An adolescent can resort to dishonesty for many reasons, including self-preservation and attempting to avoid responsibility. If your teen has a habit of lying, he might need your help to break this behavior and choose a more positive way to handle himself. Overcoming the tendency to lie takes a conscious effort by your youngster, so support him as he breaks this habit.
Examine your rules and expectations to ensure you are not contributing to your teenager’s dishonesty, advises extension specialist Diana Del Campo, with New Mexico State University. If your house rules are strict and oppressive, not allowing your teenager some freedom to make decisions in activities, she might feel cornered or trapped by the rules. For example, your teen might enjoy the freedom to go to the library, the mall or the park with friends instead of just coming straight home after school. If you don’t provide a little freedom, she might try to lie to get it.
Talk to your teenager about the dishonesty. Using a positive and proactive tone, approach the problem with an attitude designed to resolve the issue, not to discipline or shame your child, advises psychologist Jeffrey Bernstein, writing for the Psychology Today website. Discuss the importance of honesty to develop trust in relationships and mention how dishonesty hurts a relationship because of the breakdown of trust. You might also mention how telling the truth can feel frightening, but the long-term benefits of trust and transparency make honesty a worthwhile goal.
Ask questions about what motivates your youngster to lie to help you understand the issue more completely, suggests child psychologist Lisa Hunter, writing for the GreatSchools website. Understanding motivation can help your teen change the lying behavior and it can also enable you to recognize potential circumstances in which your child might feel tempted to lie. For example, if you learn that your teen feels inferior to others, you can expect him to embellish stories and make up details to impress others.
Avoid placing your teen in a position where she feels compelled to lie, recommends Del Campo. Instead of saying, “Why didn’t you come right home after school? Where have you been?” you might say, “I was worried when you didn’t come right home after school. The next time something comes up, I need you to call me so I know what’s going on.”
Adopt a policy that extends trust only if your child acts trustworthy. Verify the statements your child makes and the information he gives you. If your verification proves the validity of information, extend trust to your child. If you discover dishonesty, discuss the mistake with your child. A reasonable consequence of dishonesty is closer parental monitoring and reduced freedom until your child earns trust back with honest and trustworthy behavior.