TV personality Judge Judith Sheindlin uses many catch phrases on her television show, “Judge Judy,” one of which pertains to teens: “You know when teenagers are lying?” asks Sheindlin. “When their mouths are moving.” Though this is good for a television laugh, there’s some truth to the joke. Teens and preteens often lie, says Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein, a licensed psychologist and nationally recognized relationship expert, in “Psychology Today.” And while parents shouldn’t take it personally, they shouldn’t accept the lies, either.
Because most teens tend to think mostly or only about themselves, many of them don’t realize that their lies might hurt you. Bernstein recommends that parents act more as “emotional coaches” than as disciplinarians if they want their teens to eventually be frank and honest. You don’t want to give your teen ammunition to shut you out of her life by being too judgmental. Instead, commiserate about how you can understand why she lied but that you will accept the truth, no matter what it is.
Explain Lying Consequences
Let your teen know that telling the truth can be a freeing experience; he won’t need to work to remember the lies. When he lies, he needs to remember what the truth is and the lie he told. It’s difficult and stressful to lead this sort of double life, says Dr. Carl Pickhardt, a Texas psychologist, in “Psychology Today.” Lying also doesn’t solve the problem. Let’s say your teen lied about doing homework because he didn’t understand the assignment. Lying might have solved his problem for one night, but the problem ultimately was not solved: He didn’t learn the assignment.
Discuss the Lie
When you catch your teen in a lie, fully discuss what happened. Find out why your teen lied and discuss what he could have done so that he wouldn’t have felt the need to lie. Using the homework lie as an example, ask your teen if he needs help understanding how to complete the work. If so, help him find the answer. That way, he won’t need to lie anymore, and his school performance should improve. Discuss with your teen what he should do to prevent future lying. Other common reasons teens lie are to avoid being punished and to get to do something they know you wouldn’t allow.
Let your teen know that lying means breaking the rules at your house, so there will be consequences. Pickhardt suggests that you ask your teen to do a task to work off the lie. Elizabeth Winship, known as “Ask Beth” of Boston.com, suggests you wait until your teen earns back your trust before granting privileges. If you allowed your teenager to have a friend over while you were gone and she had a small party at the house instead, don’t allow her to have any friends over when you’ll be gone until she shows signs that she can be trusted. Calling or texting you while she’s out to tell you where she’s going and the friends she’s with is a sign that she is being more trustworthy.