Dealing With Your Teen and Sneaky Deceit

Written by Dennis and Barbara Rainey

deceitOften, a child will take advantage of you in any way he can to get to do what he wants. Just when you think you’ve told him what is expected of him, he comes back with statements like:

“I didn’t understand what you were saying. I thought you meant…”

“I forgot.”

“I didn’t hear you.”

“You didn’t say that.”

The solid ground you thought you were standing on starts to shift, and as a parent you wind up thinking, Was I unclear? What did I tell him, anyway?

The first step in solving this problem is to write things down. With six children, I (Barbara) really can’t remember everything I say. When you’re giving directions to so many, you do forget. I don’t write down everything, but I have started a section in my notebook where I record penalties, disciplines, and rules on the issues that are very important.

All chores, for example, are written out and posted in the kitchen. I spell out what a clean kitchen looks like. This prevents our children from taking advantage of any fuzziness in our directions.

After establishing that foundation, challenge your teens when you think they are not being truthful: “Now, I know you heard me” or “I think you selectively chose not to hear me. And I want you to know that’s a lie; that’s not the truth.” Discipline may be appropriate. You may also want to warn them that persisting in this behavior will lead to bad consequences in the future: “When you are an adult, you can pretend not to hear, but it will get you fired from a job.”

Disciplining deceit

So what happens if you catch your child red-handed in a lie?

Let’s say your daughter spent the night with a friend and told you the next day that they watched a clean family movie. Then you learn that the movie was anything but clean and that she knew it all along.

After uncovering the lie, one of your assets as a parent is to delay punishment—not too long, but long enough to let the child’s imagination run a bit wild. Take a few hours or even wait overnight. Set your game plan. Stick your heads together and pray over your options.

When you meet with your child, first find out why he felt the need to lie to you. Is there something amiss in your relationship? Does he feel overly restricted?

Don’t let your child rationalize the deceit. He may try to take the offense back into that gray area.

Then, choose a consequence that involves restricting something your child loves to do. On one occasion, we disciplined one of our boys by telling him he couldn’t be part of his baseball team for a game; he had to sit on the sidelines and watch, and he was their top pitcher. That was a memorable punishment for him. For our girls, grounding them from the phone, their favorite source of social interaction is a painful penalty. Recently we’ve added e-mail to the list of privileges to remove as a discipline.

Your discipline needs to match the level of deceit. If it really has been a crafty deceit, perhaps a con job perpetrated over a long period of time, the discipline needs to be more severe. It needs to imprint the lesson on your teen’s character.

Finally, let your child know that he will need to earn back your trust. When you deceive another person, it takes time for that relationship to be healed and for trust to be reestablished.

For the single parent

Being single-handed as a parent means that you need an even better network of spies and eyes looking out for the best interests of your child. Consider a number of parents who have children the same age as yours and commission them to help you catch your child doing things right or wrong.

Ask these friends to occasionally step into your child’s life to just see how he is doing. And if your child is going through a period where he or she is being deceptive, you might want to consider using these friends to intervene in your child’s life, to confront and rescue him or her from the trap of deception.


6 Responses to “Dealing With Your Teen and Sneaky Deceit”

  • Alfred Alfred says:

    Hi Stasha, What if that 9 year old feels that there is too much confrontation. I think she needs to know that she and you are together attacking the problem, rather than each other. So, maybe she really does not know. Then it could be explained, including similar situations, including a review, that if such & such happens then she is to do so & so. There is no punishment this time, but if it ever happens again then there will be consequences, for now she knows! A child and also a teenager need to feel (not just hear) that you are their friend. Then co-operation comes more willingly. I hope that helps.

  • stasha says:

    what if the girl is 9, her answer is always i dont know and everything from groundingto taking clothes away to early bed time doesnt work. please help.

  • B. Miller Brenda Miller says:

    Steph, I agree that it is extremely important to teach teens the necessity of being honest in order to live a life of integrity and to be viewed as a responsible citizen, friend, and, at some point, a trusted and valued co-worker. I believe it is the responsibility of the family to teach these values to the children from the very beginning, for we are living in a society where pretty much anything goes, and it is each one for himself. God’s commandment to love your neighbour as you love yourself and do unto others as we would have them do unto us is not honoured in our society today, but instead mocked, and the results are sadly evident. However, a family with strong ethics and high Christian morals can lay the foundation of Christ for a tremendous future filled with hope for their children.

  • Steph says:

    Teens are very good at deceiving us as they talk with us using their deceiving smile. I don’t really know how they learned such act but I am pretty sure that if they didn’t learned it from home they probably learned it from the environment they are exposed at. I know that lying is a serious issue that will only worsen if not solved.

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Ali, If your teen feels overly restricted, then it’s a good idea to take a look at what rules are in place and what the teen’s history has been and see if there are adjustments that can be made. When I was growing up my Mom often talked about which hills were worth dying on and which were not – that is she had a very clear picture of which things were essential and important and which were preferences. Drunkenness was a non-negotiable. My brother’s long hair was a preference. People at church were constantly asking my Mom when my brother was going to cut his hair and she’d just shrug and say, “As long as it’s clean what does it matter?”

    It’s important also to make sure your teen realizes that freedoms are privileges that are earned. If she is home by curfew consistently then it might be time to consider letting her stay out later. However, if she’s constantly late then she’s in no position to argue for more time. Have a conversation and let them know “If you want this privilege, I need to see this specific behaviour.” Make sure your teen knows that it’s possible to get more privileges and how to get them but also that actions (or the lack of them) have consequences. History plays a role here. If your teen has shown himself to be trustworthy, reward that. If he has not, be specific. “I can’t let you __________ because the last time we tried that __________ happened.”

    Talk to your teen and really hear her out. She might have a really good reason for wanting more freedom that you have not considered. Also, take a good, honest look at which restrictions are in place. A teen should have a lot more freedom to choose than say, a ten year old. Yes, mistakes will be made, but that’s an important part of the teen phase of development. The goal is to create an environment that limits risks to really dangerous things but gives enough freedom that the teen does learn to choose for himself. Part of the process of the teenage years for parents is loosening your hold on them. They’re going to graduate, go away to school, start a life of their own. Your job as a parent is to make sure that when that time comes they are well practiced in making good decisions.

  • Ali says:

    what do you do if they feel they are being overly restricted

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