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What’s the appropriate punishment for a teenager who lies? This is what to do

These punishments for a teenager who lies will keep your child (and your sanity) from spiraling out of control

Parents having a talk with their teen.
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Navigating the world of raising a teenager is not the easiest thing you’ll have to do as a parent. Especially when your teenager starts testing boundaries. One of the many ways they will push your buttons is telling lies. There’s no getting around it. There’s no denying it will happen. It’s a matter of when, not if, your teen will lie to you. Well parents, when the lies start to drop, what kind of punishment for a teenager who lies will you dish out?

It’s what you do as a parent in reaction to the fabrications that is important. Lying doesn’t automatically mean your teen is trying to manipulate you. They may be testing their limits or trying to get attention they feel they aren’t getting. Let’s go over possible punishments for a teenager who lies so you feel more prepared for the inevitable.

A father and son having a deep discussion.
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The main reasons your teen lies – and the lies they tell the most

Around the age of 13 is when kids start really lying to their parents, with 13 to 15 being the prime time for teen lying. As your teen gets older and becomes more of an adult, if catching them in lies is handled calmly and respectfully, they will start to realize it doesn’t get them where they want to go, and they don’t do it as often.

Why your child lies

It is a tie between wanting independence and knowing they did something that will get them in trouble, but they don’t want to be. It’s the easiest way out. If they think you’re going to say no to something they want to ask for, your child thinks lying is the simplest way to get it anyway.

The lies kids like to tell

  • Yeah, I did that.
  • No, I didn’t do that.
  • No, that wasn’t me.
  • I forgot.
  • That was an accident.
  • But it wasn’t my fault.
  • I thought you said it was OK.
  • I didn’t think you’d care.

Not that any of these are great argumentative points, but if these words come out of your teen’s mouth, there’s a good chance they are covering something up.

A parent and teen talking.
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The most common ways parents retaliate to lying

Everything you do has a consequence, right? You don’t pay a bill on time, you get a late fee. If your child lies, there needs to be a consequence. Rules and accountability are extremely important in life. You shouldn’t be afraid to punish your teen for lying.

Common punishments

  • Taking away their phone
  • No social media
  • No car privileges
  • No electronics/laptop
  • No non-school related activities
  • No friends over/going to a friend’s house
  • Extra chores

The take-away game might seem harsh — and might load you up with parent guilt — but teenagers respond when you limit what matters to them. While these aren’t all of the punishments to use, they are the bigger ones most kids care about.

Father and son having a discussion.
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The punishment should match the teen and the crime

Tailor the punishment to your child

Blindly removing all of their stuff isn’t the best way to do things. You have to use a bit of brain power here. If you have a book-loving kid and you tell them no electronic devices, they are basically getting a vacation being told to stay in their room all weekend. If your child hates driving and you take away the car, you’re only having them live their best life. It should be an appropriate punishment for your specific teenager.

The punishment shouldn’t be over the top

Also, think about what your child did and see if the punishment mirrors what they lied about. If your teen lied about leaving the house or what time they really came home, then take away the car. If they snuck out to go to a party, then they don’t get to have friends over for a certain amount of time. It still need to make sense so your teen understands the correlation.

A mother and daughter having a conversation while sitting on the couch together.

Be ready to back up your reasons

Teenagers are magicians at making you second guess yourself and think that maybe you were too hard on them. Stay strong, but explain your reasoning behind the punishment.

Have they been late the last three times they’ve gone out and lied each time? Explain that if you were late three times, you could be fired from work. Ask them how they would feel if you fibbed about where you were going and they couldn’t find you if something happened.

It’s not about trying to make them feel bad or like they are a horrible kid. When you do something negative in life, like lying, a consequence follows, and they need to know that. Their lie will still be punished, but they won’t get the “because I said so” reasoning.

Your teen is growing into an adult of their own. As an adult, you want the respect of having things explained to you, even if it’s negative. Give your child the same respect.

A mother talking to her teenage son while sitting on the couch.
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Don’t go too big or dole out punishments for certain things

The punishment shouldn’t be too ridiculous

Telling a teenager they lost their phone for a month won’t get you a hug and a “thank you.” It sounds fine in the heat of the moment, but it will only make your teen feel defeated. Pick a weekend, or the rest of the week, and make that the time when your child loses their privileges.

And they only lose the agreed-upon privilege. If you ground your child from electronics, specifically their phone and laptop, but say the television in the family room is okay, then that’s how it stays. If all electronics includes the TV, say it from the start, don’t lash out with a “the TV counts” later that day.

Times where they will not get punished

A strategy for getting them to scale back fabricating the truth in the future is to have judgment-free zones. If your child was drinking at a party and calls you for a ride home — you go get them. We understand the initial reaction is to punish for being dishonest about partying and underage drinking, but you need to think bigger picture here. There shouldn’t be a punishment for being safe and not trying to drive home.

If your child is in a dangerous situation and needs your help, they shouldn’t get a punishment. You could always circle back to the behavior and how they got into the situation, but they need to know there are times where no questions will be asked. Your teen needs to know their parent will be there for them, no matter what they did.

A mother and daughter having an intimate conversation.
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 What parents shouldn’t do

The instinct will be there, but there are some things you need to avoid doing when your child lies to you.

As a parent, you shouldn’t do these things

  • Snoop through their private things
  • Yell and scream at your child
  • Think they are now always lying
  • Keep bringing up past lies
  • Ignore or play down their lies

Doing these breaks the trust between you and your teen. It also makes your teen want to lie more, and more often if they feel they aren’t being believed anyway.

Remember, your teenager will lie. You lied as a teen. Your teen will lie to get out of a situation, to do get what they want, and to get you to leave them alone. How you handle their hoodwinking lays the groundwork for how your relationship develops in the future. Instead of getting upset that your teen keeps fibbing, think about the reasoning behind it and why you would have bent the truth in their position, then have a calm and open line of communication to keep the deceit to a minimum.

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Dannielle Beardsley
Dannielle has written for various websites, online magazines, and blogs. She loves everything celebrity and her favorite…
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