We all want to raise kids that are honest and trustworthy. So what should you do if you find out your tween has lied about something? Here are 5 tips to deal with the situation and make it into a learning experience.
Verify and recognize the lie
A routine check of an 8th grader’s text messages reveals that what he bought with his birthday money doesn’t match up with what he’d told his mom. He lied. This is an opportunity for him to learn the value of honesty. Never pass up a chance to help him hone his character. It’s also a gift of time for you to make your relationship stronger.
A mom I coach confirmed that lecturing doesn’t work. In a candid conversation, her son confided to her that he mentally rolls his eyes and says to himself ‘Here we go again’ when he hears her lecturing tone. And, after a sentence or two he stops listening altogether. His mom admitted, “All my rantings and warnings about the dangers, worries, and negative outcomes were meaningless. The lecture method didn’t improve his behavior or attitude. I’m done lecturing. What should I do?”
Invite a conversation
Use “I statements” and ask for information. Don’t put your child in the position to lie again or defend a lie. Avoid these approaches; “Why did you lie?” “You told me you bought a new shirt and you didn’t!” “You know better than that!”
To invite information and understanding, speak this way;
“I’m confused, son. Your text message doesn’t match the information you gave me about what you bought with your birthday money. I want to trust you. I need you to help me understand what happened.”
Less is More
The less you talk, the more opportunities he has to tell you the series of events. Turn the floor over to him with statements like, “I’m wondering if you really wanted that?” “How were you feeling about not telling Max the truth?” “What would you do differently if you got a re-do?” “What can you do to be honest?”
Wait patiently for each response. You want to know what influenced his action and decision-making process. Tweens need their parents to help them process what happened and learn how to be honest.
Plan for the takeaway
Begin with the end in mind. You don’t want your approach to create another conflict. You want your child to tell the truth, not lie. Because a correction is needed does not mean your child needs to feel bad, embarrassed or ashamed. The best changes come from awareness, desire and attention.
Ask your child what ideas he has to make sure he is honest and how he can regain your trust. You’ll be surprised at his ideas and how verbalizing his intentions determines his behavior. Be supportive and directive; you’re leading him on a quest to be a person of high integrity.
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About JoAnn Schauf
JoAnn Schauf helped thousands of students, parents and families as a middle, high and college counselor for twenty years. Today she empowers parents of tweens and teens to be stronger leaders and relationship builders in her parent workshops, coaching parents one-on-one, and running the website YourTweenAndYou.com. Schauf is a consultant to school districts, is a radio commentator, and contributes to print and online publications. What makes her proudest is that her own four kids are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. She and her family live in Coppell, Texas with Elmer, their Black Lab.