When was the last time that you told a little white lie? If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t always tell the truth. We may tell our partners, children, and coworkers those little white lies even when we know better.
Children and teens may not always know better and may tell lies of all sizes. Things can get a little bit more complicated when teens tell lies about important things and when they fall into a pattern of telling more lies than they tell truths.
Knowing how to better handle your teen’s lies can help to put you in a better position to get to the truth and to help him break from these deceitful patterns. His lies aren’t harmless. They have the potential to cause disruption at home and at school. And in some situations, they could see him putting himself in potentially dangerous situations if he lies about his whereabouts.
Getting to the truth
For several reasons, your teen might be breaking from the truth. If you can understand why he is lying, then you’ll better understand how to proceed. Some of the most commonly seen reasons can include the following:
- To avoid topics they may not want to talk about, whether they feel uncomfortable or ashamed.
- To keep parents from knowing the full details about something. This lying by omission may not feel like a lie to your teen. After all, he’s not telling a lie. He’s just not telling the full truth.
- To get out of potential trouble for something they know they did wrong.
- So that they can get away with doing something they are otherwise not allowed to, like staying out later or skipping school.
- To rebel against parents or school rules they disagree with.
- To protect the feelings of family or friends who the truth may otherwise hurt.
- To maintain their privacy, particularly if they feel that their parents are overstepping and trying to invade their private moments and experiences.
Some of the lies that your teen tells may be silly and trivial. But there are other lies that have the potential to see them getting into trouble or hurting others with their behaviors and actions.
What can you do?
Can you take steps to prevent lies? Sometimes you may. There are a few things that you can try before your teen begins a pattern of lying behavior so that you can connect with your teen as you navigate this phase of your relationship.
- Establish boundaries and be clear about the consequences of not sticking to those boundaries. It’s vital to ensure your teen understands that you are not just being cruel. You’re setting household rules and boundaries for their protection and to protect other members of the family.
- Be sure you’re the teen’s positive role model. It’s not just your teen who can tell lies. Many of us are guilty of at least telling a white lie or two. Our observant teens may see this and think it’s okay to be less than truthful in some situations.
- Try not to trap your teen in a lie. This can quickly lead to your teen simply not trusting you or trusting that you will be honest with them.
- Be sure that you spend quality one-on-one time with your teen. These years are challenging, and there’s no doubt about that. But they can also offer great moments for you to connect and reconnect with your teen. This time together will help to cement your trust in one another.
You are your teen’s first look at what a moral compass should be. The most important thing you can do is to work hard to establish his trust in you, maintain that trust, and be the positive and strong role model he needs.
Is your teen already in a pattern of lies?
If your teen is telling lies, what are some of the steps that you can take? Your first instinct might be to punish and lay down consequences for the behavior. However, it might not be the right choice for your teen.
- Remind your teen of the consequences of not being truthful or of breaking other household rules.
- If it becomes necessary, take the steps to put the consequences into action by restricting his access to electronics or his ability to go out with friends after school.
- Let your teen know that you will be there for him if he is struggling or if he needs help with something. He may be angry with you for putting consequences and restrictions into place, but in time, he may put his anger aside and speak with you.
- Sometimes teens do lie to protect their parents from the truth. Reassure him that nothing he could say would make you stop loving him and being there for him.
- If your teen is reluctant to open up to you, perhaps there is a friend or family member he does feel more comfortable speaking with.
- Speak to other adults in his life, such as his teachers and coaches. They may have a different insight into the things going on in his life.
- Seek out professional help from counselors and others who can address the underlying issues responsible for his pattern of lies. Remember that his lies and other poor decision-making will not improve until his underlying concerns have been sufficiently addressed.
- Every member of the family should get into therapy to address their own concerns. Individual, family, and group sessions can prove helpful for everyone in the family.
Therapy will not only help your teen work through his underlying concerns contributing to his lies, but it will help him learn healthier ways to communicate. It will also help each member of the family learn better and healthier methods of communicating with one another.
If your teen’s pattern of telling lies and other poor behavior has accelerated beyond what you think you can handle, it may be time to consider other mental health and wellness options. At HelpYourTeenNow we can connect parents and families with the resources they need to move toward a healthy life together.