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Parenting Question: How Do You Punish A Teenager For Lying?

Wookiee_Momma's picture

At the beginning of March, SS14 got a Nintendo Switch for his birthday. I didn't really agree with the gift given how expensive it was, him recently smashing his Iphone and then dropping the new one in the toilet (it worked for a while but apparently died yesterday), and it was just another electronic device to feed his addiction. Oh well, BM got it for him and we bought two games ($135).

After Spring Break, he stopped bringing it over. I thought it was odd and asked him if he was still playing it. He told me he was. I asked him to bring it next time they came so we could set it up in the living room (It's a handheld system that can be plugged into the TV and play like a console). He told me ok. A month and a half passes and he still hadn't brought it over. 

This past weekend we were eating dinner and I brought it up again. At this point, I had a feeling something had happened to it but I didn't know for sure. I again asked him to bring it so we could all play together. He started getting pissy with me and explaining he didn't have the gear to hook it up to the TV. I told him he did, as it came with it. He then said it only came with one controller, and I reminded him that the device comes apart and naturally has two controllers. He then said he didn't have a two player game, and SD11 corrected him and said he had Mario Cart which was two player. His attitude was pretty crappy through this, and he questioned me on why I wanted to play it. I've been a gamer for 20 years, hadn't had the chance to check out the system, and we all regularly play Wii together and a game night might be fun.

When my BF called me yesterday to tell me SS's phone had died, I asked him to inquire about the Switch with BM. 

Low and behold, he broke it a while back at camp. I find it odd that BM didn't even mention it to BF, but whatever. I also think SD knew he broke it, so I find it odd she wouldn't say anything consider she will tattle about everything else.

Either way, stuff happens. Give children expensive electronics and they will undoubtedly break them. Mistakes will happen.

My problem is his LYING. I don't appreciate being lied to, and he lied over the course of a few months. I don't quite understand it considering we didn't buy it for him, but I guess I'm going to chalk it up to him being a textbook teenager now.

I don't tolerate lying from the kids, and neither does BF. How do we handle it? How do you punish lying? If it was a little white lie (like not brushing his teeth), it would be easier, but I consider this quite a big lie. 

What would you guys do? How do you teach children not to lie?


Maxwell09's picture

Step 1: Find out why he is lying....

When SS4 went through his lieing phase I scoured the internet for articles and boards, including this one, on how to stop lying. They all basically told me the same thing-its normal and to be expected. A few suggested that it was a character thing and others suggested kids are going to lie because they feel like they have to to get what they want i.e. parents approval, new whatevers, avoiding trouble, for ANY attention from adults. ASK YOURSELF: why would he lie about breaking the switch? Most likely to avoid trouble and to keep you from blowing up about it since I am sure he already heard it once from BM already. I cut out a lot of unneccesary lies from SS by cutting to the chase. If I were you I would have asked him the first time to bring it and when he didn't I wouldn't have interrogated him or nagged him with fifty questions, I would have jumped to the end and asked him how long has it been broken (because we can tell when something is up and its most likely broken if he's avoiding you seeing it). 

Step 2: Keep it from happening again

He will stop lieing to you when he realizes being honest is easier on him than teling a lie. To do this you would have to sit him down and explain to him that you would rather him being upfront and honest and that while he still might get in trouble for telling the truth for doing some things (illegal activities, bullying, etc) it is significantly less trouble he would get into for lieing. That being said, everyone needs to be on board with this. Your DH needs to be consistent in punishing him when he tells a lie and you both need to start recognizing and speaking up when you notice he told the truth when he had the opportunity to lie. He is a teen so keep in mind he's not going to absolutely stop. All teens keep their own secrets. Just make sure he knows where the line in the sand is drawn. In this case I would tell him that, while it sucks he broke his Switch, why didn't he just say that when you first asked for it? You wanted to use it for a game night and if he would have just said its broke then y'all wouldn't have played the 50 excuses game. You would have just moved on (because it doesn't effect you, it was his and a gift and as long as you didn't pay for it then it's not your problem) 


Wookiee_Momma's picture

That's the difficult situation here. We won't impose punishments at our house for behaviors at their BM's unless the punishment is something that needs to be carried over, like loss of phone privileges. We don't "blow up" at them, but avoiding a simple conversation about taking care of your belongings shouldn't justify the lie. Maybe he is afraid that because he's not shown responsibility with these things he won't get them in the future. 

Step 1: I would never accuse one of them of something unless I had concrete proof that it was a fact. The conversation continued because his reasoning was not sound, and at that point I wasn't sure if it was even broken and suspected he had never hooked it up to a TV and didn't know it's capabilities. I'm sure he prefers to play it handheld, especially since he doesn't have a TV in his bedroom at his BMs. If I had accused him of breaking it, I don't think the truth would have been told either. 

We always reward good behavior, each and every time. For the most part, they are well behaved kids. The only issues we have with him are lying and disrespectful behavior (which is probably due mostly to teenage hormones and his need to push for independence). If he is disrespectful, we usually just verbally reprimand him with no punishment unless it is directed at his sister or incredibly rude. He just tends to be grumpy when he doesn't get his way, which is also from being spoiled I presume.

I figured a conversation about how doing something wrong gets one punishment, but lying about it will get two would help. The fact is, you can't really punish a kid for breaking something like that. I mean, he's already lost it anyway. Unless BM chooses to spend the money to fix it, he won't have it anymore. He's getting to the age where I think having to work to repay things like this is going to be necessary.

I think he does know that regardless, because he broke it and two phones in just a few months, BF and I will be less than inclined to make large purchases like that in the future. It's a whole other lesson trying to get kids to treat their belongings well. If you replace them right away, they have no incentive. Just like him dropping his phone in the toilet (it was a huge upgrade from an older model after he broke the first).

Heck, SD purposefully dropped her phone in the toilet and blamed it on the dog apparently so she could get an upgrade.

nengooseus's picture

I don't think it's appropriate this time.  I think you need to let this one go.

This is something his BM got him.  You put him in an awkward position by insisting he bring it to Dad's.  He was clearly trying to communicate to you that he didn't want to bring the thing over and you kept pushing and pushing on it.  If you want to play with a Nintendo Switch, you should get one of your own, not push SS into bringing it.  

Frankly, I would be more concerned about the white lies, such as not brushing teeth. 

Wookiee_Momma's picture

It's hard to punish for the white lies because we can't really tell if he meant to lie in the first place. If you ask him if he did something, he doesn't take a breath before saying yes. Then if you ask again, he will think and then say no. I'm not sure if that behavior is learned or something, or just normal for kids.

BM got him the device, but we purchased the games. The gifts as a whole came from all of us. It's not awkward considering after he got it he brought it every weekend and expressed wanting us to play it. I frequently let him play with my PS4 I bring over, so it's not a weird thing whatsoever. We all share an Ipad to playing games. 

Just trying to figure out if a simple conversation is sufficent for lying, or do we actually have to actively punish it. I don't like taking away things so much, because it may encourage him to lie even more.

nengooseus's picture

Especially if he doesn't understand that it's OK to be honest.  I struggle with this with my skids.  Their BM doesn't encourage honesty (or any other positive values), so they didn't/don't learn it.

A set of conversations may be enough to discipline for lying, depending on the circumstance.  Here, it's probably more than enough.

Where is Dad in all this?  Is he concerned about the lying, or are you the one pushing here?

Wookiee_Momma's picture

Yell a lot without a real punishment and that was that. He would have probably paid to get it fixed had he bought it. He was a Disney Dad but also quick to anger.

ESMOD's picture

I think that in this case that if dad gives him the "I am disappointed with your actions" speech... that probably is the right way to go.  Pointing out that he values honesty and that if he feels that his son is not capable of honesty then that leads to a breakdown of trust that might mean he doesn't have as many privileges or freedoms.  He tells his son that he expects for him to be more truthful and while he can't guarantee he won't talk to him about mistakes he makes like breaking an expensive piece of technology, he is going to not lose as much standing with his dad if he tells the truth.

Not every failure to do the right thing has to result in a punishment or consequence... maybe just a discussion on how to move forward and make better decisions in the future is enough.  At that age, my parents told me that life would punish me much more than they ever could.. in fact punishments that they couldn't fix for me.. so to act accordingly. 


Wookiee_Momma's picture

I agree it may just be a teaching moment. I know my dad would have pulled the whole disappointed in me card.

Stepped in what momma's picture

A lie is a lie, my parents would even get ya for lying by omission and then tell ya you would be held accountable for lying by omision in a court of law, lol. If you bought him games for his new machine I can totally see why you would want to check it out. Instead of punishing him I would start by your DH asking him why he felt he needed to lie.

Survivingstephell's picture

I wouldn't replace it that's for sure.  He's 14 and in high school or starting soon.  The stakes will become higher and he needs to understand that telling the truth is far easier than not.  Logical consequences of his lying might be his own punishment.  I would not bail him out of his lies.  

Also look back at your own teenage years and think about what you lied about and got away with and how your parents handled you at that age.  I found that very helpful in my own parenting.  LOL  

Wookiee_Momma's picture

BM would, not us, and she doesn't seem to be in a rush to do so. Unfortunately, the phone is through BF's plan so he doesn't have an option. He just upgraded his though and we are considering giving him BF's really old one and keeping the replacement in a closet until he gets some of his privaledges back. Currently, BM took everything off his phone except a music app and Minecraft. He doesn't even have a camera app. I said he lost the camera because he got into an argument with her about eating his green beans and threw them away instead. Not sure if that is the truth.

I didn't lie as a kid but once. I tried to skip school and got caught. Never lied again after that, lol. I was actually a great kid, probably because my brother's were such a handful. Boys are so different. I guess I could call my dad and ask how he handled these types of situations.

I just worry if it isn't addressed it's going to become even worse, and be about more important things than a gaming system. I also don't appreciate being lied to, because then you don't really trust the kid. Look at SD...we can't believe anything that comes out of her mouth.

lieutenant_dad's picture

The punishment will be proactive versus retroactive. Basically, never buy him a game or console again. Don't buy him gift cards that he can use at a game store. Don't let him use systems at the house unsupervised.

Wookiee_Momma's picture

I think this will be a reality going forward. I found out that the cost of fixing it is comparable to buying a whole new system. 

ESMOD's picture

These lies actually are about on par with lying about brushing teeth.. or not having homework etc.. They are not abnormal but not behavior to be encouraged.

In this instance, I think that he should be made aware of the fact that you now know what really happened to the game unit and that in the future, he needs to be truthful instead of dancing around the issue by making up stories.  Because, when you lie about the small things, your parents assume you may be less trustworthy and lying about other things and you may find your statements questioned more often and may see priviledges come to you more slowly until trust is built up.

Wookiee_Momma's picture

That sounds like an appropriate conversation. I’m slightly disappointed in him though. I didn’t think he would start lying about big things like that. 

blayze's picture

A switch might be a "little thing" to SS.  It's small, afterall. Smile

Does he really know the value of money? 

Does he truly "get" how much it costs? 

My own 13 year old has lied about little things (to him) like this... he borrowed and lost his dad's cool water bottle and equated it to the cost of earbuds, not realizing the water bottle was nearly $30. 

He also lies about brushing his teeth... and I go bananas on him.  Like I can't see the orange Dorito crumbs in his teeth after a brushing?  He'll tell me to smell his breath. Ummm?!  Brushing just your tongue doesn't count! Grrrr hehe

Anyway, kids lie.  PEOPLE lie.  I think you're right about letting him know you guys are disappointed in him.  I'm in the 'tell them why truth is important to you and SHOW THEM why lying sucks' camp.  Teach them why your morals are valid.  Believe me...people lose their minds if you treat them like they aren't trustworthy after the lie.  No need to truly punish him per say.  Just don't believe him for about a month.  And that's actually a truthful act because you're already disappointed about his recent untrustworthy behavior.  Say stuff like "SS are you sure you did xyz, because you didn't tell us the truth about the Switch?"  He'll be begging you to believe him after a few of those (if he's an otherwise decent kid).  This is an opportunity to teach.

Good luck!  And anecdotally, know that by being overly authoritarian and punitive, my parents inadvertently taught me to lie. It wasn't until my 20's that I CHOSE to value honesty.  (and I still sometimes lie to my parents to shut them up. *ROFL*)

AshMar654's picture

Ok if I was his mom I would be pissed he broke it. I have an SS9 who has the same thing and has 3 games that go with it. We did not buy the console or the games really. Anyway it is still in one piece and like new in our living room. There is nothing wrong with expecting a 14 yr old not to break something that expensive.

SS values his high price items in our home because we made it very clear that it breaks that is it and he will not get another one. If grandparents or anyone else buys it for him he will not be allowed to play in our home. I would also be pissed about the lying. That is also not at all tolerated in our home. I take like everything away when he lies to me. SO and I both crack down hard for lying, last time he did it he had to go pull weeds, go to bed early, no electronics for the entire weekend (this is huge because we do not allow any electronics during the week in our home, tv yes but we all watch it together as a family).

If you do not like the lying simply take things away and when he is over again he can not participate in any of the fun activities.

MoominMama's picture

Don't get a new one, that's how to punish him. Seems he thinks money grows on trees and he doesnt look after anything but lo and behold another replacement just appears.

CantComplain's picture

He lied because he didn't want to get in trouble for breaking yet another electronic.  He is already punished by the loss of a gift; a punishment he brought on himself. 

You wouldn't want to get in trouble for telling someone you sold a car instead of explaining that you wrecked it, would you? If you said it to avoid an uncomfortable situation where you already knew you were in the wrong?

It's a white lie and it hurts no one. Let it go. 

lieutenant_dad's picture

White lies do hurt if they continue. It erodes trust and can cost precious time and money.

A kid who lies about brushing their teeth ends up with cavities that cost time away from work and extra money to fix teeth.

A kid who breaks their game system not only wasted the money of the person who bought the system, but also the money of anyone who bought accessories for the system.

Adults can choose to lie because the consequences fall nearly squarely on them. However, kids lying usually results in an adult having to clean up the mess.

Wookiee_Momma's picture

Also, he’s not got in trouble one for breaking anything.

First Iphone 4 he dropped on a floor and the screen smashed. He lied about how it happened. He got a brand new upgraded iPhone 6s. BF only had to pay like $75 for the replacement because he never had a claim.

Second phone died yesterday most likely from water damage or being dropped too many times. BF will have to get him another phone, which will either be his old iPhone 5c or a replacement, which would be the same phone or better.

Broke his gaming system and BM plans on paying to get it fixed, which quite possibly will cost 3/4ths the original cost. He may just get a new one.

Besides being reprimanded, it seems his tendency to break electronics has only been rewarded.

Stepped in what momma's picture

I couldn' t agree less with CantComplain since he has obviously screw up many electronics he has established a pattern. Letting him by for lying will do the same.

Wookiee_Momma's picture

Right? I thought all lies are made equal. Since when did we only punish when we felt a lie was more important than another? It’s about character.

Wookiee_Momma's picture

If he lies out of fear of punishment or reprimanding, his actions are selfish and dishonest. 

I don’t let it go when adults lie to me. It shows they are untrustworthy, and without trust their is no relationship. Most people lie to protect themselves from consequence, but just the act itself is hurtful to the other person.

I don’t lie to people. As an adult, why would I need to lie about what happened to my own property when it’s something I paid for? 

The fact is, he begged for a $300 system and $130 worth of games (only two!) and he broke it in three months is significant. Now, I do blame BM a bit for letting him take it to a camp, but still...he broke it. He dropped his old phone and it shattered. His current phone has swam in a toilet and we also noticed this weekend it has gouges all over the back from him taking it to the beach and sand getting trapped in the case.

I buy my belongings. If I break them, I have to replace them. We buy the kids electronics, and if they break them we have to replace them. His phone being dead right now is nonnegotiable, and it has to be replaced.

BM has already stated she intends on getting the game system fixed, so what punishment are we talking about? Him not getting to play it until then?

I’m not looking to punish him for breaking it, but I will support punishing him for constantly lying about breaking it over the course of a month. For the attitude he gave me for even bringing it up. 

It did hurt It hurts me that he so easily lied to me about something so insignificant, and did so with ease, and put me in a position where I don’t feel I can trust him.

Survivingstephell's picture

So you get him the most basic of phones, you hold him accountable in YOUR home for lying to you.  The relationship and how he puts it at risk by lying should be handled in your home.  What his mother does is her business and parallel parenting  techiniques apply in this area.  I really wouldn't do anything for him.  Hold him accountable to you and teach him how you work.  We do that we everyone we encounter and skids should be no different.  Keep the focus on the relationship/behavior  between you and SS.   

Not much else you can do the way I see it.