There are very few teenagers who escape adolescence without telling at least one lie to their parents. Part of transitioning to the independence of adulthood is increase secrecy, but some lies can be dangerous. If you’re concerned about keeping your child honest through her teen years, it’s a lot easier to prevent lies in the first place than to punish them or try to stop them after it’s already happened. Here’s what you can do to prevent your teen from lying to you:
Keep Stress Under Control
The pressure of sports, school, and friendships can often drive teens to lie. Oftentimes teens are terrified of their parents’ reaction to a bad grade, a desire to quit a sport, or a problem with a friend, which gives them an incentive to lie. Keep your teen’s stress level manageable and check in with him regularly about how manageable his stress is.
Practice Honesty Yourself
Parents are likely to see in their children the behaviors they themselves have, so be sure to model honesty to your teen. Talk openly about your feelings, about concerns you have, and even about fears you have about your teen’s honesty. Your teen will be more likely to reciprocate by sharing what’s going on in her life and less likely to lie.
Allow Some Privacy
It’s important for parents to know about the major developments in their child’s life, but everyone deserves a private space, even teenagers. Allow your child to keep a private e-mail account or diary, to have her bedroom door closed, and to have private phone conversations. In return, your teen won’t feel like he has to lie in order to carve out a private space for himself.
Trust But Verify
Teens whose parents trust them are more likely to behave in trustworthy ways. Make clear that you trust your teen to make good decisions, and praise her for doing the right thing. When you’re concerned, however, make sure to verify. Call and check on your teen when she’s going out; ask about friends, parties, etc.
Keep Communication Open
Most teenagers are going to be exposed to drugs, drinking, and smoking in high school. This does not mean, however, that your teen is engaging in these practices. Be open to listening to your teens’ thoughts on friends who use drugs and alcohol. Further, ask your teen about his life in a way that betrays a genuine interest instead of paranoia or a lack of trust. Your teen will be more likely to open up to you and more likely to come to you if there’s a problem.
If you catch your teen in a small lie, talk to him or her about it, but don’t give up all trust. Realize that lying is a part of the teen years, and that if your teen occasionally withholds information, it’s not necessarily a sign that he’s wholly untrustworthy. Conversely, if your teen is frequently lying, you need to have a serious talk about trust and work hard to bridge the gap in communication.