Lies: Violation of Trust

There are a variety of clever ways to lie. One can lie blatantly with audacity, "I didn't do it" or "I will never do it again"; with tricky language, "I didn't mean to" or "I thought you said I could" or "You didn't say I couldn't" or "Samantha said it would be okay"; or by omission, "We went to Ann's and played soccer and talked." Unspoken here is the fact that "we" also went to a restricted movie which this teen had been forbidden to see. Anytime someone has allowed, encouraged or led another to believe something is true which is not, lying is involved. There are no little lies; when the trust between us is broken, it is no small offense. It may seem strange, but we must describe and explain to our children all of these methods of deception so that we have been clear about what lying includes. Let there be no misunderstanding.

Freedom is dependent upon trust. If I cannot believe you when you tell me where you will be, what you will do, with whom you will be, how can I in good conscience let you go? Teach this to your child. It is our job as parents to know what they are doing and who they really are out there in the world. 

Once a child breaks our trust with a deception, his job becomes the rebuilding of trust. He does this by telling the truth repeatedly and without exception and by doing what he says he will do. This takes time and assessment. 

Don't expect your trust to return easily or quickly. Of course, the younger the child, the more quickly we need to let trust be rebuilt. Most children try lying. After all, not owning the truth can be a way out of trouble, a way to avoid harsh punishment, a way not to own something we wish we hadn't done, a way to look better, or a way to get what we want. We have all been tempted to lie; most of us have given in to it, but the older we are, the larger the digression becomes. We should, and do, know better. Even young children can be and need to be taught that there is no misdeed or offense as big as the lie surrounding it. The lie is always worse than what you have done.

As a child earns and rebuilds trust step by step, incident by incident, the parent can begin to return freedom to him incrementally. 

For example, a teen lies about where he will go or has gone with his friends for an evening. This is when "grounding" is appropriate. Since the teen cannot be trusted, he needs to stay close to home and go only to school and work, if he has a job. After a time, perhaps a week or two, we can begin to look at school-related events or doing homework with a friend which can be checked up on, and check up we need to do. 

A teen who has lied and violated trust needs to understand that she has invited you back into her life. Having an eye kept on her and being checked randomly to determine that she is where she said she would be are essential to returning to a firm basis of trust. Will a teen resent this? Yes, but keeping tabs is our job and necessary. When checking by telephone, please remember to call and ask to speak to your son or daughter. Do not tell anyone that you are just checking up on your child. The goal is never to embarrass our child; in fact, the goal needs to be to cause as little humiliation as possible. We are just trying to teach a lesson here. The first part of the lesson is that violating trust with dishonesty seriously hurts our relationship. The second part of the lesson is that trust takes time and a number of consecutive truths to be rebuilt. For a parent to know for certain that his teen is telling the truth, che! cking up on her is necessary. After this teenaged daughter has rebuilt her record of honesty, checking is no longer necessary until and unless this child gives us a reason (lying, inappropriate behavior, drastic changes in behavior, etc.) to do so again. 

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