It’s undisputable that tweens/teens will eventually lie to their parents. On the pendulum of severity,some of the lies will be trivial exaggerations while others will be monumental, bold face lies. Which of these lies have your tweens/teens told?
“I don’t know?”
“It wasn’t me!”
“I finished my homework…”
“I was only there for a few minutes.”
“It’s no big deal.”
“That weed isn’t mine.”
Parents aim to raise socially conscious tweens/teens with a strong moral compass. Understandably, they feel betrayed and hurt when their tweens/teens veer off that path. Many parents struggle to understand the reasons for the betrayal. Some question their child rearing practices while others think their tweens/teens have a psychological disorder. A common parental belief is that tweens/teens lies are malicious. However, this isn’t always the case.
Would you be surprised to know that not all lies are malicious? Yes, that’s right, not all lies have a malicious intent. Let me explain. I’ve divided the most common lies that tweens/teens tell into three categories: Avoidance, Protection, and Self-Boosting.
The Avoidance lies avoid punishment, embarrassment, detection, conflicts or tasks that the tween/teen doesn’t want to do. You might hear your tween/teen say, “I don’t have homework.” Or, “I don’t know how the dog got lost.” Or, “I didn’t fail the test that bad.”
The Protection lies protect oneself or a friend from trouble or hurtful feelings. For example, a tween/teen may lie about his friend’s whereabouts so he isn’t busted by his parents. Or, a tween/teen may lie about the reasons she broke up with her boyfriend to spare his feelings.
The Self-Boosting lies boost the tween/teen’s self-image, perceived power or privacy. Some tweens/teens lie to their parents to maintain their privacy and gain independence. Lying about how they spent their time at their friend’s house falls into this category. For example, tweens/teens may lie about watching movies instead of saying they played air hockey just so their parents don’t know every detail of their lives. Other lies include claiming to be better at a skill, sport, game, to boost one’s self-image.
When tweens/teens lie, parents are quick to judge and punish. However, this approach can backfire and the lies can continue if tweens/teens feel misunderstood and trapped. The first step in addressing lying is to understand the intentions of the lies and act accordingly. Instead of immediately punishing, parents should examine and understand the reasons that their tweens/teens lie. With understanding comes compassion, which opens communication between tweens/teens and their parents.