It doesn’t mean your teen is a bad person, in fact, lying is a totally normal part of being a teenager. Many parents find it tough to tackle a lying teen because who knows if they’re going to be truthful in the conversation you have about dishonesty. Especially if they have a pattern of defiance. It seems impossible to know if they’re telling truth, but it helps to know what teens usually lie about and why they do it. Here, we’ll dive into the facts about teen lying so you know what to look for and what to double-check.
Why Did My Teen Lie?
The first question to ask yourself when encountering a lying teen is why they do it in the first place. Here are the motivating factors.
- To Protect Themselves or Others
Teens will lie for a variety of reasons, but commonly it is for their own protection or to protect a friend. If someone is in danger of getting caught red-handed, your teen will do their best to make sure no one finds out.
- To Hide Their Feelings
Your teen is going through a lot of physical and emotional changes. New feelings, especially difficult ones, are hard to talk about, so your teen’s first response might be to hide them. For example, your teen might start lying if they feel uncomfortable, but don’t want anyone to worry about them.
- To Look Better
It’s no secret than teens care about what other people think. Even if they pretend they don’t care, teens are quick to lie in order to save themselves from embarrassment or to appear better off than they really are. Your teen might even be in denial about something that makes them look bad and pretend it never happened.
- To Maintain Autonomy
Teenagers could be lying for no reason at all, other than to be more independent. The logic here is that the less parents know, the more the teen is in control. Your teen might lie to you just so they can deal with a problem by themselves without asking for help, or so they can be sure to have the final say in a decision you know nothing about.
What Does my Teen Lie About?
According to research, there are a few major topics that a large percentage of teens admit to lying about.
- Where and With Whom
The two most prevalent lies are either about where they were, or who they were with. If you notice that your teen is lying to you, this is the information you should be most wary of. It might be a good idea to tell your teen you will start tracking their location or checking in with their friends’ parents if they continue to be dishonest about where they’re going and who they’re hanging out with.
- Drugs and Alcohol
The next most common things for teens to lie about are drugs and alcohol. First, many teens lie about whether or not they have consumed drugs or alcohol. Due to social pressures, your teens might find themselves in situations where they want to try an illegal substance. Knowing that the parents disapprove, teens will hide their behavior and might go back to using drugs or alcohol without telling their parents. It’s important to find out if your teens are secretly using substances so you can do your best to make sure they stay safe.
Now let’s talk about sex. Your teen might conceal the truth about their sexual experiences for similar reasons to hiding the truth about drugs: parents disapprove. In the same way, there’s a big risk involved with these lies. The less you know as a parent, the less you can do to keep your teen safe. If you suspect that your teen is lying to you about sex, try talking to them as if they are having sex so you can ensure that they are being safe about it and know the proper measures to prevent pregnancies and STD transmission.
Now You Know
And we aren’t lying. These factors behind teenage dishonesty show that lying is typical for adolescents. Knowing these reasons will give you insight that will help you prepare for future lying episodes. As you learn to pick up on your teen’s lying habits, you can come up with better ways to make sure they’re telling the truth.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.