- Is there a foolproof way of telling whether your teen in lying?
- A local expert says yes, but trying to catch them in a lie is tricky.
- Here’s what to do instead.
With teens having so much access to the online world, in addition to the usual pitfalls of teenage life, it’s a stressful time to be a parent.
And with maintaining open lines of communication being offered as the best advise for making sure your child isn’t getting themselves into trouble, how can you be sure that your teen is telling you the truth?
Integrative psychologist and author of “How to Raise a Man“, Megan de Beyer, says that while teens are no more susceptible to bending the truth than other minor children. they are less likely to be forthcoming due to their desire for autonomy.
Children tend to bend the truth when…
“Teenagers can keep the truth of their actions from their parents as they desire autonomy and independence. It does not mean that they have done something wrong; they are rather making a statement that they are in charge of their own life”, De Beyer says.
De Beyer says it’s possible for lying to become a habit well before the teen years, mainly when raised by an overly judgement parent, “rigidly insistent on ‘what’s right and what’s wrong'”.
If a parent raises their child to feel constant judgement, a child can start lying as “early as four years-old”, the expert says.
“Children long for acceptance and approval from their caregivers. They need to feel loved for who they are. When they are validated, they experience a sense of belonging. All this is essential for healthy development. Children will bend the truth to receive this validation and acceptance”, De Beyer says.
To safeguard your child against future deceptive tendencies, De Beyer suggest parent’s clearly distinguish between a child’s character and their behaviour, starting from an early age.
“The message is – ‘I love you, but I do not like this behaviour’.”
So, how to tell if your teen in lying to you?
Parental intuition aside, the integrative psychologist tells us that there are physical sings of dishonesty.
This includes holding their breath or a subtly contracting solar plexus (the area at the centre of the abdomen above the belly button). Still, trying to catch them in a lie is tricky.
“A teen will either be withdrawn, irritable or avoid talking to a parent is they have bent to truth. Yet all teens can exhibit moodiness even when telling the truth!”
What to do instead
While we’re sure that there might be some app in development right now to decipher truth from lie, De Beyer says that being as direct as possible is a good strategy for parents hoping to get a straight answer.
“Generally, parents are worried about the big ‘vices’, and in this arena, it’s best not to be vague as rather ask a question in the most succinct way: ‘Did you drink last night?’ or ‘Are you on drugs?’ or ‘Are you sexually active?’ A parent’s job is to keep their children safe while they are minor, so it is alright to be this direct.”
In turn, parents should try to model the behaviour they’d like to see in their children; the expert advises and suggest parents try a less demanding and judgemental approach.
“A teenager needs some privacy as they grow, and they also need to learn to make their own decisions. They will naturally experiment and want to do things their own way. Parents need to stay connected yet allow freedoms too.”