You’re not alone.
When looking at behavior related to lying in people aged 6 to 77, researchers found that adolescence was the peak of dishonesty.
In a separate study, it was found that high school students told 4.1 lies on average during a 24-hour span. That’s 150% higher than adults.
If your teenager’s lies go beyond harmless fibs and become consistent and habitual, it’s something to be concerned about.
Honesty is one of the fundamental rules for success in life. Frequent lying erodes trust, leading to strained relationships.
So why do teens feel the need to lie, and how do you know if it’s a problem?
This article explores what’s going on with compulsive lying teens and what you – as a parent – can do about it.
(And if your teen lacks motivation, download a copy of the e-book below.)
Is your teenager a compulsive liar?
Do you feel concerned about how often you catch your teen telling lies?
As a parent, no amount of lying from your teenager ever feels acceptable. But it’s particularly concerning when your teen’s lies seem to have no purpose or explanation.
This may indicate a more serious problem – a pattern of pathological lying.
Here are some things to look out for in an adolescent who might be a pathological liar:
- Lying a lot in a variety of situations
- Lying without a specific purpose or reason
- Consistently lying over an extended period of time
- No other mental conditions or disorders that explain the lying
If these things are true about your teen, this could indicate compulsive lying. This means that your teen needs professional help.
Why do teenagers lie?
Research suggests that lying is most common for teens between the ages of 13-15. This is due to their intense desire for freedom at this stage of their development.
Studies have found several factors that can cause teenagers to lie:
- To define their own rules: Many teens feel the need to assert their freedom and independence by making their own choices in life. In contrast, many parents try to control or restrict their teens’ behavior. As such, teens may hide the truth.
- To avoid getting punished: It makes sense to have house rules for teens. Such rules help to maintain respect and create healthy boundaries. When teens break these rules, they may lie to avoid conflict and steer clear of punishments.
- To cover for their friends: Teens may lie because they want to be a loyal friend, so they feel compelled to take the blame to protect a friend.
- To avoid disappointing their parents: Teens may lie because they want the approval of their parents and want to avoid causing disappointment. For example, instead of admitting they fell behind in school, they may lie about their homework or grades.
- To hide their emotions: Teens may struggle to express their emotions. It can feel safer to lie than to express how they really feel.
What can parents do about compulsive lying?
If your teenager lies compulsively, you probably feel frustrated or angry. But rest assured that there are strategies you can employ to improve the situation. Here are five of them:
1. Be a positive role model
Your words and actions have a profound influence on your teens. If you tell a little white lie here and there, your teens may consider this acceptable behavior and follow your lead.
If you realize that you sometimes lie, make a commitment to living a life of complete integrity.
Make it your priority to become a positive role model for your teens. Talk to them about what you’re doing to become a more honest person, and share your progress with them.
2. Create a safe space for your teenager to open up
It can be challenging for parents and teens to speak openly, particularly when discussing sensitive topics.
Communicating with teens requires intentional effort. But if your teens feel like they can speak with you without the fear of judgment, they’ll be more likely to tell the truth.
Try the following tips:
- Use more “I” statements and fewer “you” statements. Tell your teens how you feel, instead of what they did wrong. “I was worried when I couldn’t reach you” is an example of an “I” statement. “You’re always avoiding my calls!” is an example of a “you” statement.
- Speak clearly and simply. Communicate in easy-to-understand and specific terms. Don’t give long lectures. Instead, get to the point quickly when sharing your concerns with your teenagers.
- Practice active listening. Communication is a two-way street. Encourage open dialogue by listening respectfully, especially when you disagree with your teens. Take the time to understand your teens’ perspective before responding.
- Focus on the issue at hand. Bringing up several issues or problems at once will make the situation worse. Focus on the issue at hand and don’t bring up the past.
3. Set rules and boundaries together as a team
If you set all the rules and boundaries without any input from your teens, they’ll feel it’s unfair or unreasonable.
For example, maybe you set a 10 pm curfew for your teens for the weekends. But all of your teens’ friends can stay out until 11 pm. If your teens get home after 10 pm, they’ll be more likely to lie.
A lie about missing the bus is a convenient cover.
Have an open dialogue with your teenagers about the rules and boundaries they’re expected to keep to. Resolve disagreements respectfully together as a team.
This will build mutual respect and trust.
4. Stay in control of your emotions
If you find out that your teens have been lying to you, it can make you feel frustrated and disappointed.
But blowing your top won’t help the situation.
If you lose control of your emotions, it will create an emotional distance between you and your teens. They may give you the silent treatment and refuse to talk things out.
Calm down before speaking with your teens about their actions. Explain the consequences of lying and how you feel.
With a level-headed approach, your teens will be more likely to take responsibility for their mistakes. They’ll also be more likely to make better decisions in the future.
5. Avoid labeling your teenager as a liar
If you give your teenagers negative labels, it will affect how they perceive themselves. It will also affect their self-esteem. Research shows that such labeling is harmful and can cause people to feel devalued.
If you label your teen a liar, he or she may feel defined by it. Instead of trying to be more honest, he or she will continue lying, maybe even to prove you right.
Instead of labeling your teenagers, apply Strategy #2 and get to the root of why they felt the need to lie in the first place. Only then can you begin to work through the issue together.
Dealing with a compulsive lying teenager is tough for any parent.
Start by understanding the reasons why your teen lies. If it’s a deeply ingrained pattern that resembles pathological lying, it’s time to get professional help for your teen.
Fortunately, most teens lie for reasons that parents can understand or at least relate to.
Start applying the strategies outlined in this article and be patient. Over time, you’ll foster honest communication between you and your teen.
And if your teen lacks motivation and a sense of responsibility, check out my online course for parents of teens. It’s a proven, step-by-step system to help you get your teen on the right track – guaranteed!