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#AskAlyson: Lying Teen

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Hello Alyson

I took my daughter’s TV time away (she’s 13) and when I went out for a few hours, she watched the TV.  She doesn’t think that I know it.  But I set it up so that I’d know.

She is not typically one to tell lies but as a teenager, I know it’s probably coming.

Do I call her out on this?  I think she must feel that she pulled one over on me but I don’t want to set that up as the norm for when she has something taken away.  I don’t want her to think she can dupe me.

What to do?


Dear Anonymous,

Of course we don’t want our children to lie to us.  Being truthful is an important quality needed to develop trust in a relationship.  So why did she choose to lie? Well, there are several reasons children lie – one of which is the enjoyment of feeling they duped or outsmarted their parents, which makes them feel superior.  They might also lie in order to get what they want because they can’t get it through the proper avenues.  In this case, she wanted to watch TV which she was not supposed to, due to a punishment you imposed on her.  This quiet defiance of your attempt at punishing her is an example of just one reason why punishments don’t work effectively as a correction to misbehavior.

So where do we go from here?

  1. Don’t set her up for a lie by asking her “did you watch TV?”If she answers “NO” and you reply “You’re lying, I know you did” then she feels betrayed by the question.Instead simply say “I know you watched TV when you were not supposed to” or disregard the incident all together and just move forward with a better plan.
  1. The better plan is to not impose punishments.Instead, discuss with her that you made a mistake in taking away her TV privileges, that you see that it is not only not working, but that it is punitive because it is not related to the behavior that you are trying to correct. Ask her what she feels would be a reasonable and related consequence to the misbehavior in question.When children participate in the creation of consequences, and they are tied to learning, you will win her co-operation.If you imposed a punishment, teens will find a slippery way around them, or retaliate in some way.

(Losing TV privileges would only be suitable if a child is not using the TV responsibly.)

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

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