Teaching Teens the Importance of Telling the Truth

During adolescence, it’s not uncommon for a previously honest child to lie to his parents. Teens usually bend the truth or lie to get out of trouble, but repeated lying can become a habit that’s hard to break, so it’s vital that parents teach teens the importance of telling the truth before lying becomes a habit 1.

Why Teens Lie

Most teens lie to gain some freedom from their parents. These lies are often minor, but they can pile up fast and soon become a habit. For example, "I forgot" or "I'll do it later" as common lies that teenagers tell. These mild lies eventually become larger and more complex. According to Psychology Today, teens also avoid the truth to avoid consequences for bad behavior or they might be mimicking deceptive behaviors modeled by their parents. In most cases, when lying becomes a habit, teens need to relearn how to tell the truth. This involves modeling the right behavior as parents and stressing the consequences of dishonesty whenever you catch your teen lying to you.

Explain the Consequences of Lying

When your teen knows the consequences of lying, she is better able to make the right choice when she is tempted to lie. Tell your teen how it makes you feel when she lies to you, and make it clear that lies usually have twice as many negative consequences as the truth. For example, according to Psychology Today, each time a person isn't truthful, she distances herself from those she’s lied to in order to conceal the deceit. Your teen might be more likely to tell the truth if she is aware of the constant fear and isolation liars feel because they're worried about getting caught.

Set Your Teen Up to Tell the Truth

One of the simplest ways to teach your teen the importance of telling the truth is to stop setting him up to say what you want to hear. For example, instead of asking your teen if he cleaned his room, mention that he must have forgotten to make his bed. According to Psych Central, this puts more emphasis on him taking care of himself, and less on pleasing you or avoiding consequences. Remember to give praise when it’s deserved so that you shift attention to his good behavior.

Establish Consequences and Set Clear Expectations

Treat lying seriously and put firm consequences in place for everyone in your household when it comes to avoiding the truth. Admit when you’ve made a mistake, and try not to lie to your teen, even if it seems harmless or minor. If your teen isn’t truthful with you, don't over-react or lecture him, but be consistent with the consequences for lying and repeat your expectations.