How Parents Can Talk to Their Teen About Lying

Parent talking to teen

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Lying is a common behavior problem for teenagers . Sometimes they lie to avoid getting in trouble and, at other times, they stretch the truth to look good for their friends.

10 Reasons Why Lying Is Bad

It's important to stress the importance of honesty. Talk to your teen about the consequences that stem from lying. Here are helpful talking points to use when discussing the dangers of lying with your teen:

  1. Lies break down trust. Trust is a very important thing for parents to have with their teen, especially if the teen wants more privileges. Make it clear to your teen that if she lies about little things—like whether or not she has any homework—you won't be able to trust her with big things, like going out with friends or to a party. 
  2. It's an important character trait to be trustworthy. Talk to your teen about the importance of being seen as trustworthy. Trustworthy people earn extra responsibilities and privileges, which is essential to being able to achieve more in life. 
  3. Lying doesn't always work out the way you think it will. Most teens think lying will get them out of trouble, so it's important to remind your child that there's a good chance he'll get caught if he's deceptive, thereby losing trust and having to start from square one to earn it back. 
  4. Sometimes lying is a symptom of a bigger problem. Tell your teen that lying causes you to worry about what else is going on. Lying may be an attempt to cover up a serious mistake or a major underlying issue.
  5. Lying adds stress. If your teen has a solid moral compass, dishonesty is likely to stress her out. Although her initial attempts at being dishonest may be to make her life better, covering up deceit causes more stress.
  6. One lie leads to another. Deceit leads to more lies. And often, dishonesty escalates quickly. Your teen may find that he can't keep track of the truth anymore and his lies may get out of hand fast. 
  7. Lies will compound your problems, not make them go away. Make sure your teen knows that lying to get out of trouble will land her in even more trouble. Reward her for being honest, especially when it's hard for her to tell the truth.
  8. Little white lies can be avoided by always looking for the positive in a situation. Talk to your teen about how to be kind without lying. If a friend invites him on an outing and he doesn't want to attend, there's no need to lie. Teach him to simply decline the offer without hurting his friend's feelings by saying, "No, thank you." There's no need to get into a lengthy, dishonest story in an attempt to spare a friend's feelings. 
  9. Dishonesty makes it impossible to keep healthy friendships. Tell your teen to look for the positive without stretching the truth. Help her see she doesn't have to be fake, but she also shouldn't be so blunt that she's rude. Help her find a balance so she can be honest without being brutal. 
  10. Lying to look good backfires. Teach your teen that he doesn't need to create tall tales that make him seem more interesting. Instead, teach him to build his friends up and help them feel good. Rather than trying to outdo them in an effort to impress them, he'll have better friendships when he is honest with them.
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  1. Ogundele MO. Behavioural and emotional disorders in childhood: A brief overview for paediatriciansWorld J Clin Pediatr. 2018;7(1):9–26. doi:10.5409/wjcp.v7.i1.9