How to Spot a Lie
By Barbara McRae, MCC
It’s not surprising that so many teenagers have difficulty telling the truth. In our culture, there is a widespread belief that some lying is necessary in everyday life. Many of us have been conditioned to be nice at all costs!
Here are the top reasons why it can seem easier to lie than tell the truth:
• To avoid hurting another’s feelings
• To avoid having to handle conflict
• To avoid negative consequences (punishment)
• To avoid losing a parent’s love/approval
• To avoid feeling embarrassed
Adolescents that prefer harmony over conflict are more prone to telling a lie than owning up to their behavior. This also includes withholding potentially incriminating information from you. Kids (and adults!) lie to divert their feelings of anxiety, fear, and guilt. If you have good observation skills, over time you can spot which non-verbal signals your son or daughter unconsciously resort to when you’re only getting partial truths. Just remember that these vary from person to person. Other possible clues are:
• Extreme defensiveness
• Overly smug
• Providing much more information than necessary
• Behavior that is “out of character”
• Stalling before answering
If you think that your teen is lying or keeping important information from you, don’t rush in with your accusations. Ask “insightful questions” (step #4 in Coach Your Teen to Success) in a neutral tone of voice for further clarification. Often parents want to confront their children right away. If you’ve tested your intuition over the years, and you know that you can trust that “funny feeling you get inside,” you’ll still want to wait until you’ve thought through how to best address your suspicions.
No one likes being falsely accused. So, get as much information as you can before laying the cards out on the table. Make sure you also discuss how your teenager can make amends (a much better consequence than yelling or lecturing!). Kids need to recognize that it’s in their best interest to tell the truth.
Campus Calm Parenting Expert
Author of Coach Your Teen to Success
© Barbara McRae, MCC