October 13, 2014 —

Unfortunately, teenagers and dishonesty can sometimes go hand and hand. The teenage years are often a time when teens are experimenting with new and risky things while parents are anxiously trying to reign them in. Teens tend to be dishonest so that they can do what they want without getting caught by their parents. And while it might be hard to admit, most of us parents probably did the same thing when we were their age. Fortunately, most of us don’t end up as cheats, liars and manipulators even though we were a bit dishonest when we were teenagers.

It’s best for us as parents to be realistic about this behavior, so we don’t get too stirred up and thrown by the dishonesty when it occurs. We need to be careful not to spin dishonesty into something bigger and scarier and end up in battles over it. Instead, we should try to keep our eye on the problem at hand in order to calmly and effectively address it.

Dishonesty is common for teens, but the fact of the matter is that many teenagers are open and honest with their parents. So what makes the difference? To try and answer this question, start by taking an honest look at your own behavior when your child opens up to you about something that is hard for you to hear. Do you respond in a way that would invite him or her to open up honestly to you again?

It takes a parent’s ability to react in a calm and productive manner when his or her child opens up about things that make them uncomfortable. It takes a parent’s ability to listen respectfully and ask questions that come from curiosity, not judgment. Parents need to be thoughtful, not reactive, and should respond honestly with thoughts and concerns.

It is not easy to be “emotionally separate” from our teens in a way that allows us to hear their thoughts and feelings without losing our own balance. Regardless, if we teach ourselves to calmly listen when they do share the hard stuff, our teens will most likely become more honest and open with us.

Debbie Pincus is an individual psychotherapist and coach.  She has been practicing privately for more than 25 years and has offices in Manhattan and Larchmont, NY. She leads parent groups through Greenwich Hospital and The Relationship Center. Ms. Pincus is the founder and Executive Director of The Relationship Center. She serves on the Total Transformation Advisory Board and of the Larchmont/Mamaroneck Counseling Center. She has written seven books on interpersonal relations, and writes weekly online articles for Empowering Parents. They are published by Legacy Publishing Company. She is the author of the book and CD series entitled, CALM PARENTING, published by Legacy Publishing Company. Ms. Pincus trained at the Gestalt Institute of NY and the Bowen Family Institute of Georgetown. She is a licensed psychotherapist and is a certified Screamfree Parenting and Marriage coach.  Ms. Pincus is married and has three grown children.