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.

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

  • 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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