Reasons for Teenagers Lying

By Erin Schreiner
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How do you know if a teenager is lying? His mouth is moving. Though it isn’t quite as dire as this anonymous and playful parenting tip would suggest, teens can and do lie. Though there is no “good” reason for lying, teens often have rational motivations for telling untruths. To better combat your teen’s lies, improve your understanding of what is making him lie in the first place.

To Avoid Punishment

When your teen does something wrong and sees a punishment coming, he will try any trick he can to avoid it -- including lying. Teens naturally try to figure out potential consequences and avoid negative ones, states David Swanson, author of, “HELP -- My Kid is Driving Me Crazy, The 17 Ways Kids Manipulate Their Parents and What You Can Do About It.” Be leery of any story your teen tells you when you catch him doing something he shouldn’t do. While he could be telling you the truth, it is quite probable that he isn’t.

To Taste Forbidden Fruit

Were it not for your refusal to give permission, your teen would try loads of risky things. Many teens lie so they can do the things that Mom and Dad would never allow, says Ellen Rittberg, author of “35 Things Your Teen Won’t Tell You, So I Will.” To catch a teen lying for this reason, pay attention to how quickly your teen relents. If he asks to go to a rave, quickly gives in when you say no, then says he is staying the night at his buddy’s house that evening, he is likely lying.

To Protect a Friend

Your teen has a natural desire to protect people he cares about -- including his friends. If a friend has done something wrong or is struggling with an issue like substance abuse, your teen might lie to protect him, says Jennifer Powell-Lunder, co-author of the book “Teenager as a Second Language.” When a teen lies for this reason, he may pause as he lies or look conflicted, as often teens who lie for this purpose know that they should tell the truth but can’t bring themselves to do so.

To Establish an Identity

Though adults may suggest that the best way to establish an identity is to “be yourself,” many teens don’t agree. Teens might lie to fit in with the crowd or make themselves sound more impressive than they actually are, suggests Janet Lehman for the Empowering Parents website. If you find that your teen has misrepresented himself to peers, don’t call him out in front of these schoolmates. Instead, speak to him in private about his untruth and reiterate the importance of honestly representing himself.

To Exert Independence

Your teen is sick of being tucked safely under your wing. As he breaks away from you, he may lie. Many teens withhold details of their daily lives or lie when asked to provide such details, suggests Po Bronson for “New York" magazine. If your teen consistently replies with “nothing,” when you ask what he did that day, he is likely going through this phase. To get your teen to be honest with you, avoid judgment when he does reveal facts about his life.

About the Author

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.