Sandwiched between disobedience and disrespect, dishonesty is one part of the “big three” traits or character flaws that if left unchecked will fester and damage relationships like nothing else. People were created to be in relationship with one another, but maintaining a relationship with someone who is constantly lying to you or being dishonest is difficult.
And as my friend, Tim Kimmel, so aptly says, “Parents should never be surprised that their children lied to them, because they gave birth to liars. But you cannot allow these lies to go on, because they will destroy someone.”
What you need to know is that lying typically isn’t the root issue, but a symptom of a larger relational struggle. And to understand why someone is being dishonest with you, with others, and with themselves, it’s important that you peel back the layers to discover the motivation behind their actions. Learning more about how you confront and address dishonest behaviors is what this article is all about, so if your teen is struggling with some form of deceit, let me encourage you to keep reading.
How to Confront Dishonest Behaviors
Dishonestly tends to grow incrementally with each lie that isn’t caught and corrected. So, it’s imperative that you start early and confront any issues with dishonesty you might see in your child. Now, I’m not talking about an occasional white lie or a fib to save face or someone’s reputation. We all do that from time to time. I’m talking about consistent patterns of dishonesty that will adversely affect your child as they grow.
Next, you’ll want to be careful in the ways you confront your child. I always say I’m not going to fight with someone. But I’ll fight for them. The language is similar, but you need to catch the difference. There’s a reason your child doesn’t feel they can be open and honest with you, so if you pick a fight with them, or worse, you flat out call them a liar, chances are you’re only adding to the problem. As odd as it seems, by fighting with your child, you’re simply setting them up to lie more to protect themselves from the consequence of making you upset.
Finally, set up a meeting to address the dishonesty when you’ve both had time to cool down and think. Let your teen know why you’re confronting the lie. Affirm that you love them. And then let them know it’s important they set habits that will help them make good decisions and life choices now, so they can avoid bigger problems later in life. Tell them that being dishonest is counter to your family values and lying is destructive. And be sure to encourage them to the tell the truth moving forward, no matter how painful or uncomfortable it might be at the moment. Last, bring about an appropriate consequence for the dishonesty, so that they can begin to mend the damage done to your relationship.
Looking Deeper at the Issues Behind Dishonesty
Jesus tells us that the truth shall set us free. The truth has a way of coming out anyway, so if you’re always telling the truth, you’ll never have to remember your story. Or the details of your story, which become more difficult to remember as time goes by.
As I mentioned before, left unchecked, lying can become a habit that develops into a negative character trait. But there is a myriad of reasons why your teen might lie to you. But a few of the more problematic reasons include drug and alcohol usage or other inappropriate behaviors like experimentation or promiscuity.
Those are often the extreme cases, so it’s best not to jump to conclusions without further research because your teen might simply be lying to you because they’re afraid of damaging their relationship with you. In an immature way, lying is your child’s way of trying to protect the relationship. In their minds, lying is a form of protection. And at other times, lying can result from feeling pressured to conform. This is especially true in the middle school and high school years when lying can become a form of survival and a means of “fitting in”.
So, Mom, Dad … a teen who cannot be truthful with you only compounds the problems you face. That which can’t be corrected now will only bring greater consequences in the future. It’s like a bad habit that grows larger when left undisturbed or ignored. So, it’s essential that you tackle the issue now and fight the good fight that’s been placed before you before it gets worse. As we do with training horses, ask first and then demand. Ask that the lying be addressed, and then demand that lying stop. Encourage your teen to give you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. You are to be the example before the one who has the problem with lying. You are to be full of grace and full of truth.