When your daughter lies to you (and it is when, not if), it can be devastating. You’ve come to trust the little girl you knew so well, but suddenly, a scheming tween or teen seems to have taken over her room.
If you are like most parents and guardians, you may be devastated. Before you take it too personally, it’s important to understand that lying is as normal a teen ritual as acne and prom dresses. In most cases this is not a cause for concern, as she’s simply testing her developing autonomy. In other cases, however, habitual or extreme deceit can signal a problem.
So how is a parent to know when to worry?
The Normal Lies Kids Tell
If you think about it, it probably began early in life for most kids. When parents ask who tracked in mud or broke a lamp, a chorus of “Not me!” can be heard throughout the house. Children lie most often because they’re afraid of being punished.
As they grow into adolescents and teenagers, they may tell you they’re going to the library because they know you wouldn’t allow them to see the movie they’re interested in or spend time with a boy they like.
The Untruths that May Be Cause for Concern
In some cases, children tell lies for less innocuous reasons. They may distort the truth because they believe they can’t trust you or be open and honest with you. They may fear disappointing you, or they may be afraid that you will minimize or disregard their feelings (which, by the way, are very real to a teenager). Or, they may fear overly harsh punishment, especially in very restrictive households. These are the cases in which you need to press a little harder for more information.
Ways to Maximize the Truth with Your Kids
The most effective way to ensure your kids tell the truth is to establish and maintain open lines of communication and trust. This means keeping your cool even when you hear things that shock or appall you, and it means keeping your word if you promise her she won’t be punished for being honest.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t hold your child accountable for making the wrong decisions or displaying bad behavior. When she comes clean about it, however, that much at least deserves your acknowledgment.
Another way to facilitate honest communication is to institute reasonable rules and restrictions, along with established consequences for breaking the rules, and enforce them without exception. Once your child understands the cost of making the wrong choice, she may not always do the right thing, but she’s much more likely to tell you when you hold her accountable for her own behavior.
Although lying is a rite of passage for most kids, some types of emotional and mental illness manifest through excessive dishonesty. Havenwood Academy specializes in providing residential treatment for girls and young women, and we can assist most families in restoring health and harmony in the home. Contact us today if you have a concern about your daughter and lies.