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.

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

  • Anthony says:

    To Anonymous

    I am a mentor with this site and thank you for your comment. I am so sorry you guys are going through spiritual attack. I know the same thing happened with me when I was baptized. I would just encourage you to encourage your daughter to hold true to her faith, and when she senses the attack to pray and tell the enemy that he has no place in her life. Let me pray for you real quick.

    Dear Heavenly Father I lift this family up to you right now. I ask you to be with this daughter to help her overcome her spiritual attacks, the enemy has no place in her life. I ask you to give her peace and rest Lord. Thank you for all you are doing in this families life. In Jesus name Amen!

  • Joanna Breeden says:

    I can personally relate to a few of these people. I’m not a step parent but, I do have a 171/2 yr old daughter.
    You need to personally explain to the young people what you expect from them.They break the agreement then there should he consequences like it or not. My prayers are with you all.

  • Catherine says:

    I am 16 and I’ve been caught lying and stuff over and over. My family isn’t religious or strict but for all you parents out there I want you to know that this isn’t on you or a reflection of your parenthood. Kids just tend to feel like they have no control so they like to test the limits, and its hardy on them too. When I started doing things that weren’t as great I felt totally out of who I am. Like I was detached, but it’s just a really natural phase we go through. Some kids get it more, some don’t. I feel bad because my older brother was so clean in his lifestyle and it must be a really big change for my mom to have to deal with what I’m going through. However, I’m still me. And by the way? Mastrobation is 100% natural. Just because you’re religious doesn’t mean your kids are gonna be, but the love will still be there. Spread that kindness. And when you’re punishing your kids make sure to remind them of how much you love them. Punishment makes them feel isolated. Make the truth something that’s not punished, but encouraged. It’s really hard for us to get a grasp on life , especially in modern age where the internet has opened us up to more things we can do with our lives. Just don’t make us feel stuck.

  • Annonymous says:

    It seems to be that ever since my daughter got baptized the enemy is working on her day and night. And she sees it too. She’ll pray , we’ll pray. We’ll pray together. She knows that’s the way to fight him back. She also knows Christ resides in her heart. She chose to be baptized a few months ago. She’ll be 20 in May. I’m just asking that a prayer be said for her in Jesus’s name. Amen

  • DB says:

    I am step mom to 3 kids: 14yo girl, 13yo boy, 12yo boy. The boys moved in my husband and I last summer. Their mother had substance abuse problems which began to result in verbal and physical abuse to the 13yo. The kids missed so much school that she removed them from public school to “homeschool” them to avoid the state getting involved. As a result, all three are severely behind in school (8th grader reads at a 3rd grade level). They have never been expected to do homework/ maintain good grades/do chores/ have any responsibility/ or be held accountable for their actions.

    My husband and I require them to get Cs and above in all classes. We have had multiple meetings with their teachers and have access daily to their grades and assignments so can help them keep up to date. The 13yo knows this, yet continually lies to our faces about his schoolwork/ grades. Even when I email his teacher in front of him to confirm if he is lying or telling the truth (usually lying). No amount of talking to, taking away privileges, or punishment had helped. We are at a loss.

  • crystal says:

    I am a single mother raising my children alone. I have a 13 year old daughter whom I have had several issues with her sneaking around having a boyfriend even a girlfriend at a time. She was recently grounded for 3 months no phone, no room, no jewelry, she was doing all chores etc. and here i am a month barely she made it un grounded and again I find her being sneaky on social media which she is not allowed to have and the same little boyfriend. I dont know what more to do or how to come at her anymore. Please any advice will be much appreciated. Thank you

  • Aldo says:

    William, I am sorry that your son is obsessed with porn. Pornography is an progressive addiction, meaning that the more you delve into it, the more engrossed in it you become, until you’re not satisfied with just looking at pictures, but want to actively take part in what those pictures portray. From there it gets worse.

    William, very definitely your son needs to get help. It should start at home, but it sounds as though you and your wife are not on the same page to getting that help for him. You could use an intermediator such as a pastor or good Christian friend to sit down and talk to both you and your wife and explain the consequences of porn if left undealt with.

    Here are some websites on which you you can find resources on how to help your son.

    Allow me to pray for you.

    Father God, You know and have heard the cry of William’s heart concerning his son’s addiction. Lord, I ask that You would grant William and his wife the wisdom that they need to help their son get free of this terrible obsession. Also, touch the boy with Your Spirit and turn him from the insatiable desire of this devastating addiction, in Jesus Name. Amen.

  • William Stein says:

    I am desperate,
    Ill get right to it… I have a son who has been sneaking porn since he has been 10 years old, he is now 16. we have tried taking privileges away, phones ayay resetting privileges so he can have everything and I monitor and no matter what scenario there is supervision or not it doesn’t matter to him and he keeps on sacrificing everything to view it. After the last 6 months I have taken away all privileges on his phone and all he had was talk and text. He bought a data phone and had been using it for 3+ months. for every situation his mother always thinks i’m being too hard on him and yet again she wants to give him another chance… we argue over it all the time…. I cant take the constant fights over my thought of parenting “take it away forever and restrict all usage in the house and monitor his money by buying all goods for him with little spending money” vs his mother ” Lets give him another chance by giving him all privileges back and see how it goes AGAIN” just 1 week after he was just caught with the phone he bought. Mind you he hasn’t been punished yet because we can not come together for a pro;er punishment yet… UGG I fee so alone here and I don’t know who or where to turn for advice that makes sense enough. my wife is taking her therapists advice by yet again giving all privileges back. I need someone with your knowledge to help steer us in the right direction…Please help me or even forward me to someone who can…I don’t know where to turn

  • Angie says:

    My 15 yr old don’t understand why he cant spend the night with his girlfriend who is also 15 and his first girlfriend her mother has no problem with it he went to his dads and ended up getting his dad to let him spend the night with her by saying I allow it what should I do to punish him ?

  • Angie walkup says:

    My 15 yr old don’t understand whyhe can spend the night with his girlfriend who is also 15 and his first girlfriend her mother has no problem with it he went to his dads aND ended up getting his dad to let him spend the night with her by saying I allow it what should I do

  • DL says:

    What do we do when our teen is constantly lying? We are picking our battles with her, but when it comes to lying…we can’t keep up! She looks us in the eye and lies about everything…from small to big. What I mean is that she lies about everything from not borrowing her sibling’s clothes (yet she is wearing them when she is lying!), and she lies where she is at when we know she is really somewhere else. She refuses to go to counseling,is a Junior, and we know college is right around the corner. We keep reminding her that she is expected to be transparent and truthful, yet she continues her cycle of lying. We have even praised her when she has told the truth, but it doesn’t change anything. Suggestions? Prayers appreciated.

  • Carole says:

    Father God, bless this mother’s heart and turn her children’s hearts toward love and living in the present instead of in the past. Bless them in ways that can only have come from you. Give them peace in their hearts and minds. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

    I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

  • AH says:

    I just wanted to say that it is refreshing to find a site that gives sound advice and is Christian based. We have three adopted children from foster care, two are teenagers. It has been a very difficult process; to parent kids that have trauma and hurt in their past. Just when we think we are smooth sailing something else hits and one triggers the next. Thank you for the prayer that was written in response to Doris. It is so needed for many of us. We love these kids and see so many opportunities for them in the future, if they can simply move on from their past. The modeling that was taught early on has been playing out in their own behaviors and it is quite exhausting. We raised three biological children, felt led to open our home to this sibling group, and like many — thought we were well equipped as parents based on our experience.
    What we found out is parenting children with trauma is a whole other ball game. They’ve been with us now for three years and every stage of their adolescent development brings new obstacles. We are praying that these are learning experiences, and that they will grow to become even stronger, but that is in God’s hands. We have lost the pride that we once carried as great parents, and now surrendered it to God. We can only remain faithful as loving parents that guide them with advice, but it is up to HIM to do the miracle of change in their hearts.
    It’s my hope that someone reading this will not allow the exhaustion to get the best of them.
    Thank you again for the great blog.

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    Annonymous ,
    I just wanted to respond to your situation as well. It sounds like your son has some serious authority issues. Taking his phone away is a good starting point but he needs help. See if you can find a counselor or psychologist that he will respond to. Don’t give up on him, but keep looking for help…..there are no easy answers when his behavior sounds like it is so deep-seated.

    Let me pray for you as well,

    Dear Heavenly Father
    I hear this mother’s heart and my own heart aches. Give these parents much wisdom as to what the next steps should look like. Their son has some really deep needs Lord, needs that only you can meet, but that in the meantime they need to know how to deal with….show them the way Lord. Amen

    I don’t know if you have people in your life that you trust to give you godly advice in these matters but let me invite you to talk with one of our mentors who do such a good job of helping people. There is no charge and it fits into your busy schedule Just fit out the Mentor Request form at and one of our mentors will be in touch with you soon by email.

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