Honesty and Trust
Trust is the cornerstone to most any person's character. When trust is there and honesty can be counted on, you've got a person you can depend on, even if you don't always agree with him or her. Take away trust and honesty, and a person's character is cracked at the foundation.
It will happen: your teen will lie to you. This can be heartbreaking for the parent who has said, over and over and for years and years, “as long as you are honest we can always work things out.” But don't take it personally. Girls lie for many reasons, most of which are understandable, even if they are hurtful. As mentioned in Chapter 4, the first type of lying is perhaps the most innocent of all: lies to avoid disappointment. Many girls grow up wanting to please Mom and Dad (and a multitude of others). Your daughter lives on the approval she gets; she feeds off her own pride of being the “good child.” Then comes the day she slips up. Maybe she got a bad grade on a test; perhaps she did something she is not allowed to do (like wander the mall instead of go to a movie). She lies to you about it, and you find out. It is important for parents to understand that, much like a toddler, the adolescent girl may be using the lie to “wish away” the issue. (If she says it didn't happen, maybe it didn't).
If you realize your daughter has lied, always give her the chance to tell the truth before you confront her about the lie. “Are you sure you didn't have a math test?” can help her come clean about a simple lie.
Girls may stick to their lie, hoping that you won't realize it's a lie and even, in a most childlike way, hoping the lie will come true. What's a parent to do? Once you've offered her a chance to come clean and she has not, let her know that you know the truth. Then, tell her that lying is unacceptable, and that if she had shown you the failed math test or admitted she'd roamed the mall, she might not have gotten off totally free, but she would have won your trust and respect for telling the truth. Attach to the outcome some kind of action (“For the next month, I'll walk you into the movie and out of it”). Let her know she can win back her freedom and, had she been honest, she might have won that sooner. Show her the truth pays.
The second type of lie is the testing lie. Your daughter is wondering what her boundaries are now, and as she watches other girls get away with more and more, she may wonder two things: how much can she get away with and are her parents truly watching out for her? Let's say she tells you she's going to Friday night skating when in fact she's ducking behind the building to meet up with some older boys. She may lie to see if she can get away with it; and she may also lie to see if you have her safety in mind. She might not realize she wants you to be her safety net, but she does.
Almost all adolescent girls lie at some point. If you have never caught your daughter in a lie, you may want to look closer. While the rare child never lies, the normal child does indeed.
What should you do if you suspect your daughter is lying? It's a tough situation: you believe she's lying, but you cannot prove it until it happens. You don't want to let her sneak off to an unsafe situation, but until she does it, the lie does not really exist. Here's how one astute dad handled it:
Bernie's teen daughter was having a sleepover in their newly finished walk-out basement. That day, his younger son told him he'd overheard the daughter telling friends they'd all be sneaking out after her parents went to sleep. Rather than confront her, Bernie stayed awake and waited. When he heard the door quietly open and close, he crept outside and hopped on his bike and rode past the sneaking girls. It was 2 A.M. “Nice night for a walk!” he chirped as he pedaled past them. He never had to say another word. The girls, mortified, were back in the house in a snap. Clever indeed. Bernie was able to make the girls feel remorse, prove they had lied without ever talking about it, and kept them safe, all in one short bike ride.
Girls' lies can go too far though. When your daughter is lying constantly or is lying in ways that can hurt her or others, it's time to take more direct action. Let's say your daughter has lied about her activities more than twice. You've now reached a point, sadly, where you cannot believe her when she says where she is going and what she is doing. Because her safety is your primary concern, you can no longer, for the time being, allow her to do activities that are not supervised by adults. This won't be easy on you, because, to be blunt, your daughter might just hate you for it. But remember: you are not here to be her friend. You are here to be her parent. Someday, she'll understand you were helping her and keeping her safe. Stay strong and stick to your guns. But do offer, from the start, a way for her to win back your trust and a timeline to do so. If she can see a solution, she might just eventually buy into it.
Don't lie yourself. Even if it's something simple like, “Don't tell Mom how much we spend on this tool,” a lie by you can be a subtle suggestion to your child. Honesty pays, particularly for a parent. As always, you are the role model.
What about girls who lie about each other? Your daughter may take part in this type of lying, and may have been a victim of it. Open a discussion about a time in your life when a lie about you or another girl harmed them. Don't ask your daughter to share, just tell your story. She may open up about the lies she sees hurting those around her, or she may have never realized the long-term harm lies about others can do. Either way, you're instilling and understanding in her. And remind her: if she is honest and true to her friends, she'll win their trust. And trust is the most valuable thing you can win from anyone, friend or family.