Why Do Teens Lie? How Do You Deal With a Compulsively Lying Teenager

Teenagers can be very confusing people, and it makes sense, because the teenager years are very confusing for the teens themselves.

Sometimes, there are traits or characteristics or habits that people try during childhood, and they don’t always grow out of those things in their teenage years, if at all.

Teenagers aren’t the only people who lie, it’s common for children to experiment with this until they learn better, but it seems to increase during the teenage years for some people which has many parents and even friends of teenagers wondering why do teens lie?

Why Do Teens Lie?

Teens lie because they want to maintain a level of privacy over their lives and they want to control what their parents know about them.

Teens also lie when they’re doing things they know they shouldn’t be doing, and they don’t want to get in trouble or be punished for those behaviors.

Teenagers haven’t always developed the problem-solving skills or the ability to handle things in a more mature way, so lying can feel like an easy escape route for them to take.

Teens lie to avoid consequences, and to avoid having to face difficult or awkward situations. As people mature, they often realize that telling the truth is a better policy and ultimately leads to better outcomes.

Lying can feel like a short-term fix but it usually unfurls eventually, and the lying itself often has worse consequences than whatever they were lying about in the first place.

Is it normal for teens to lie?

is it normal for teens to lie

Lying is normal teenage behavior.

Just because something is “normal” or “common“, however, that doesn’t mean it’s good. In fact, many house rules for teens are written in a way that encourages honesty, however, if teens feel like they’re going to be judged, yelled at, and so on – they’re a lot less likely to open up and be honest.

If you want to help stop teens from lying, you have to make it a viable option for them to tell the truth. Lying is something that teenagers need to learn to avoid doing, but if they get screamed at anytime they’re honest, they’ll quickly learn to hide things from you.

It’s hard to imagine a teenager who never tells a lie throughout their entire youth and adolescence (another word for teenager), so it’s very normal for teenagers to lie. It would be much less normal to meet a teenager who never, ever lies under any circumstances, than to meet a teenager who does lie sometimes.

What’s an effective punishment for lying teenagers?

effective punishment for lying teenagers

Would you treat every instance of lying from a teenager as if it’s the same, regardless of the context of the lie or what they lied about?

Probably not, right? It’s different to lie about staying late at school to help a friend study for an exam, and lying to their parents about where they were because they didn’t want their parents to tell the friend’s parents that they’re failing a class… There’s a difference between that type of lie, or lying about going to a party or getting into a bar with a fake ID and going to stranger’s houses.

So, we can probably agree that not all instances of teenagers lying are created equal, so what makes an effective punishment for a lying teenager will probably depend on what was lied about, and how serious of a lie it is.

The key word here is “effective”, because the point of a punishment should be to help correct a behavior and if that’s not being accomplished and the teenager isn’t learning and adjusting their behavior, it’s not an effective punishment. It’s not working.

Why do teenagers lie? To their Teachers, To Their Friends, etc…

why do teenagers lie

Teenagers see teachers as authority figures who are almost like an obstacle in some cases, there can be a certain level of dehumanizing teachers and seeing them by their profession much more than seeing them as an individual person. Because of this, it might be easier for teenagers to lie to a teacher, especially once you add in the incentives of lying to avoid punishments like detention, or late homework, etc.

Most teenagers will lie to their teachers at some point or another, and if you want to know why do teenagers lie, just look at the situation…

If a teenager is a few points shy of getting a higher grade letter on an assignment, and they would lose points for handing it in late, but they come up with an excuse to tell the teacher instead, it’s pretty easy to understand why a teenager would lie in this situation.

Sometimes, teenagers will lie to their friends, and it’s a bit different than why they might lie to a teacher. A teenager may lie to their friend because they don’t know how to establish or enforce boundaries and stand up for themselves, or they’re afraid of being socially outcast, or they’re not great at communicating, or they don’t want to make a big deal out of something.

Avoiding consequences is generally why teens lie, whether those consequences are academic, or financial, or socially, or just avoiding humiliation or embarrassment.

How do you deal with a compulsive lying teenager?

You deal with a compulsive lying teenager by talking to them, figuring out why they’re lying, and giving them a better alternative to lying.

If a teenager is lying all the time, there’s probably a deeper issue. You may be able to talk to them and figure out what’s going on, or you could be contributing to them lying and in that case, you’ll probably have a blind spot for it and… well… good luck getting an honest answer from them, you know?

In that case, it can be useful to have them talk with a counselor or a therapist to try to figure out what’s going on. It could be a self-esteem issue, where they feel like they need to lie compulsively to feel adequate, or there could be a lot of different things going on. We don’t want to speculate, since it can vary so much for each individual teenager who is lying.

If they feel like they’re punished, judged, mocked, or otherwise if they feel like they have any type of negative reaction when they’re honest to you and upfront and telling the truth, this could result in them compulsively lying in order to avoid those negative outcomes.

That’s what we mean when we talk about ways that you might be inadvertently contributing to their compulsive need to lie.

Final Thoughts: Why Do Teens Lie?

Teens lie for a big variety of different reasons.

If you want to help a teen who lies, you need to understand why they’re lying, what they’re lying about, and why they feel like they can’t tell the truth.

This is absolutely something that can be worked on and improved.

Why do teens lie so much? Well, because they don’t know a better option, and lying seems like the easiest or best way to accomplish whatever it is they’re trying to do. It could be to seem cooler, to avoid trouble, or just because it’s a bit easier in that particular situation.

Whatever the reason is, as a friend or a parent there are things you can do to stop them from lying as much, and a big part of it is to talk to them and understand why they’re lying.

Having said that, it’s not your job as a friend to put up with someone who is always lying to you. As a friend of a teen whose lying, you don’t deserve to have someone being dishonest to you, it’s not acceptable, and if they can’t fix it – you don’t have to put up with it. It’s a bit different if you’re a parent of a lying teen though, obviously.