Parents of Teens: Are you Modeling Lying?
I’m sure you just said, “no!” But, consider the question closely. Have you ever asked your teen to tell someone on the phone that you’re not home because you don’t want to talk to them? Have you asked them to not mention the broken heater or the minor fender bender because you just want to handle it without “bothering” your spouse? Has your teen been in the room when you lie to a friend – perhaps making up an excuse for why your family can’t attend their party? Have you ever asked your child to lie about their age to get a price reduction on an admission fee?
Lying is not limited to speaking an untruth. Asking a child to omit information is also telling the child to lie and creates stress for them. And forget trying to justify the lie. Teaching teens that lying is okay “sometimes” just sends a mixed message. One day you will discover that your teen lied to you and they will use your own excuse against you in their defense.
You are modeling behavior all the time. Parents lead by example, and if you allow your children to hear you lie or have them lie for you, then you can’t blame your teen for doing the same.
Asking your child to lie, or omit information, places a war within your child’s mind. They are stuck between feeling obligated to do what you ask, because you are the parent, and doing what they have been taught – to be honest.
The worst situation is where one parent asks their teen to lie to the other parent. Regardless of the reason, this is a recipe to negatively impact your child. In the short run, the parent who asks the child to lie to the other parent has the short-term benefit of a sense of closeness and allegiance with that child as they keep secrets. Unfortunately, the lies and secrets foster guilt in the child. Your teen realizes they either have to disappoint you or harm their other parent – caught between a rock and a hard place. In the long-term, the parent who asks a teen to lie will lose their child’s trust. Perhaps unconsciously, a teen will understand that the parent will do whatever is necessary to help their own position or avoid getting into trouble.
So, what should parents do?
- Model honest behavior.
- Keep your word. Trust is hard to gain and easy to break, so follow through on your promises. Always explain and apologize if you must break a promise.
- If you made a mistake by telling a lie, admit it.
- Praise your teens for telling the truth, especially when it was likely difficult to do.
If you believe that your teenager is lying to you, then read our previous blog Teens and Lying that offers suggestions on how to stop that behavior.