One of the worst feelings is knowing that you are being lied to. It’s difficult to know how to respond because the first reaction is often to get angry. It’s easy to take it personally, feel disrespected, and essentially – hurt. We often then fail to talk about the problem and just set a consequence right away. This can get confusing because if it isn’t discussed, the consequence often isn’t understood by the child/teen and the behavior isn’t understood by the parent. And if it isn’t understood, no one is learning or connecting. Let’s look at some ways to navigate lies that are being told:
- Stay calm. Easier said than done? Of course it is. If you are frustrated or angry, leave. Take a break and get to a better place. If you talk when you are angry, you’ll be talking from your anger instead of your brain, and nothing will get resolved.
- Make sure you debrief. If you yell and aren’t able to walk away, or even if you do walk away, it can be easy to get into an argument and then never return to it. If you don’t ever discuss it when you are in a better space, it lingers. The next time there is an issue, even if you don’t feel it, you’ll be responding to the new thing that upset you as well as the old thing.
- Change your perspective. Often times it is easy to take things personal and think, “They lied on purpose to make me angry.” But does that fit with your parenting? Most likely they did not do it on purpose to hurt you. So why did they lie? If you can take a step back and wonder, it helps you understand the purpose of the lie. Are they avoiding getting in trouble? Are they trying to get your attention? Did they have a bad day and not want to talk about it? They aren’t communicating for a reason. If you find that reason, it will be easier to know how to move forward. It also lets you connect with your child/teen in a way you would not have otherwise had the chance to do, and it paves the way for them to come to you more in the future with their struggles.
- Be clear in your consequences. While it is important to teach children/teens to learn from their mistakes, such as lying, it is hard for them to learn that when the consequence isn’t related. If you have a conversation explaining the consequence and why it is put in place, it is easier to learn. For example, instead of “You lose your phone privilege because you lied”, saying something like “I will now be monitoring your phone conversations and limiting phone time because you lied…” connects a little better. It is more of a natural consequence. If they are older and it makes sense to, explain how this will help build the trust back. Give a time limit.
- Giving time limits to consequences. This helps with coping. If things are taken away and there is no discussion of when it will be given back, it becomes more difficult to cope because there is an “unknown” element.
- Be consistent. Don’t set a limit you cannot follow through on. Consistency helps children/teens know what to expect from you. It helps them understand boundaries and limitations. When you aren’t consistent, it can create anxiety and confusion.
If you are noticing that your child/teen is also exhibiting dangerous or violent behavior in addition to their lying, or they are exhibiting signs of depression, please reach out to a mental health profession to get support. Although these six tips can be helpful, they are no substitute for professional support.