When Your Teen Lies… Like a Rug

Have you noticed that you never have to teach a toddler how to lie? A baby could have chocolate smeared all over her face and crumbs all over her clothes, but when you ask, “Did you eat that cookie?” your precious two-year-old will put on a bold-face and tell you, “No, I didn’t!” But it’s not just babies. All of us can recall times when we’ve lied, fibbed, stretched the truth, or omitted incriminating facts. From the moment we learned how to talk, all of us innately know to be dishonest. Some psychologists and psychiatrists will tell you that lying is just a phase that most children will abandon as they mature. But the truth is (pun intended) that lying is not a phase we grow out of, but a habit that we grow into.

In fact, a recent survey revealed that 96% of teens lie regularly. The Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth shows that 61% of teens admit to lying to a teacher about something important, and a whopping 76% admitted to lying to their parents last year. Another study, this one conducted in Britain, indicates that an overwhelming 84% of teens said they’ve regularly copied information from the Internet and pasted it right into their homework.

It’s safe to say that if you’re the parent of a pre-teen or a teen, dishonesty is likely an issue in your family. Maybe it’s a growing issue. Perhaps your son and daughter are lying so much, you’re having a problem trusting them at all. But whether your child is telling little white lies, or is habitual lying, there are ways to help your child speak the truth.

Why Lie?

Before we start pointing fingers, it’s helpful to understand why our teen may be resorting to dishonest behavior. Most lying is a short-term solution for protecting relationships. Fearful of being unloved or disliked by parents, teachers or peers, teens will resort to lying. What if my parents knew I wasn’t a good student? What if they knew I smoked weed? How could they love me if they knew what I did?” Most lying doesn’t occur because a child is bad and deliberately wants to deceive you. Instead, teens lie because they care about what you think about them. They are scared about losing your love, care or attention. Now, this is not an excuse for dishonesty. But it helps us to approach our kids with grace when we catch them lying.

Create an Environment of Truth

If your teen has told you that they were scared to tell the truth, it’s time to reshape your home to be a place where truth is encouraged. Make honesty a family value—one that everyone is held to (including mom and dad). When your teen is brave enough to come clean, applaud and commend them for telling the truth. Begin each of those hard conversations with “I am so glad you told me the truth.” Reinforce the notion that lying may be a short-term solution, but it damages long-term relationships. Explain to your kids how deceit breaks trust—the trust that strong relationships are built on. It’s better to tell the truth and deal with the consequences, than to lie and risk the relationship altogether. Above and beyond all those messages, reiterate to your children what you’ll often hear from me—“There’s nothing you could do to make me love you more, and there’s nothing you could do to make me love you less.” A reassurance of your unconditional love will create an environment that allows your teen to tell the truth without fear of losing mom and dad’s affection or love.

Don’t Avoid or Ignore the Problem

While dishonesty may seem like a minor issue in comparison to other problems like drug abuse, sexual promiscuity and eating disorders, it is still a vice that parents should not ignore. If you gloss over your teen’s dishonest actions today, you may have to deal with bigger problems later. A tendency towards deceit won’t go away with the mere passage of time. It will reappear at significant stress points later in your child’s life—when they go off to college, get a job, or get married. And a pattern of deceit must be seriously addressed with love. Getting away with lying can lead your teen to experience real heartache in the future.

If you’ve seen dishonesty creeping into the way your teen talks or acts, or if you learn they have cheated or stolen something, today is the day to expose it. First, briefly describe the dishonest behavior, showing that you know what happened. Second, tell your teen how you feel about their behavior and explain why this action is neither wise nor moral. Then, most importantly, affirm that you know they can do better. Let your teen know that you believe they can change their behavior. Give them the confidence to do what’s right.  After your discussion, have your teen right the wrong by confessing to whomever was harmed by the dishonesty or cheating, reimbursing for any theft or damages. Finally, enforce appropriate consequences and make sure your teen knows that you will be on the lookout for any form of dishonesty in the future. Holding your teen accountable is key to their growth and change.

Give Them Time to Tell the Truth

Lying is often an initial, knee-jerk response. So if your teen is struggling with lying, give them time to tell the truth. It works like this—when you confront your child with the discovery of an issue, follow up by saying, “You don’t have to answer right now. Why don’t you think about it, and get back to me tomorrow.” This takes away your child’s need to dodge the question by lying, and gives a teen time to tell the truth. Plus, you are not pointing the finger and demanding that your teen shamefully ‘fess up on the spot. Rather, you’re allowing your teen to make his or her own decision to tell the truth. This actually empowers your child to make the right choice and gives him or her time to be honest.

Practice Honesty Yourself

Also, be sure to model honesty yourself—make it a habit to be truthful. At a young age, kids think in very black and white terms. They don’t understand the reasons why you wouldn’t tell them the truth, even if you are trying to protect them from something. All they can see is, “Mom or dad lied to me.” So even when it’s difficult or hard, make it a point to be honest with your family at all times. As they get older, teens are extremely intuitive and they can spot hypocrisy a mile away. If you know you’ve been dishonest in front of your teen, ask their forgiveness, and give yourself some consequences for the bad behavior so your teen knows how important it is to be honest.

One of my biggest regrets happened earlier in my ministry. Some parents had called me to say that their son, who was to accompany me to a teen rehabilitation center, had run away. So I got in my car, and drove down to a nearby KISS concert, where I found the young man. Trying not to make a scene, I lied, and told him that his parents had been in an accident, and that he needed to come with me. Once in the car, I confessed, and said his parents were okay, and that we’re going to the rehabilitation center instead. It was a lie that this young man had a difficult time forgiving me for. He returned many times to the center, and each time reminded me of my dishonesty. Even many years after the fact, when I got to see him again, he said, “Remember when you lied to me?” Mom and dad, teens who struggle with lying need you to be an honesty role model. Live out Proverbs 8:7 and your teen will follow suit: I always speak the truth and refuse to tell a lie.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.


Where Character Begins in Teens

There are few things in life that a Christian parent hopes for more than to pass on to their children the same principles and character values they live by.  But strong character isn’t automatic.  It takes a lot of intentional work by parents.  While physical traits are passed on from parents to children through their genes, character traits aren’t built into kids at birth.  And neither are they taught… they are most often “caught.”

Values don’t just appear when a teenager matures.  They come from the experiences each of us have in life and from observing those around us, especially our parents, who model them day in and day out in the way they live.

So, if we want our children to be compassionate, we need to model that by volunteering at the homeless shelter or giving money to the poor.  If we want them to be truthful, then we need to always tell the truth ourselves.  If we want them to be respectful to us, then we must show respect to them and to our own parents.

If you’re a parent, you’ve got to be the one out front leading the charge. If an important character value is lacking in your family, like that of respect, start with the only person you can readily change — yourself. Look for the cause and effect of your own example affecting your teenager’s lack of respect.  Jesus taught us to make sure we remove the log in our own eye before we attempt to remove a speck in someone else’s. So, begin by asking, “How am I showing disrespect to you or to others? Is there some way you feel I am disrespecting you?” Remember, kids watch what we do far more than they listen to what we say.

Here are some thoughts:

To Love God: Start at the beginning with God, who made you, knows you, and loves you. Without loving God with all your heart, no matter what else happens in life, nothing will be right.  If you have that part right, everything else in your life, even if it is wrong, will be alright.

To Put Family First: That means family comes before friends; family ideas hold more importance than the opinions of others; and your family values are the point of reference for how you will behave in all relationships.

To Work Hard: James says his mother set a good example for the entire family.   She raised a great family, ran a great home, and often encouraged her children to work hard for the things they wanted.  It taught the whole family the value of working hard.

To Always Tell the Truth: There is blessing, freedom, power, and health in relationships when everyone can trust each other. God said He is truth, and He loves truth.  Like any family, you can count on truth-telling to be tested, but it is the overriding value for how handling any situation.

To Be Kind: Showing kindness brings favor, it brings blessings. When there is a fork in the relational road, it is better to choose the road that is paved with kindness. And if you are always going to tell someone the truth –then be sure to be kind about it.

My good friend Dr. Tim Kimmel writes about teaching kids character in his book, Grace-Based Parenting. He lists six most character traits he deems most important: Faith, Integrity, Poise, Disciplines, Endurance, and Courage.

These are just some good examples of key character traits to prime the pump and get you started, but yours may be different.  So think this week about what traits you are trying to teach your family.  Limit your list to just a few, and be sure you are living them yourself before you try to teach them.  Then begin talking about them at every opportunity. Tell stories and do the kinds of activities with your family that will strengthen these traits.  That’s how real character is passed along.

Christ didn’t live and die just to offer us salvation.  He came to teach us character through demonstrating a lifestyle that pleases God. It is through His example that we can learn how to live, even if we’ve had really bad parents on this earth.  So, there’s no excuse for parents not to be a good example of strong character to their children.  It doesn’t mean we’ll always be perfect, for parents are human and we all make mistakes, but we need to be ready to ask forgiveness for our mistakes and set things straight when we’ve blown it. That’s an important character trait for children to learn as well.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.


Dealing With Disrespect In Your Teenager

Disrespect is one of the biggest problems I see in families today.  While it can start with light jabs, if not checked, it can grow and evolve into all out punches.  It can become the way the child relates to parents and family, and it can even be passed from generation to generation. Parents who fail to correct disrespect out of fear that correction will hurt their relationship may actually bring harm to all of the relationships in their child’s future.

As any parent of a 13-year old knows, disrespect can be displayed by the roll of their eyes, an arrogant attitude, a sideways look, a turned back, cutting or barbed comments, sarcasm, pouting, or raging. And nowadays, it can include popping in the iPod ear buds, texting on the cell phone or playing the video game instead listening to a parent.  Disrespect can even include how the child treats your personal belongings; demonstrated by purposeful damage to your home or car, taking things without asking, or invading your privacy. These are all signs of disrespect.

But I don’t have to tell you to be watching out for disrespect in your teenager. You innately feel the sting of it when it happens.  And there’s no need to point it out to the teen either, since they know exactly what they are doing when they first begin exhibiting disrespect.

Causes of Disrespect

What causes disrespect to begin showing its ugly head? I find it can be sparked by others showing disrespect to the teenager, like an authority figure disrespecting or abusing them.  Or, it can come from the child mimicking the way his peers respond to their own parents or authorities. Children may also become disrespectful to distance themselves in front of their peers from parents they deem to be weak, dorky, behind the times, or just stupid. And step-children can often show disdain for their step-parents, just to show them that they aren’t their “real” parents.

Parents can even bring on disrespect in their children by exasperating them with too many unnecessary demands or inappropriate rules.  Winston Churchill said, “If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.” That goes for household rules as well. Or, maybe the parent is failing to be respectful to the child, making the child feel as though they are unheard and their opinions don’t matter.

Disrespect can also be something learned from the parents… like a son who sees his father showing little respect for his wife, or a daughter seeing her mother talking disrespectfully about her husband (or former husband). I like what actor Tim Allen, father on the old TV show Home Improvement, said about it.  He said, “A dad needs to show an incredible amount of respect and humor and friendship toward his mate. If I respect Mom, they’re going to respect Mom.”

A parent cannot ask a child to show respect when they fail to demonstrate it themselves. So, be sure to model how to be respectful of others. If not, your children will pick up on your bad habits. Ask yourself, “Am I talking about and responding to others the right way, and treating them respectfully?  Am I gossiping in front of my children, or tearing others down?  Do I show respect to the authorities God has put in my life?”  Then ask a spouse or a significant person in your life what they see.  The goal is to get to the truth, and you must be willing to hear it and act on it. Look at your own attitudes first, because you can always make changes in yourself and that will model respectful behavior in your children.

Yes, respect is best learned when it is “caught,” but if not, it can also be taught.  Any Marine recruit understands that concept all too well.  Treating someone respectfully is a controllable choice regardless of one’s opinion of that person. In other words, I may not agree with or even like someone, but I can still treat them respectfully. It is easier and better for your teen to treat you respectfully if they actually feel respect for you, but sometimes feelings must follow action.

Dealing with Disrespect

If your teen has been become disrespectful, it is time for things in your home to change. So, say this to your teen, “Honey, I love you – nothing you do or don’t do will ever take away my love for you – but we’re not going to live like this anymore.” Tell them that even if they don’t have feelings of respect for you personally, or even when they are mad at you, they will still treat you with all due respect in the way they act, speak, and engage with you. If not, they will have to deal with the consequences of lost privileges.

And remember this… it is never appropriate for your teenager to engage in a verbal tirade with you. So, if your teen ever becomes disrespectful in the way he speaks to you, don’t engage in mutual shouting matches. The better way is to simply disengage… leave the room, hang up the phone, or just stop the car and allow the teen to take a walk.  This demonstrates to the teen that whatever they wanted to accomplish by yelling or being disrespectful is off the table until they can speak more respectfully.  And it will send a clear message that disrespect is never allowed in the relationship.

The longer a parent waits to address disrespect in their teenager, the more entrenched the problem becomes, especially if the child finds they can gain some ground or get their way by exhibiting disrespect.  Whenever there are respect issues, the key is to deal with them immediately with stiff consequences. If you’ve not been respectful to your child or others, admit it, accept it, and apologize. Make speaking with respect a hallmark for yourself and for everyone in your home and you’ll see disrespect disappear from your child’s actions and attitudes.  It doesn’t mean that they’ll suddenly begin respecting you, or snapping to attention when you enter the room (not that you’d even want that), but at least they’ll learn to treat you with all due respect.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.