Modeling Honesty for Your Adolescents
by Jessica Fox, M.A.
What do parents do when they have little reason to trust their teenager because they have caught them in a lie so many times? Many parents’ first thought is “I’m not going to let them pull one past me again!” Today, parents have ample opportunity to catch their adolescent in a lie. Years ago it was not so easy for parents. But now there are Facebook statuses, Twitter, and all kinds of ways to check where your teen is or says he or she is.
Unfortunately for the teen, it is all too easy for their parents to figure out a computer password or make a privacy settings prohibited. It is unfortunate for these same parents because while parents think they are being smart and resourceful, they are actually modeling deceitfulness and dishonesty for their children and reinforcing that going behind somebody’s back is acceptable. Of course parents should monitor what their children are viewing on the Internet, but there is a fine line between “monitoring” and just plain spying. If you want your teen to stop lying it would be more beneficial to have consequences that fit the crime. Or, if you are going to go behind your teenager’s back and checks or her text messages, emails, tweets, Facebook, etc., then tell them that you are doing it and at least model what the truth looks like!
If your teenager has given you reason not to trust them it would be a good idea to reevaluate what discipline looks like in your household and come up with some creative consequences. However, if you are one of the few lucky parents with teenager who is compliant, follows the rules, and meets his or her family responsibilities, then giving your teen a little freedom and privacy will most likely enhance his or her decision-making skills, increase self-esteem, and promote a healthier relationship between you and your child. They will probably be more likely to tell the truth if they feel you trust their abilities as well!
Jessica Fox is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Park Ridge Psychological Services.