According to research conducted at the Josephson Institute of Ethics in California, 92 percent of teens surveyed admitted to lying to their parents at least once in the last year... and as the joke goes, "the other 8 percent lied about lying to their parents". It is pretty simple- teens just don't want to suffer the consequences of telling the truth. What's the harm in a "little white lie"?

A lot is at stake when it comes to our teenagers.

We can't expect the teenager to tell us everything all the time, however, it is extremely important that we create a safe environment that encourages conversation and the opportunity to teach our adolescent child how to make good decisions.

Ironically, an adolescent often doesn't realize it's wrong to break an agreement with their parent; they do so in an effort to prove their autonomy or to connect with peers, sometimes, almost unconsciously, because they knew you had a rule against it.

It's fine that they are searching for their independence and defining their own identities, but at the same time, our children want guiding principles to help them in their search for independence.

Our teens need their parent's guidance on how to make sound choices while spreading their wings.

Here's What We As Parents Can Do To Help Prevent Our Teens From Lying to Us -

Starting Early -

Parents can model positive behaviors by being truthful with their children when they are young and telling them you expect the same honesty in return. If they catch you in a fib, they justify that it is okay to play the same game, but, over time, they up the ante, especially as young adolescents.

Our children are never too young to understand the concept of being honest. Unfortunately, our society adheres to the philosophy that, at times, it is truly more convenient to lie.

We rationalize that it saves the recipient from unnecessary pain or embarrassment or that it simplifies uncomfortable circumstances by minimizing the process of explaining one's point of view.

What's wrong with telling the truth?

It is the projection of how the other person is going to receive the information.

Isn't that really the case with dishonesty?

Are we not more concerned with the receipt of the information than the delivery? That is exactly the root of problem with our teens sharing the truth. They are hesitant because they don't want to deal with the reaction to the truth. Teens, like adults, lie for a number of reasons in an effort to avoid confrontation or evade a consequence imposed by their parents.

Let's identify four of the reasons we, as parents, encourage our kids to lie to us.

1: We Freak Out

No wonder the teen has chosen to go silent when their experience of telling the truth results in us launching off into ranting and raving about the ignorance and carelessness of their actions.

The knee-jerk reaction is to impose consequences or, at the very least, point out how they have made a gross error in judgment. Now, honestly, how excited would you be if every time you shared a new adventure with someone, they scoffed at you? There is a direct correlation between a strict parent or an overly opinionated parent and the degree of dishonesty they will receive from their budding teen.

I believe the overly strict parent, in a genuine effort to curb their teen's risk of making bad decisions, only fuel the fire. At this age, it is the job, the duty, of the teen to push their limits. They want to challenge their boundaries at every opportunity. It is the parent's role to establish clearly defined boundaries, based on rational guidelines, and then support the child to make good decisions within the framework of those boundaries.

If you are going to error, I advocate in the direction of listening to your teen about their interest in drinking, for example, and identify the risks and consequences of their decision, rather than encouraging them to be dishonest and put them in greater harms way by forcing them to make decisions from fewer choices available to them that may lead to deception and compromise their health, their safety, and their well being.

For years, I've coached parents several ways to stop, listen, reflect, and question without sounding authoritative and provide an environment that encourages dialogue and ownership of the decision making process.

Remember when we used to say to our young children, "It's very cold outside. Do you think you need a jacket?" The choice was theirs. It is the same principle but, whether we like it or not, now it comes with higher stakes.

The toughest part for most parents is to listen to their teens, respect their point of view, identify a rational reasoning process, and then let them decide for themselves.

2: Practice what you Preach -

If you drink without regard to acceptable limits or moderation, then they will believe the same holds for them. If you demonstrate to them that lying to the door to door salesman is easier or stretching the truth with your friends to ease your own discomfort is okay, they will do the same.

Whether we like it or not, our children are a reflection of who we are. Setting a good example is critical to establishing reasonable boundaries for your teens. If you demonstrate little regard for the rules you establish for your teens, they will place little value on them, too. Simply calling the trump card is not enough; teens, by and large, won't honor a rule based entirely on the fact that you are their parent and that is the way it is. You will get further if you practice what you preach.

3: Adult Responsibilities come with the Privileges, too -

A teen once told me that his parents expect him to carry his own weight by holding down several jobs. They have taught him to be quite responsible; however, they treat him like a child with curfews and ground rules unfitting a responsible young adult.

Let your teen prove them self.

Take baby steps if necessary but match the level of responsibility you require of them with the level of freedom you grant them to make rational decisions. Wouldn't you rather be involved in the decision making process now when you are available to coach them rather than having them learn it on their own when they go off to college?

As they learn from both good and bad experiences by holding down a job, let them have the same experiences with making decisions in their personal life. That's the challenge facing most parents of teens but is well worth it in the end.

The Center for Effective Parenting recommends that parents, "discuss why telling the truth is important... telling the truth lets other people know that they can be trusted."

4: Rules that are Embraced by Teens are Essential -

I don't think there is a human being alive that gets excited about a restriction that is imposed upon them without having an opportunity for their input.

Developing a process where the teen has an opportunity to take ownership in the family agreements will result in greater adherence than those that are imposed arbitrarily. Granted, there may be rules that the teen may not agree with initially but it is essential that parent's take the time to rationalize the thought process behind the ground rule. This may require a willingness on both sides to start with a ground rule and be open to renegotiating down the road.

Consideration should be given to the demonstration of the teen's adherence to the ground rule in a responsible way. Should a new ground rule meet with resistance, begin with a starting point, define a pattern of behavior that would demonstrate responsibility, and establish a timeline for renegotiation where both parties can embrace the ground rule.

Freedom is greatest when the boundaries are drawn.

When I coach parents and teens, I like to promote clearly defining boundaries, establishing agreements that are embraced by both parent and child, and creating a safe environment where honesty and mutual respect is honored.

Parenting teenagers is not an easy task. So, now we know why teens lie to parents, what are you going to do to help you and your teen life a happier... more fulfilled... (and more honest) life? If you are parenting a teenager, today is the time to take action to start setting your teen on the path to success and honesty.

Mark Hughes is an engaging, inspiring, down to earth Parenting and Teen life coaching expert that walks the walk, teaching from his own experiences as a parent and life coach.

In 1994, Mr. Hughes founded a non-profit organization call The Satori Institute with the purpose of making family education more readily available to all segments of the general public.

He is certified as a Family Wellness Instructor and with The International Network for Children and Families as an instructor for their curriculum, Redirecting Children's Behavior.

Mark specializes in helping newly single parents cope with their new responsibilities and roles as single parents. As a divorced parent himself, Mark provides a unique point of view and insight to newly divorced parents.

In addition, Mark helps teens craft their vision for their the future and helps them lay out the groundwork for striving for and reaching their dreams and goals.

Mark is in his final stages of his new book, "From Our Point of View: The Parent and The Teen, 'Preparing yourself for independence'."

Visit for more parenting teens advice, articles, and coaching.

Author's Bio: 

Mark is certified as a Family Wellness Instructor and with The International Network for Children and Families as an instructor for their curriculum, Redirecting Children’s Behavior. Between his travels conducting family retreats, weekend workshops, powerful presentations to a wide range of audiences, and life coaching to parents and teens throughout the United States, Mark shares his time between The Satori Institute Retreat Center in Oregon and his life coaching practice.

You can visit Mark at