Parents should figure out why lying occurs and why it persists. If a child is struggling with problems at school or with peers, parents should deal with lying as an academic or social skills problem. If lies are deliberate and malicious—involving alcohol or drug use, shoplifting, or other delinquent behavior—they should be dealt with forcefully and consistently. That is the only way to discourage such negative behavior.
Have a heartfelt talk with your teen about the serious consequences of breaking the trust between the two of you. Equally important, tell him how he can repair it. Follow these rules:
- Establish consequences for telling lies. Discuss these with your teen early on.
- Confront lying when it happens, but do so in a calm, respectful manner. The most important goal is to teach responsible behavior, not to criticize or blame.
- Be consistent and fair in enforcing consequences. Let the punishment fit the crime.
- Demand accountability. Taking responsibility means owning up to the lie, showing repentance, and offering a sincere apology to you and, in some cases, the family.
- Reward honesty. When little George Washington told the truth about cutting down the cherry tree, he demonstrated character and, thus, received a lighter punishment.
- Be honest yourself. Parents are the strongest role models in their teens' lives.
Even when you're tempted to blow a gasket, maintain a respectful relationship with your teenager. Mutual respect does not ensure honesty, but it certainly encourages it.