Sometimes My Teens Straight Up Lie to My Face

All kids lie.  All adults lie.  Folks lie.  I know I’ve done my share, especially when I was a kid.

My Dad: “Young lady, did you track all of this dirt into the house?”

Me (Feet covered in an odd mud/sand mixture on my bare feet, little Eutoka tracks all around me): “No Sir.”

My Dad: “Young lady, did you really mash the lima beans and flick them on the ceiling?”

Me (as mashed lima bean droppings hit my head and the kitchen table): “No Sir.” 

I was certain they would be sticky enough to not only hit the ceiling, but also harden and become one with the popcorn ceiling.

Hey now, before you judge, a couple of things of great importance.  One, I was into pedicures well before I knew what exactly pedicures were. Two, lima beans are just gross.  I mean, why Dad?

When I reflect on the shenanigans my sisters and I put our parents through, I recognize that we lied about things for truly no reason.  Maybe we were afraid of being disciplined?  Maybe we didn’t want to disappoint our parents?  When I go back to the two examples I provided above, I recall embarrassment for getting caught.  I also recall a sense of not wanting to hurt my Dad’s feelings.  Lima beans are freaking disgusting, but it truly is one of his favorite things to eat, at least it was I was a child.  There was a sense of responsibility – for his happiness.

My friends, this is one of the ways I deal with things as a mom.  I consider my experience and get in touch with the child version of myself to see if I can see my kids’ perspectives.  I wasn’t born a short-grown woman, although I have a feeling my kids think I rolled out of my mother in full adulting glory. 

Lately, I have been dealing with lying.  To my face.  This type of thing sucks and I admit, I take it personally.  Like the vast majority of parents, lying just isn’t representative of the parenting my husband and I do.  And still it occurs, and I’m left scrutinizing my mommin’ skills.  Did I steer the kids in the wrong direction?  Did I model a particular set of behaviors that provided the message to them that lying is OK?  How exactly did said kid look down at me dead in my face and tell me something that wasn’t true at all – and then proceeded to go about their normal routine as if nothing happened?  All right, here is where I take a big sigh, for me and all the parents out there.

And now with a healing inhale and exaggerated and cleansing exhale, I share with you the following:

There’s a silver lining here. 

Check out the following I read from a study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence:

“If parents attempt to exert influence on an issue that adolescents regard as none of their business, adolescents may feel justified in lying to their parents in order to avoid conflict and to preserve what they regard as the rightful range of their autonomy.”


Lene, A. J., Jeffrey, J. A., S, S. F., & Cauffman, E. (2004). The right to do wrong: Lying to parents among adolescents and emerging adults. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 33(2), 101-101+. doi:http://dx.doi.org.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/10.1023/B:JOYO.0000013422.481

In other words, lying is evidence that my kids are trying to handle their lives on their own terms. 

That’s cool and all, but no parent out there has time for this!

Or do we?

You see, this is actually a healthy part of our young boogers’ development, well at least the autonomy part.  In recognizing that, I am able to again be in their shoes and validate their position or perceptive.  A reminder: validation does NOT equal agreeing.  When I validate my teens – even in the course of a straight up, obvious, good grief I can’t believe you think anyone would believe that shit kind of lie – I am telling them that their feelings are worth something.  I acknowledge their experience, but educate them on the ramifications of lying.  We talk about trust and how it is built over time.  We talk about what happens when our actions do not match our words.  We talk about what happens when our stories noticeably change.  We talk about accountability and responsibility of the things we say and don’t say.  I always give them an opportunity to express their perspective, whether they agree with me or not.  If they are frustrated during the process of the discussion, we talk about that too.  In doing so, I am openly acknowledging their autonomy and my support of such. 

Then I step back and allow the discussion to marinate, always leaving the door open for further expression if needed.  I ensure to maintain that lying is generally unacceptable.  Boundaries are still needed here, but that doesn’t mean I can’t ensure my kids have a safe place to express their emotions.  It is when they are able to truly express themselves that I learn the root of their lying and sometimes the reasons for their lying.  It usually wraps itself around embarrassment, disappointment in oneself, and fear of consequences.  That’s where as humans, we simply connect.  I don’t want to be embarrassed, or feel shame, or be afraid either.  I know what that feels like, and it sucks.  I tell my kids this exactly the way I just typed it.  Through this connection, my kids are validated, they express empathy (because they usually don’t think about whether or not I’ve felt or gone through what they have), and they learn different ways to handle the situation in the future. 

Now does that mean they’ll always use what they learned?  They’re teens, so there’s no telling.  But I’m willing to bet that the little nuggets they receive through our discussions sticks, even when they aren’t showing that they have. 

References

Lene, A. J., Jeffrey, J. A., S, S. F., & Cauffman, E. (2004). The right to do wrong: Lying to parents among adolescents and emerging adults. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 33(2), 101-101+. doi:http://dx.doi.org.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/10.1023/B:JOYO.0000013422.481

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