The teen years are typically onerous for parents who struggle to keep up with a child who is rapidly transforming into an adult. While it might help to know that rebellion is a normal stage of teenage development, when your sweet, obedient child starts showing disrespect and lying, it's difficult to react rationally. When the lying involves schoolwork, parental fears for their child's future flare. But parents who respond appropriately to their son's lack of honesty are more likely to see a desired change in his behavior.
What to Think and Feel
Put the lying into perspective. If this is the first time your son has lied to you, be careful not to overreact. Balance the disappointment of this lie against his good qualities and positive achievements and don't allow yourself to become angry and out of control.
Don't take the lying personally. Understand how prevalent teen lying is. USA Today reports a survey that found 80 percent of high school students admitted lying to their parents and almost 60 percent claim they have cheated on a test.
Understand the differences between teenage boys and girls. If you have a daughter, be careful you don't compare the siblings and their approach to schoolwork. Boys' brains and girls' brains work differently, so it's unfair to have similar expectations for them. Pediatrician Leonard Sax points out that boys are predisposed to act in ways that are likely to get them in trouble at school. Your son might be unable to complete his homework because he missed the lesson while he was disciplined for inappropriate behavior. Contact the school to get all the information.
Find the positive in the situation. The fact that he lied to you means your son still cares about what you think of him. Recognize that this is preferable to teens who have given up on themselves and no longer care about their parents' opinion.
What to Say and Do
Determine the reason for the lying. This might be an isolated incident where he lied about not having homework because his friend has a new video game he wants to play. If, however, lying about having no homework has become a daily occurrence, you should contact the school and find out whether your son is experiencing some learning difficulties. Boys, in particular, often avoid admitting they don't understand the lesson and need extra help.
Consider asking the teachers to use a tracking sheet to record homework assignments you can check daily. This should only be a short-term solution to help your son get back on track until he realizes you'll be monitoring him closely. Periodic phone calls to his teachers will also keep you updated on his completion of assignments. Most high school teachers don't call parents every time a homework assignment is not completed.
Be a role model for honesty. If your son catches you lying, he's learning it's acceptable to lie to avoid unpleasant situations.
Don't lose your temper and respond to him in anger. You're probably frustrated, hurt and worried about the lying, but stay in control. Your son is more likely to hear what you have to say to him if you say it calmly.
Impose consequences for lying and for not completing homework. Some parents find it helpful to make their teen "earn" money and privileges by reminding the teen that his job is to work at school and his allowance is dependent upon his efforts. If homework is not done, the allowance is not paid.
Let your son know you have unconditional love for him despite the disappointment you might feel. Don't let him feel he's let you down so much you've given up on him.
Avoid long lectures. Your son will tune you out and not get the message. Briefly let him know lying is unacceptable and that you're disappointed with his dishonesty. Tell him you're hoping to see better from him in the future.
Teens make new friends when they start high school, and your son might now be socializing with kids who are not academically motivated. He might feel it's not "cool" to waste his time on homework. Find out who his new friends are before you allow him to spend too much time with them.
If lying about homework is one of many lies your son tells, and he frequently gets into trouble at school, seek professional help. Your family doctor can provide a referral for counseling.