up on your teen – sometimes telling a lie is a cry for help.  It could be your teen telling you they need more direction in life and that they are confused.  Before jumping to conclusions, talk to your teen and find out what you can do to help.