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How To Outwit Your Teenager

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Exams, Lies and Independence

June 13th, 2009 · No Comments


The graph above shows the research results of an American 2008 study by Serena Perkins and Elliot Turiel into situations in which teenagers think it’s OK to lie to their parents.

As you can see from the graph, a significant amount of 15-17-year-olds believe lying is OK when their parents have personal objections to their behaviour.

That explains why teenagers have been known to lie about sex, drugs and even whether they have studied enough for an exam.

My 15-year-old son tells me that he’s been forced to keep me in the delusion zone so that I’ll get off his back. What he’s referring to is my insistence that he study in the lead up to his exams.

Our conversations go something like this.
Me: “I met Mrs X and Mrs Y (mothers of his friends) for a coffee today, is there anything you need to tell me?”
Son: “No mum, nothing.”
Me: “You’re sure about that?”
Son: “Yes mum.”
Me: “So I heard that the rest of your year group had their exams last week. Why would you be excluded from that?”
Son: “Oh yeah, that’s right. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to hassle me.”

According to Professional Behaviour Analyst Sue Blaney there are three fundamental reasons why “otherwise respectable” teenagers lie to their parents: developmental, communication, and because they’re testing you.

“At some point, and in some situations, a teenager may actually feel compelled to go against parents’ orders simply to establish independence; a sense of ‘I am separate from you; I can make my own decisions.’ In this context, you can see that lying can be viewed as a developmental issue, not a moral one,” Blaney writes.

She offers parents the following tips for dealing with teenagers who are prone to lie:
o Treat teens with respect. Listen to their point of view.
o Be willing to be flexible when appropriate.
o Negotiate.
o Safety should never be compromised. Know where you put your stake in the ground; be firm and consistent.
o Apply logical consequences.
o Confirm your love; let them know it is love that drives you, not a desire to be in control.
o Give them all the responsibility they can handle.
o As you give them additional responsibility, give them the opportunity to earn new freedom.
o Demonstrate the integrity and honesty you wish to see from them.

I’ll let you know how I go.


Tags: Parental Bonding · Rules · Self-esteem

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