Teenagers, by definition, are not adults. They don’t think things through and they make questionable decisions. Think back to when you were a teen. Did you ever do anything half thought out, plain dangerous, or just wrong? My guess is, you did. When your teen messes up, it’s a possibility that your teen may compound this error with another and lie to you about it.
Teens usually lie for two reasons.
- Self-preservation: teens are motivated by freedom. They may hide evidence or omit some details to avoid losing their freedoms.
- Because they love you and value your opinion: Teens have told us often that there is nothing worse than looking into the eyes of their parent/guardian and seeing disappointment. They love you and they don’t want to hurt you.
Your teen may pretend otherwise, but your opinion carries tremendous weight. So what should parents do when this happens?
We have some suggestions for you. In order to restore trust, your teen needs a clear path forward.
- Change your own perspective. Yes, your teen has messed up. But what if this is a golden opportunity to get a glimpse into what’s going on in your teen’s life? What if this is the teachable moment they need to avoid future mistakes, or you can use it as leverage as a way to lead to honest conversations?
- Check your anger at the door; it’s tough as parents not to be scary, when we are scared. But anger is usually the tip of the iceberg with fear, rejection or embarrassment being underneath. Honesty about your true emotions will have a more lasting impact on your teens. Remember vulnerability breeds vulnerability. If you expect your teen to be honest with you, lead by example.
- Ask your child what they would do in your shoes. It may get them to see the situation from a different perspective and have some empathy for you.
- Natural consequences work the best. If your child stole your car and you take away their phone for a week you aren’t emulating the real world. But if they steal your car and you don’t let them use it for a period of time, you do. It’s important to establish a clear link between actions and consequences.
- Teach them they can accelerate trust by over-communicating with you. Explain to your teens that communication tells the adults in their life that they desire to be trusted again.
- Ask the question what they learned from this. This will guide them through some self reflection and move them towards self governance, which is the ultimate goal.
Parenting teens is tough, and no one has the perfect way to do so. No one always knows exactly what’s right for each of our children, but Jesus does. We can take his example and trust He is partnering in this journey with us.