Teens Lying: Is It Normal, Why Do They Do It and How Can I Deal with It?

teens lying

They grow up so fast, don’t they? You swear they were just a sweet innocent baby or a tip-toeing toddler and now they’re suddenly hormonal teenagers. And what is with this lying? Is it normal? How do you know if they really are lying? Why are they lying? And just what do you do about it?

Unfortunately, lying amongst teenagers is very common and completely normal. It’s how they test boundaries with their parents, especially when they know they are acting out of line according to what their parents expect. There are several ways to handle teens lying including being able to tell when your teenager is lying. You also need to be able to figure out why your teenager is lying, whether it’s for attention or to get away with something they know is wrong. 

There are many reasons why your teenage son or daughter might be lying, some more obvious than others. Knowing the signs of different types of lies is also important to figure out how to handle lying teenagers.

Is Teenage Lying Normal?

You might not understand why your teenager is lying to you. After all, you thought you raised them to be able to trust you. You can’t remember far enough back to know if you lied to your parents the way your teen lies to you. So, you can’t help but wonder: is this behavior normal?

However, lying is a completely normal part of development as a teenager. At this age, teenagers are trying to find a sense of individuality as they grow into adults. Often times, teenagers will lie to test boundaries in certain aspects of life.

Teenagers will also lie as a form of privacy. If there is something they do not want their parents to know, they might lie about the truth. Maybe they will stretch the truth and turn it into a little white lie or maybe they will just flat out lie about something. It all depends on what they are trying to keep secret.

They might even lie about things to get away with doing things they know their parents will not approve of, like going to a party that has alcohol at it. They do not want their parents knowing they will be drinking, so they lie about what’s actually happening. They might confirm where they will be, but stretch the truth to there only being a couple of people over for a game night or studying.

Many teenagers lie about things that could be life-threatening, like suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming others. They could feel ashamed or afraid of themselves with these thoughts, especially with negative stigmas with mental illness.

Sometimes, they will lie to protect themselves or someone else; whether it is to protect feelings or something else, they might feel like lying is the only way to protect them(selves). Especially in times of emergencies or being threatened, they might be too afraid to tell the truth.

Taking the time to understand exactly why your teenager is choosing to lie about certain things will greatly help to both lessen the number of lies and teach your teenager some valuable lessons. Whatever your teenager is lying about, know it is a completely normal part of growing up. Just remember to be patient and know it is only a phase.

Teenage Lying Signs

There are many different signs to look for if you suspect your teenager is lying. Depending on what they are lying about you will see different signs. Sometimes, it could be an entire change in behavior, which could point to hiding a mental illness. It is important to watch your children and learn their behavior so if something seems off you will be able to notice right away.

Body Language and Tone of Voice

Body language is a huge tell-tale sign of lying. There are physical signs that will almost give them away if you notice. If you notice your teen looking off to the side while speaking to you, they might be trying to remember a story they conjured up to tell you instead of the truth.

They might also blink excessively so you can’t look them in the eyes properly, especially if they were taught to make eye contact while speaking. If that is what they were taught, often times teens might make strong eye contact and not look away at all–they might not even blink more than a couple of times–as if they believe that looking their parent directly in the eyes will create a form of trust.

They might act extra antsy and not be able to sit or stand still or they might even twiddle their thumbs while speaking. Often, when lying, people tend to touch their face or head and even cover their mouth some. These are all similar signs of anxiety and if you are lying, you might feel anxious about being caught.

Also, listen to the tone of your teenager’s voice. They might speak extra fast and stutter over words, seeming rushed to say what they need to just to get it over with. They might also sound hesitant while speaking as if they are not sure what they are trying to say.

They might also clear their throat excessively or their voice may crack here and there. Your teen might also use words like “um” more than usual. Also, their overall tone might be a little different than how they would normally speak.

Context and Giving Away Too Much Information

All too often, when teenagers are lying, they give way to many details about what they are doing or where they are going. They think extra details will convince you that they are telling the truth and that you can trust them.

If suddenly your teen is extra talkative (especially if they are usually quiet and reserved) and giving over the top details about where they were going, they might be lying. This goes for if the event already happened. If they are going out of there way to give you a huge elaborate story about what they did, there is a chance they might not be telling the whole truth.

Also, if they don’t give any details about what they’re doing or did do, they might also be lying. It can go either way, so you need to listen carefully and trust your gut instinct.

Lying amongst teenagers can usually be pretty obvious since they most often lie about things they want to get away with, whether it’s personal or with friends. Evaluate your teen’s behavior and see if it’s out of the ordinary. However, it is important to remember not to assume that they are lying.

Why Is My Teenage Son or Daughter Lying?

Teenagers lie for a number of reasons. Both teenage boys and teenage girls will lie for essentially the same reasons, aside from the few reasons that could be gender-specific, such as getting pregnant.

Sometimes, a teenager might be embarrassed to admit something that happened to them, especially to admit it to their parents. Even as parents, there are some things we do not really need or want to know, so a little white lie here and there about an uncomfortable topic is not always a bad thing, unless it is life-threatening.

Many teenagers will lie about thoughts about having a mental illness, so you really need to be on the lookout for those warning signs.

Some of the main reasons are to test boundaries, create a sense of individuality and, the most common, to get away with things that they know their parents would disapprove of. They might also lie to cover up something they have done.

Teenagers tend to lie at times to protect themselves, a friend or sibling. If a teenager feels threatened by an adult figure, a group of friends or a bully, they might also lie because they are afraid to admit the truth.

If your teenager feels as if they can’t trust you as a parent they might also lie. While they should trust you, there are a number of reasons for the feeling they can’t. For example:

  • Messy divorces can lead to the teenager not trusting one or both of their parents, especially if it was due to an affair.
  • A history of one or both parents being an alcoholic or an addict, even if the parent has been clean for years.
  • An incident of abuse or neglect. Remember, all it can take is one time for your child to develop trust issues.
  • Not believing them in the past even when they were telling the truth.
  • Over the top restrictions with everything. If you limit your teenager too much they might feel like they need to lie in order to do things they want, even if it isn’t serious.
  • Overreacting to mistakes they have made in the past. Remember to help them learn from mistakes rather than make them feel guilty.

How to Handle Teenage Lying?

There are many steps to handling a lying teenager. Some are pretty obvious and should be a standard in the home, like ensuring your child feels safe. However, if you still aren’t sure how to handle your lying teenager, we have some tips.

Ensure Your Teen Feels Safe

You can ensure that your teenager feels safe by creating a loving and accepting environment, so it’s a safe place for them to be in. This should be a given–a home is a place that should be safe.

Teenagers need to know that they will be heard, and if they don’t feel safe, they will assume they won’t be heard or paid attention to. Make sure they know you support them, too, and that you will be there for them if something goes awry. Feeling secure is important to everyone, especially to teenagers.

Be Aware and Ask For the Truth

If you suspect your teenager is lying, ask them the truth. If they stick with the same story, explain to them that you are aware that they are lying about something in their story and you would like to know what it is.

Use this as an opportunity to teach your teenagers some lessons about what can happen when they lie as well as what good morals are. They will lose trust in their parents as well as privileges they want to be able to keep. Explain to them what you feel honesty is and have them explain to you what they believe honesty is. Ask them to tell you why it is important to be honest.

If after that they still want to stick with the story you know is a lie, agree but remind them that if you find out they were lying there will be consequences. Remind them that good morals do not include lying.

Don’t Assume and Talk to Your Teen

Remember, do not just assume that your teenager is lying based solely on body language and tone of voice. Maybe they are feeling anxious or stressed about something. Sit down and talk to them. Ask them how their day went and how things are going.

Remind them that you are there for them no matter what and they can talk to you about anything. Sometimes teenagers need a little reminder, especially in times of high stress. The more your teenager trusts you, the less likely they are to lie to you.

If your teenager seems like they are trying to hide something, don’t get too pushy, but let them know you feel as if they are hiding something. Do not get angry, stay calm and again remind them that you only want what is best for them.

If your teenager does admit to lying, talk to them about it. Discuss what they could have done instead. Ask them why they felt the need to lie. Again, remember not to get mad or upset with them, even though it is hurtful when they lie to you.

Do Not Shame Them

A very important thing to do is remember not to make your teenager feel guilty for lying. They will feel guilty enough on their own accord, they do not need someone they felt they could trust shaming them.

Step back and remember when you were that age. You probably lied to your parents too, and while you wish your kids didn’t lie to you, you need to remember it is just something that all teenagers go through. It is a part of life and you need to help your teens learn why it is wrong.

As well as not shaming them, remember not to insult them and call them names. As parents you need to be strict, but you also need to be kind and show them you love them no matter what. Do not yell at them–try to remain as calm as you can.

Teenage Lying Statistics

According to a study done at Penn State University by Dr. Nancy Darlin, a total of 96% of all teenagers lie to their parents. They interviewed a number of students and out of 36 topics given to them, the average teenager said they would lie about 12 of the 36 topics to their parents.

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman reported that they discovered that teens will avoid a topic about 25 percent of the time as well as tell an lie straight to their parent’s face 25 percent of the time. They also found that 50 percent of the time, teens will withhold important information from their parents.

Bronson and Merryman also wrote that the age where most teenagers begin to lie to their parents is between 14 and 15 years old. However, they did say that “need for autonomy is stronger at age 11 than at age 18.”

One anonymous teen survey asked 1,843 teens ages 13 to 18 what they lie to their parents about the most. Here are the results:

  • 9% said nothing
  • 9.5% said everything
  • 14% said porn
  • 16.3% said drugs
  • 19.6% said sex
  • 31.6% said suicidal thoughts

This did not surprise psychologists as it matched up to what they saw coming in and out of their offices.

Related Questions

Why Does My Teenager Have Low Self-Esteem? Low self-esteem can be caused by a number of things. Absent parenting can cause lower esteem, and so can parenting that clearly favors one child over another. Bullying at school can also make a teenager feel inadequate and have low self-esteem. Bullying from a sibling will also have an extreme impact on the self-esteem of a teenager.

How Can I Teach My Children Self Respect? Teach them by being a good role model. Show them you respect and love yourself. Do not talk self-hatred. Show healthy habits such as exercise and healthy eating. Encourage them to take risks, but to be safe about it. Teach them important skills that can help them with self-love, and remember it all starts with you as the parent. Your children will be what you teach them, so teach them love, confidence, and kindness.

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