The Adventures Of Fatherhood – July 2, 2021

It was shortly after midnight and Pam woke me up with suspicions Beckett was moving around the house.

By the time I got out of bed, the silhouette of our 13-year-old and his puffy ball of hair (mostly in the front) was standing in our doorway, saying, “what? Everything okay?” We questioned him on what he was doing. Pam was certain he had been downstairs.

It would not have been a big deal if he was having trouble falling asleep and up for a midnight snack or a drink. It would have been another matter if he was sneaking out, walking outside or doing whatever else. When we pressed what was up, he said he heard his mom through multiple doors ask me about the noise downstairs. He came out to explore, he alleges.

It was clear to me he had been downstairs and was almost certainly snacking. It’s the summer and we understand teenagers like to stay up late when they know they can sleep in. It would not have been a big deal if he was straight with us, but instead this new instinct to lie seemed to kick in. It’s something we have seen a lot of late. These are not huge lies but he’s being deliberately deceptive and secretive. It’s clear he’s not always giving us the straight scoop. It’s intentional.

Other parents I have spoken to of late confirm similar issues in their households with young teens. Therefore, I checked online with Dr. Google and found an article from titled, What Parents Should Do When Their Teenager Lies To Them, identifying the six main reasons teens lie to their parents. Here are some highlights:

Avoid Getting in Trouble. It’s just like when they were toddlers or preschoolers. Teens may lie simply to avoid the consequences of breaking rules.

Avoid Embarrassment. Teens may make up stories when they’ve done something they think makes them look foolish, uncool, or dumb.

Protect or Defend Friends. If a friend is in serious trouble with their parents, the school, or authorities, teenagers may come to their defense with alibis, stories, versions of what happened, or outright denials to help their friend get out of a jam.

Cover Up Emotions. A teen may not be totally forthcoming about how they feel about things. They may be uncomfortable with their emotions, embarrassed by them, or afraid feeling a certain way may make them look immature or uncool.

Make Themselves Look Better. Teenagers may embellish or exaggerate things they’ve done or things they’re capable of doing to gain social capital. This is more complex than it appears: the capital they seek may be from a positive crowd – i.e. “I aced that test without studying” – or from a less-than-positive-crowd – i.e. “I smoked so much weed last night I saw my lava lamp levitate.”

Establish Autonomy. There are times teens may lie for no good reason other than to keep part of their lives to themselves, unencumbered and uninfluenced by the input of parents or teachers. This is complex, too: developing autonomy is a good thing, but lying to reinforce the autonomy is not the most productive approach.

Later when I asked Beckett if any of these apply to him, I could see his head was spinning. He did not want to say the wrong thing. Instead of prevaricating, he admitted he was uncomfortable answering. I appreciated he did not lie about his reasons for lying from time to time. My guess is each of these reasons have applied to various situations, especially the concept of lying to avoid getting in trouble and a quest for increased privacy.

Some words of advice on to handle lying from the same article hit home. How parents handle lying is critically important. Oddly enough it talked about how overreacting to a simple lie could result in more lying because the teen will lose trust and do whatever it takes to avoid another huge conversation and blowup from a parent.

The tips stressed the importance of staying calm and reminding your teen you can be trusted to handle personal things without judgment, irrational reactions and attacking. It’s important to keep perspective and not take getting lied to personally. Additionally, parents should always keep in mind their teens are watching and observing more than ever as they mature. Modeling honesty and good moral values when a kid is 13-15 years old is more important now than when they were toddlers. Kids take notice of simple white lies and see their parents’ ease of fabricating something – like saying they are too busy to come to a friend’s house when the reality is they are just want to relax.

Finally, the article reminded, “Understand it’s a process. If your teen has gotten into the habit of lying, it may take some time to get them back on the honesty track. Be patient, be loving, and be calm. It may not happen overnight, because the behavior probably didn’t spring from whole cloth overnight. Establish reasonable outcomes for lying, proportional to the lies. Take away screen time, move up curfew, or restrict the use of your car. Whatever you do, allow your teen time to adjust.


About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.