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.


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

  • Alfred says:

    Wow, Paola, what a situation to be in! I‘ve been sitting on this for 2 days now, wondering what to write and crying to God for wisdom. Then I had occasion to visit someone in a psychiatric hospital, and he said there’s a teenager there who often looks at how others handle their cutlery. Applying that to your case, I’d say that the first thing must be a willingness to learn! So, sit them down and explain that their mother’s mistakes and ignorance shall NOT shape their future. Whatever they can learn here and now is what matters! TODAY is their day of opportunity. What they do right will come back to them as rewards (from mankind as well as from God); and what mistakes they keep making will also come back to them! (E.g. You hurt someone, and you’ll sooner or later get hurt in a similar way). Holding up your son as an example, may not be of any help, but could fuel more jealousy. Encouraging them to watch YOU handle cutlery at the table, may be a start. Where I worked they had a policy of teaching that went like this, “tell them, show them, and have them show you” (in that sequence). I’d say, “then have them show you again” to reinforce the new procedure.
    Using money as an incentive for good behavior may work. One thing is certain: They have so much to learn that one needs to start with only a few things and progress gradually. Encouragement will build self-esteem!
    As for the anger; it may not be overcome except through the love of God. Are you able to daily read the Bible with all in the household present, possibly after a meal? That will introduce them to the Love of God.


    I am dealing with a lot of deception from two teenagers,them mother was terrible, a lazy woman, lack educated, lack ambition, they describe her as somebody that did not know anything, like if she was a retarded. I am living with them and the deception is increasing every day, they lie a lot, they hate them mother, they dont respect them mother, do not thanks to her for anything, they show more interest of money that any other kids.

    they behave so deceptive, they don’t have any manners even how to eat,or grab the silverware, they look like if they grow up in a Indian group one of them pick his nose all the time even when we are eating, the other is a compulsive liar, and he hate everybody, he is so jelaous of my son, he have done things like, broke in my son’s bedroom and kill his cactus spreading deodorant on it, or stole the food that my four years old girl love to eat, or broke the little toddle’s kitchen intentionally. I am really concern about those kids, they can be criminals in the future, I dont know how to handle it, my son is the most polite kids he never lie, he is honest and strict with his self, I never had such a problem with him, I wish somebody advised me what to do.

  • Kennedy says:

    I have been a dad of a teen boy,now 33 and father of a 13 year old daughter. His mom and I smile when he speaks as a mature parent, with some concept of how to deal with others out of a place of calm and humble confidence. We (and he) learned a lot during his teen years, finally coming to a place which showed us that we could not parent out of an unhealthy partnership of husband and wife. If our stuff wasn’t together as a partnership in marraige then the parenting we did was marred by this “untogether” stuff. So we had to move the mom and dad relationship toward a healthy place with more urgency than the parenting. At the time we were learning the parenting is the Biggest Job we ever had. We needed to strive to be a source of inspiration to our children. I encourage you to look at The center of all of this is that we parent out of a humility that the Potter has given us this child for a time and He desires us to seek Him as we help Him form this human into one who loves Him.

  • kim says:

    Dawn and Ashley, I have a serious issue at this point. The same scenario has been going on since 13 and now she is 17!!! I am lost.

  • Trish Hicks says:

    also ms Ali Honesty and trust play a big part and the lines of communication too should always be kept open.In deciding how much leway to give.You can always go by there past actions too have they been honest in the past and have they shown that they could be trusted. I know too there is an age and I think its 13-16 or 18 I am not sure.but there is a stage the teens go through its called narcisim, it means they are all about themselves. So you might want to give them that leway of thinking of themselves in the way of their appearance and things,but to teach them how important to think of others also.I know to that my mom used to always tell me ‘if you lie to me,your lies will find you out”.That might be something you might want to press upon the mind of your teen.Because I know from experience lies that are told do come to the surface sooner or later.They never ever stay hidden.
    So yes i also agree with the above statement Colvin has made that come 18 they will graduate and most likely go away to college , so if that is the case its a good idea to instill the practice of making good decsions

  • Rashid says:

    I am parent to two little children and I am father and mother when they are with me.there us no solution that is easy . My children if they do something I don’t do nothing but I see when they are ready for bed that time I cross my desire to them I wished you have never done that but I hope it will not happen again little explain them and they are happy and I am happy situation got resoloved.
    In my opinion children should be taught with love and pray.

  • Ashley says:

    Thank you for your words of encouragement & advice Hope. As of right now we are in a very good place with her. Things have finally calmed down & the line of communication is getting a little better everyday. We have looked into couensling for her but, where we are there are a lot to choose from. I need to do more research before I take her to any of them.

    Dawn, we took her phone for a long time. (This is just a basic phone) with school sports & having away games we gave it back to her so we could stay in contact with her. We did however, put many restrictions on the phone (if your daughter has an IPhone she can bypass almost any restrictions you put on the phone) she can’t text at all, I disabled all Internet, disabled the purchasing of or downloading of any apps, I also put a time restriction on her phone. She can’t talk before 7:30am & can’t talk after 9:00pm. Even though its summer, those restrictions still apply. Her summer has been very limited, lots of family time. Today was actually the first day she has been slowed to do something with a friend since summer started. The other thing we did, with her, was re-evaluate her friends, who she socialized with & what her goals were after high school & to see if any of her current actions/friends were helping her get to those goals.


  • Hope says:

    Ashley, I completely understand your frustration as a parent of 15 year Old daughter and have experienced similar behavior. I would you encourage you to find a mentor for your daughter someone who she can express her feelings, thoughts without risk. However, that person should be someone willing to communicate the same values that you have as parents. I found this to be effective because my daughter is hearing the dangers of social media, dating and etc..but in a different tone. Peer pressure for dating is so great that it overtakes teens. I have learned that you can change a behavior but you can replace it with positive behaviors. Your daughter is fighting for her independence but just going about it all wrong and also she is battling her dependence too. She has to develop the ability to communicate her desires to you. ( lies happens because of this inability) The biggest thing is to know your not alone tap into other parents, and church. I also feel that counseling is an option it will help your daughter through this stage… Keep talking, and being great parents…

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Smith, I can totally understand your frustration and concern for your daughter. It is scary to see a child so young in a place to deal with pressures for sexual interactions. I don’t have any kids of my own that have gone through this but I have spent a lot of time working with families who face these kinds of struggles; and the good news is that many of them see their children grow into healthy adults! Kids react to discipline very differently but one thing that I have observed is that those parents who can communicate safe. clear boundaries for their children with logical consequences in a loving emphasis on the concern for their child have a much better relationship in the short and long term. Kids may not like or agree with the boundaries their parents set out at the time but they always knew that it came from a place of love for them.

    One of the ways that you can help your children have that confidence is by working really hard at understanding your child’s perspective to the point of being able to communicate that back to them accurately. Some parents have a hard time with that especially at this age. The transitions into adolescence can happen so quickly and the thoughts and motivations going on in your child’s life take a drastic turn. The child you knew so well suddenly has much different reasons for doing the things they do. When you daughter hears from you the real reasons why she felt like she needed to send that kind of message, she will feel respected even if your boundaries restrict what she does.

    I guess that kind of fits with what the Bible says about God: His discipline is evidence of His love for us. When you discipline your child in a way that they feel secure in your love for them the long term results are always much more positive.

  • Smith says:

    Hi, as a mother of two, daughter is 11, son is 10 years old. They are 11 months apart. Recently we were notified of a sexual Instagram post our daughter made. Like many other parents who have commented on this topic we are at ours wits end!
    I would like to hear from a parent who has an older child now but has survived the deceitful stages. What does the child say now about the type of discipline they received? Why did they continue to defy the rules? What do they feel like worked or did not work?

  • Dawn says:

    Ashley, I’m curious what type of discipline you ended up giving your daughter for her dishonesty? I have a 13 year old daughter and we’re going through a similar issue. She has an iPod that got taken away last year because she was caught texting with some friends using very fowl language and lying about it then deleting the app so I couldn’t see her conversations. She finally got it back after several months and the rules we set were no talking to boys on any type of social media and she needs to check with us first before downloading any social media app. I just found out that she’s been using kik when she’s not supposed to and talking to boys and face timing them. So her iPod was taken away again. I just don’t know how to discipline aside from taking the iPod away. She’s a great kid but she always gets in trouble with this iPod and texting. Aside from having her memorize scripture on the importance of having integrity and doing her devotions I’m not sure what to do. Any suggestions?

  • Ashley says:

    I have a 15 year old girl that we have been going through the same issue with for years now. In our house our rule is simple, if you can be trusted, you get good grades (85 or higher) & you get your chores done, you can have an easy, fun life. Meaning you’ll get to go to your friends houses, go to birthday parties, etc. if you can’t do those things, you won’t get to have fun. Well, for some reason our daughter continually does the same thing to get into trouble & it all boils around phones/texting & all social media.

    When she was in 8th grade we said no boyfriends, but if you wanted to tak to him on the phone, you could. We found out they were dating & we grounded her.

    Then she got he first phone & we said no erasing any calls/text messages. Don’t be sneaky. Needless to say, she was erasing everything & then I found out she was still dating that boy & had saved his number under a girls name. We took the phone for the entire summer & she was grounded for the entire summer.

    Now she’s in high school, 9th grade. Finally got her phone back. We find out she likes a kid at school & we meet the boy, meet his parents & we agree to let them date in a supervised relationship. We found out she was deleting text messages again & also find out she had multiple secret social media networks. We took the phone (actually broke it).

    So now, she’s not had any phone all school year. She’s been doing really good at doing the right thing (or so we thought) & we tell her if she keeps it up, we’ll get her another phone. So we do get her another phone, only this time we have many restrictions on it. We have made it where she can only receive phone calls. We blocked all texting & anything that would use data. She’s only had the phone for 1 month & we just found a secret IPod! It has texting & shows she’s a member to 5 or 6 social media networks (Instagram, twitter, kik, snap chat) we took the phone & the iPod but now what?

    She’s been grounded for the past 2 summers (always getting into big trouble at the end of a school year) ground her for another summer? Give her more punishments that shell do but won’t make any effect? We do stick to our punishments & after about 6 months we’ll think…finally, she’s doing the right thing & then it hits us in the face that it’s all been a lie. We can’t trust her at all. She’s a really good kid & when she’s not in trouble she does get to have fun. She plays sports, friends come here, she goes there. It’s not like we don’t allow her to do anything. I’m at a dead end. I don’t know what else to do. Why does she keep being such a sneak? It keeps getting her the same outcome-no phone, extra chores & grounded (nothing w/friends)

    Sorry this is so long. Any advice you can give would be appreciated.

  • 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.

  • 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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