At some point in mid-adolescence, most teenagers will choose to break the rules for freedom's sake, and when they get caught, they will try to escape responsibility for whatever they have done. They fear being held accountable for doing wrong and, as a consequence, having to pay the worst price of all — giving up some precious freedom to pay for what they've done.
So, confronted by parents about this misconduct, the teenager typically resorts to four defenses against admitting responsibility.
He or she may lie to get out of trouble: “The policeman was mistaken. It was another guy, not me.”
He or she may blame others: “She drove away without paying, I was just a passenger.”
He or she may make excuses: “I was so tired from staying up late and studying for exams, I just wasn't thinking clearly about what I was doing.”
He or she may deny anything happened: “I don't know what you're talking about!”
When your child tries to use these escapes from responsibility, you must hold your teenager accountable for owning the decisions he made and the trouble that followed. Defenses against responsibility, like lying, blaming, excusing, and denying, are not only unacceptable, but they should be considered additional violations themselves and dealt with accordingly.
Getting your teenager to converse can be tricky. Asking can discourage your teen from communication, because now questions are emblematic of authority and invasive of privacy. Instead, model the sharing you want by sharing about yourself, and be accessible anytime she “feels like” talking.
You expect your adolescent to admit the truth and take ownership of her actions. You want to close the loop of responsibility for the present violation, and even more important, you want to provide training for the future. Don't allow these defenses to stand and let your teenager proceed through life believing that any time he or she makes a wrong choice and faces a bad consequence, escaping responsibility is okay to do. One goal of discipline is training your teenager to conduct his or her life in an accountable manner.