This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Lying and Stealing

Why do they lie?  Lying, stealing, sometimes "crazy lying" - saying things that can't possibly true, sometimes lying when there seems to be no purpose (the truth might even be better!), lying when caught red-handed (with video evidence!), lying when told that the truth will bring no consequences whereas the lies will bring severe consequences, layers of lies upon lies...

There are many possible reasons why kids with RAD lie:

Object Permanence

Children with RAD frequently have undeveloped or underdeveloped Object Permanence - causing the inability to attach to or trust someone who disappears the moment they step out of sight, but there are more long-range consequences to this as well, including the ability to reason.

This child has brain damage. If we put effort in early on it will slowly get better, but we can never assume it is "fixed." Effective treatment doesn't mean the behavior stops. The goal is to limit/ contain it until we can live with it. We need to shift our parenting paradigms from issues of intent and control to issues of brain dysfunction. We're not dropping our expectations, we're just changing them. We have to change how we think about them and give ourselves a chance to mourn the loss of our idealized child. We have a right to say, "I hate this kid."


From age 2-6 children are in the "Pre-operations" stage which means they create meaning through fantasy.
Kids with arrested development at the Preoperations stage (which is common for children of trauma) are not able to understand how we can infer things without seeing them. If you can't see it, Mom, it didn't happen. You can't know.

Let me say that again, if you can't see it, you couldn't know! They are very visual and must touch or feel everything.  Your child feels that you are persecuting him or her "illegally" if you figure out/ assume/ intuit/ put together... anything.   Frequently for the child once a subject is dropped then it is over - out of sight out of mind.  If you bring a lie up again or talk about events that happened in the past, then you are "holding a grudge."  There is a real "blank slate" mentality that they don't necessarily have control over, especially if there is damage to the memory part of their brain.

If you know that your child is the one who usually steals, is the only one who had access to whatever item it was, and you found it hidden in the suspected child's room your child literally does not "get" how you could accuse them... their brain does not work that way so they don't understand yours.

Not Me and his cousin Ida Know live in our house. My children "know" that it wasn't themselves who did it so it must be Not Me or Ida Know. The reason they "know" is that Mom couldn't have found out because she wasn't there to see it

This is mindless intentionality. The child is doing what comes naturally, not deliberately defying you on purpose.

It is believed that the reason so many children of trauma are stuck in the pre-operations stage is that it allows children to fantasize that they are omnipotent and invulnerable which alleviates the stress of being traumatized. Humans feel the need to be certain (to resist stress), so they try to make sense out of what is not sensible - I think of dreams as a good example of this. Most of the time a dream is a series of images that need processing. We try to put those images into a "story" or something that makes sense.

Magical thinking/ Distorted Reality

Around age 5 or 6, children go through the "magical thinking" stage.  They can want something so badly that they believe it, so it is true. I firmly believe that they could pass a lie detector on this. It becomes their reality and I don't think they even remember that wasn't how it happened.  This can also be a symptom of mental illness (depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia).

When Bob was 4, she came home from preschool with a necklace that I didn't recognize.  When I asked her about it, she said Grandma had given it to her for Christmas.  Ummm... nope!  Turns out it belonged to another preschooler and she'd wanted it so badly that she'd managed to convince herself that it was hers.

You can see how this might work with the denial stage of grief as well.

 Unlike Bear, Kitty isn't usually a liar, but in the middle of a fight, flight or freeze reaction, she can "flip a switch" and have no memory of an event or something she has just said or done.  Plus she thinks of the rest of the world as liars, because her perception of events is often so incredibly distorted that she hears things that weren't said.  Hubby saying, "Who left the butter out?"  became in her mind a yelling, diatribe of all of her faults, and she reacted accordingly.  She really believes that Hubby has attacked her, and nothing we say will change that perception.  Operating in this distorted reality can make her appear to be lying.


Wikipedia - "Dissociation is a term in psychology describing a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional reality. It is commonly displayed on a continuum. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality – rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis. In mild cases, dissociation can be regarded as a coping mechanism or defense mechanisms in seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress – including boredom or conflict. At the nonpathological end of the continuum, dissociation describes common events such as daydreaming while driving a vehicle. Further along the continuum are non-pathological altered states of consciousness."

Kitty is especially likely to dissociate, particularly in Fight/ Flight/ or Freeze situations (something has triggered her PTSD).  Years of trauma caused her to dissociate to such an extent that she no longer had physical feelings (not ticklish and she would frequently ask people to pinch her arms and legs because she couldn't feel it), or emotional feelings (she was so shut down that we suspected dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder).

Defense Mechanisms

Another problem for our kids is that they have developed protective defense mechanisms to keep themselves from being hurt or abused and/or to keep others from discovering that they are horribly flawed, unworthy, and unlovable (this is a deep-seated core belief that we, as parents, may not ever be able to change).  Kitty's self-esteem is entirely dependent on the opinions of others, she cannot allow anyone she doesn’t trust to see that she has any issues at all.

Years of hyper-vigilant PTSD has perfected these defense mechanisms and they are almost impossible to drop, even now that they are no longer needed.  Lying is usually a first-line life or death instinctual reaction.

The following is the list of common beliefs that Katharine Leslie put in her book, When a Stranger Calls You Mom. I have to say Bear definitely believes most if not all of these. Kitty believes a lot of them.

  • Those who love me will hurt me.
  • It is safer to get my needs for closeness met by strangers or those who are not important to me. (Can you say, "Kleenex girls"?! I knew you could.)
  • I have to look out for myself, cause nobody else will.
  • I have to hurt others before they hurt me.
  • I lose myself (I will die) if I become who you want me to be (like you).
  • I might as well lie, no one believes me anyway.
  • I'm forced to lie when people ask me questions.
  • People should stay out of my business.
  • If I want something then I should have it.
  • If I see something I want I should take it.
  • People make me mad.
  • When I'm mad I don't care who gets hurt.
  • People deserve what they get.
  • If I don't get what I want you are to blame.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

My kids tend to behave only because they fear the consequences of being caught (if they understand consequences at all) rather than doing something because it's the right thing. This is not because they're bad, or manipulative, or hate me, it is because they are stuck at the bottom of  Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Their fear keeps them feeling like they're in a war zone  - focused only on survival.

Maslow’s five levels of hierarchy are:1.) Physiological or biological needs. These are the survival needs — air, water, food, sleep, and procreation. These requirements are the basic instinctual needs of human and animal existence.2.) Security or safety needs. These needs include health, financial security, shelter and the assurance of living in a place where one does not feel threatened.3.) Social needs. Maslow felt that once physiological and security needs were met, people start looking for love, friendship, and community. Families, religious groups and social organizations fulfill the need to belong.4.) Esteem needs. Maslow noted two types of esteem needs — self-esteem and esteem from others.5.) Self-actualization needs. This is the search for becoming his or her "best self." Unlike the lower levels of the hierarchy, this need is never completely met as there are continuous new occasions for growth. Maslow stated only about 2% of the world population is in the self-actualization state.

Deficit Needs/ Survival Needs
These first four levels of the hierarchy are referred to as "Deficit needs," sometimes called D-needs. The theory is that if a person doesn’t have enough of something in these four levels, he or she would feel the deficit — or need. If one does have enough, it is often times not noticed. Maslow has also termed these first four categories as survival needs, as humans instinctively attempt to cover all of these. If one of these needs was not properly met when a person was a child, that person may fixate on the particular need throughout the rest of his or her life.

Being Needs

With D- needs, once fulfilled you don’t often notice them. The B-needs, however, become stronger as they are realized. These are the apex of Maslow’s hierarchy and are called the "Being Needs" or B-needs. When the first four D-needs are met, then a person begins to search for becoming his or her best self.

Thinking Errors

They may also adopt belief systems or world views that make them feel "in the know." These beliefs can be quite wrong, like thinking errors.  Most residential treatment centers, hospitals and places, especially those that work with DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) try to help their clients identify and change these thinking errors.  I've found it a pretty good tool, although it only works if you have the cognitive and emotional ability to recognize, accept, and change these things... which my kids generally don't.

Impulse Control

One day when my daughter was about 15 months old, she was sitting on the floor in the kitchen, slamming a cabinet door.  Hubby came in and told her to stop.  She looked at him, seemed to understand, gave him a big, toothy grin, and slammed the cabinet door again.  Hubby was furious and wanted to give her a consequence.  I reminded him of his 30yo friend who had recently slammed his fist into a wall and broken it. This adult friend knew better and impulsively did it anyway.  Can we expect more from a child whose brain is not wired correctly yet?

If you can't do the time, don't do the crime

A lot of people think that if a child knows the consequences of lying, stealing or any other "crime," then they will be less likely to commit that crime or confess to a crime to keep from getting more severe consequences.

There are several flaws in this theory:

  • Lack of impulse control - means they might do it anyway without thinking 
  • Distorted reality - they may not be able to see what they're doing as wrong and probably do not believe they will ever get caught
  • Trauma history - in a lot of ways our kids are often like prisoners of war - no consequence is worse than what they've lived through 
  • Trust issues - they protect themselves by deliberately preventing themselves from caring about anyone or anything enough to allow themselves to feel upset if they lose it, even if it's more of a "sour grapes" kind of thing.
  • Life or death defense mechanism- these kids lie as if their life depends on it... because it has in the past and it still feels like it does.  This is a core belief,  and a lecture, time out, losing their cellphone or even jail time doesn't matter more than death!
We do occasionally see confessions, but they are usually WAAAYYYY after the fact (like a year and a half!) when the child feels there will be no consequences or that he might even get kudos for dealing with it.

Edited to Add:

The Addictive Brain

Finally, an article that puts into better words why my son has an "addictive brain." We've seen evidence of it for years, and knew it wasn't the drugs themselves because the addiction shifted often and he could stop seemingly cold turkey (drugs, alcohol, tobacco, but also sugar/ junk food, sex, stealing, adrenaline, chaos...).

"Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It's how we get our satisfaction. If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find -- the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about 'addiction' altogether, and instead call it 'bonding.' A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn't bond as fully with anything else."

So my son remains "addicted." In part because his attachment issues - the (in)ability to make human connections - haven't really healed, but also because his Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder means he is stuck living in a "war zone" 24/7. He carries his old "cage" with him wherever he goes.

I should let you know that Hubby and I disagree about whether or not the lying and stealing is part of Bear's illness. I say of course it is. Hubby says it is environmental/ learned behavior. Actually, it's probably both. 

Neither of us thinks there is a "cure" for this. I question whether or not Bear is capable of understanding consequences, curb his impulsivity, overcome his past, and trust enough to ever get to the point where he no longer steals or lies. Hubby thinks that Bear might avoid lying or stealing if the consequences are severe enough that Bear decides they are not worth the effort. I don't know. I do think Bear is aware enough to avoid situations where the "punishment" outweighs the reward.  He also rarely commits the same "crime" twice. 

Bear will lie or steal when:
  •  He feels he is entitled (He wants it. He knows we won't give it to him. He does not agree with our reasons or thinks that rule should not apply to him).  Ex. It used to be his cell phone. We did not have a right to take it from him. "Everyone" has a cell phone. He has been behaving so he deserves to have his cell phone back. He "needs" his cell phone to text his biodad and biograndma. Mom left the cell phone unattended.  He took the cell phone and lied about it.
  •  He is pretty sure that he won't get caught or blamed.
  •  He thinks he is going to get into trouble - self-preservation instinct (sometimes even when he won't get in trouble!)
  •  He wants something/ impulse/ poor judgment.
  •  He enjoys the adrenaline rush

Bear's SOP (standard operating procedure).

1. Something is missing or suspected. Bear is questioned (by the school or someone else - I do NOT question him). He lies - convincingly.  (Think of the Grinch!

2. Part or all of Bear's lie is proven false.

3. Usually, Bear will pick a fight or throw up a diversion.  This buys him time to come up with an alternative lie.  Most often, Bear denies that he made the statement (lie) in the first place. He gets angry that he was accused and accuses his accuser of not having listened or heard him right.  Because of his black and white thinking, he believes that if gets you to stop saying he's lying right then, then he was right and that's why he has "won."  He has no concept of agreeing to disagree, someone backing down because it's pointless to argue, or understanding that this damages trust.

4. Bear gives an alternative lie.

5. Accuser is unable to prove or disprove the lie (or doesn't bother trying) and the matter is dropped OR part or all of Bear's alternative lie is proven false - in which case...

Lather, Rinse, Repeat 
- with Bear coming up with more convincing alternative lies the longer he has to think about it.

I investigate the lies.  The school and everyone else, of course, do not do this. They assume that Bear is a typical kid whose first instinct is not to lie, or because there have been many opportunities for Bear to lie and steal when he did not, that he, therefore, is a trustworthy person. This is an invalid assumption.  If you want to see how well I feel that worked for him, read this post.

The Amazing Christine Moers on Lying

OK, so now we have a better idea about WHY our kids lie and steal, but what do we DO about it?!

A great article about dealing with Crazy Lying - the kind of lying where it couldn't possibly be true. They're caught red-handed and still deny it. Seems like it's just to annoy you...

First, DON'T ask "WHY?!

For all of the previous things mentioned, your child doesn't know, can't express, or just flat out isn't going to tell you why.  If you ask why you're going to get another lie!  This is a life or death response on your child's part.

I believe that allowing our children to get away with lies, feeds into their illness and belief that adults are stupid and can't keep them safe, which means they need to protect themselves by not depending on adults and keeping them at arm's length.  This is why I rarely ever ask my child "why?"  I will occasionally question the child circumspectly, especially if I already know we are going to have to drop it anyway due to lack of evidence.


So here's our method: Investigate as much as possible, preferably without letting our child know he is suspected of anything. Monk is my detective mentor.  I check the facts and try to figure out ways to confirm or deny the lies.  Our country believes in "Innocent until proven Guilty" and if I absolutely cannot prove it, I will let the matter drop, but there have been times when I have given a child a consequence without absolute proof.

Therapeutic Parenting

Sounds crazy, but working on attachment and feeling safe builds trust and helps the child stay regulated. Regulated, attached children have less need for old defense mechanisms. Children that trust the people they live with don't need to prove that you'll leave them if they aren't perfect.


This depends on the emotional age of the child. Is the child under age 8 or was in the middle of a fight/ flight/ freeze episode (the brain shuts down and the child is operating on instinct) when the lying occurred? That child would not get the same consequences as a child who is older and in control. I try to remember (I know it's NOT easy), what's going on in the child's head when the incident occurred.

Is this a Discipline Problem or a Behavior Problem?
Discipline problems (noncompliance, misbehavior) occur when the caregivers have not structured the child's environment for success or when parents are inconsistent (expectations or consequences), non-responsive, or inaccessible. When adults adjust their behaviors and attitudes, often children with discipline problems can be brought under control in as few as 3 to 7 days.

Behavior problems, on the other hand, lie within the child. These are persistent behaviors that do not disappear even with the best parenting (although good parenting can help to control the behaviors). These can include impulsivity, inattentiveness, memory issues,  and other behaviors from  ADHD, FAD, and other issues. Also, immature behaviors associated with missing capacities in object relations.


If this is a discipline problem, I matter of factly confront the child with the consequences of his actions (discipline/punishment). I do not allow the child to defend him or herself, because that will be a lie.  I just say, "You told a lie (or stole or whatever).  Your consequence is _______________.  END OF DISCUSSION. Then I walk away because I cannot/ will not deal with the lying, argument, fall out.  We do not have a standard consequence for lying.  This is because we do not want the child to decide if the crime is worth the time - especially since they don't really believe they will have to do consequences.

Consequences - Writing Assignments

Consequences - Community Service

Ex:  Our standard consequence for stealing or breaking someone else's things is payback of double the value. In this case, Bear took $11 out of Ponito's wallet (which was then hidden, but Ponito did get it back). We don't have a standard consequence for lying.

1. He will be required to do his brother's chores for 2 weeks ($10 if done well).

2. He will be required to give Ponito the remaining $12 from his saved allowance.

3. He will go back to carrying a see-thru backpack or no backpack at all.

4. He will not be allowed to carry a wallet.

5. He will continue to spend the night at Grandma's on Saturday night (something he's told me he doesn't like doing), but they will be closely supervising him.

6. He will not be allowed to go to his own Sunday school. Instead, he will have to go to church and adult Sunday school with Poppy.

7. His room will be searched regularly again (although I probably will not tell him this)

8. He will lose the "benefit of the doubt" if things are stolen or missing (I will not be telling Kitty this as I worry she will take advantage)

9. He is already not allowed to go places with his friends unless Hubby or I can be present, but he will be reminded that this definitely does not increase our trust

10. He will be in the FAIR Club until all money is paid back to Ponito.

11. He will be informed that if anything more comes to light at the school, or if there are future issues then he will no longer be allowed to ride home from the public high school on the regular bus, and could potentially lose his ability to attend the public high school.

12. This will definitely delay his being able to eat lunch at the public high school indefinitely. He'll have to continue to eat lunch at his special school.

Structure and Supervision

Children NEED structure and caring support to feel safe and start to heal.   This feeling of safety is often not based in reality – it is a perceived feeling of safety.
I know this sounds really awful and controlling, but Bear really did feel safer knowing we cared enough to pay attention to him. I sometimes think Bear acted out when he felt unsafe just to increase our level of supervision.

  • Line of sight - Generally Bear was on line of sight supervision at all times unless he was in his room alone. This was a huge deal and made Hubby and I feel like wardens, but he NEEDED it. We tried to make it feel more like we were spending quality time with him than that we didn't trust him.
  • Bedroom door and window alarms - while we did have window alarms (that prevented Bear from sneaking out of the house), I felt like we should have had a door alarm too (still not sure why it bothered Hubby so much).

    Bear often left his room in the middle of the night - usually to steal food or some other item. I know many parents that had to worry about the safety of family members, and installed door locks on bedroom doors. Not to lock children in! But so they could lock their own doors and feel safe from their sibling.
  • Never alone - Bear was NEVER left without the supervision of an adult who was aware of his needs and issues. Since he was too old for childcare, this often meant hiring after-school care providers or Grandma, having him in structured volunteer or extracurricular programs, us going to the mall and movies with him... we tried to give him at least the illusion of having his space (ex. when at the movies, we sat several rows away where he felt we couldn't easily see him), and we gave him as much privacy as we could.
  • Room and belongings searches - Bear frequently stole things and hoarded food and other items. Usually, when searching his room, I gave it a good cleaning and removed all contraband and health hazards. While I usually did this randomly when he wasn't at home, Bear was aware that we did this for his safety, and rarely protested - even when I found contraband and gave him consequences. 
  • School - My kids required a LOT of structure at school. We often had to battle the school to get this for them (even filed due process once). Both Kitty and Bear ended up in a special program/ school for emotionally disturbed students. All the staff was trained in special education and behavior management. Most had worked in residential treatment facilities. The student to teacher ratio ranged up to 8 to 1 at the most. Even when on his home campus, Bear received extra supervision - at one point even being escorted any time he left the classroom.


I finally accepted that my son could lie straight to my face and could probably pass a lie detector test.  He believed his lies totally and completely.  To him, it wasn't really even a lie anymore.  I had to accept that his version of reality was just ... different, and be empathetic about his reasons why (fear).  I stopped putting him in a position where he could lie.  I stopped asking him questions when I knew the answer would be a lie (pretty much ALL questions - except "What do you want for dinner?" type questions).

For a long time, I felt truly awful for giving my son consequences when I couldn't absolutely prove that he did it, especially since our entire justice system is built on "Innocent until proven guilty."  It didn't help that Hubby strongly prescribes to this belief and also feels that lying is one of the worst "crimes" a child/ person can commit.  The hardest part is that not only did I feel Hubby thought less of me for giving Bear consequences when I couldn't absolutely prove he did it, I also felt Hubby was also upset with me for not always punishing/ consequencing the child when he/she was caught "red-handed" and therefore "deserved" it.

It was hard, but I finally decided to Choose Joy.  My children's illness/ trauma is not my fault (it's not their fault either).  I helped them as much as I could, but I couldn't continue to blame myself.  It helped a lot to have fellow "trauma mamas" who "get it" validate me and back me up, but it all boils down to accepting that this is the hand we've been dealt and stop blaming my children and trying to hold them accountable for something outside of their control.

  • We will continue to teach our children right from wrong, accountability, and restitution.  
  • We will continue to work on trust, dissociation, thinking errors... 
  • We will continue to do so with an eye as to why they act the way they do-- emotional age, flight/fight/freeze reaction, HALT (Hungry, Angry. Lonely, Tired), overwhelmed... 
  • We will continue to set our children up for success (providing therapy, therapeutic parenting, structure, support, responsibilities...).

Love This Parenting with Connection Idea!

by a fellow Trauma Mama

A child used money intended for another use to buy a toy, and then persistently claimed to find the item. 

One possibility is that he doesn’t feel worthy of the gift. 

Rather than punishing the child, or trying to force the child to admit the item was stolen, how about saying, “I know you bought the gift, I know you are pretending to have found it, and I think it’s because you don’t feel you should have it, you don’t feel good enough to have it. But you are good enough, which is why you’re keeping the lovely gift because you’re worthy of it.”


For "Neurotypical" Children
An article about lying.
A handout I give my children about lying:

10 Things You Need to Know About Lies & Lying

  1. Lying is the number one reason that people lose trust. 
  2. The most common reason that people lie is to avoid confrontation. Getting in trouble is never fun but lying to avoid it is always a "band-aid" solution. When the truth comes out the confrontation is guaranteed to be even more unpleasant than it would have been without the lie. A lie compounds the problem, it doesn't solve it. 
  3. Another common reason people lie is to make themselves seem "better" or more interesting. This sort of lying can be a sign of low self-esteem, problems at home, or depression. 
  4. Lies are like dominos - one lie can knock out whole relationships, destroy entire aspects of your life or even limit your future in unforeseeable ways. 
  5. Lies are a gamble. Every time you lie you gamble with being caught. 
  6. Lies have a way of getting out and coming back to haunt you. 
  7. The worst lies are the ones you tell yourself. When you lie to others you are also lying to yourself. 
  8. Chronic lying can signal a psychiatric or social disorder. If you find yourself "lying for no reason" or to cover up behavior that you know is harmful consider seeking professional help. 
  9. Lies can damage your self-image and cause inner conflicts (like dissonance) that drastically change the way you view and act upon, the world and other people. 
  10. "Little white lies" are lies that are told about superficial things and are told when the truth would only serve to hurt another person. They ARE NOT told to avoid confrontation or cover up the harmful actions of another person. For example: telling another friend that a haircut looks good when you don't really like it is a "little white lie", telling your parents that you are spending the night at a friend's house so that you can stay out past curfew is NOT. 

The Real Reasons Parents Ask So Many Questions
(No, it isn't just to drive you crazy!)

Parents ask a lot of questions and it drives teens crazy. Despite what teen culture says parents don’t make inquiries in order to invade your privacy or control what you do. Parents ask questions because they care, because they’ve been a teen and want to spare you some of the more unpleasant experiences that seem to be common during adolescence, and because they want to keep you safe.

It is not a verbally inquisitive invasion of privacy that prompts your parents to ask, where you’re going, what will you be doing, when you expect to be home, and who you’ll be with, no, parents ask these things for one simple reason – they want to protect you. So it is a sad reality that many teens lie to their parents when they are asked questions about their plans. If you lie to your parents it could be yourself that you are harming the most.

Why? Not only does lying to your parents damage their trust but it has the potential to put you in real danger.

Let’s look at the four most common questions parents ask that teens lie about and examine how being anything but truthful could harm you in the end.

Common Question 1:  "Where are you going?"

The reason teens think parents ask this question.
The three most common reasons teens think parents ask this question are;

  • to be nosey, 
  • to stop them from going, 
  • or to know where to go to check up or spy on them. 

The real reason parents ask this question.

Parents really ask this question so that they can be sure that where you are going is safe, suitable for somebody your age and properly supervised. While it is possible that your parents would stop you from going somewhere unsafe, unsuitable or poorly supervised their motive for asking is not to ruin your fun but to make sure that you won’t be put in harm's way.

The danger to YOU if you answer this question with a lie.

Teens who believe that their parents wouldn’t allow them to go where they want to go will often lie when asked this question, but lying could have some dire consequences. If you feel you have to lie about where you are going you should take a moment to reflect about why you are lying, do you know that where you want to go could pose a danger, even a remote one, and is this why you are covering up? If you lie to your parents about where you will be you put yourself at risk of not being able to get help if you need it, of your parents not being able to locate you if there is an emergency, of them being unable to give accurate information to law enforcement if something happens to you, and you will be more likely to engage in further risky behavior in order to keep your lie from coming to light. One example, if you lie about going to an un-chaperoned house party and find that your ride home is too drunk to drive you may be more likely get in their car because calling your parents for a safe ride home would expose the lie.

Common Question 2:  "What will you be doing?"

The reason teens think parents ask this question.
Again, the most common reasons that teens think parents ask this question is to invade their privacy or to exercise control over what they will be doing.

The real reason parents ask this question.

The reasons that parents ask this question are very similar to the reasons they ask where you are going; namely, they want to be sure you will not be taking unnecessary risks and that you will be safely supervised.

The danger to YOU if you answer this question with a lie.

When you lie to your parents about what you will be doing you may think it is harmless, after all, if you are truthful about where you will be what does it matter what you plan to do while you're there? But there are several things that can go wrong when you lie about what you will be doing. You may be afraid to tell your parents if something bad happens, you may be afraid to ask for their help during a crisis or unforeseen event because of your lie, and you may make it impossible for your parents to help you if you’re hurt since they won’t have an accurate picture about what led up to your injury. 

Also, if you lie about what you are doing chances are good that you shouldn’t be doing it and regardless of whether your parents ask you for details or not this should be enough to give you pause about your plans.

Common Question 3:  "When will you be home?"

The reason teens think parents ask this question.
As usual, teens think parents ask this question to exercise control over their lives. More than lie about this teens are likely to say something like, “I don’t know,” “Before curfew,” or “I’ll call and let you know.”

The real reason parents ask this question.

Parents ask this question because they want to know when they can expect you home (duh!) but not so they can send out a search party if you are 20 minutes late. In fact, the real reason parents ask this question may be a little bit selfish on their part. Of course, your safety is important to your parents and knowing when to expect you home makes it easier for them to know when you may need help but there is another reason parents ask you this question. Parents ask this question because they never really rest until they know you are safe and knowing when to expect you home gives them peace of mind.

The danger to YOU if you answer this question with a lie.

The danger of lying when asked this question is pretty obvious; if you don’t tell your parents when you expect to be home they won’t know if you’re missing. If you get hurt your parents will know to sound the alarm sooner rather than later if they have a time to expect you home or a time when you will check in. Lie about this and you could end up losing precious time if you land in harm's way.

Common Question 4:  "Who will you be with?"

The reason teens think parents ask this question.
The parents v. friends conflict is as old as time. While most parents like the people their teen is friends with there are times when friends and parents don’t really mesh. Sometimes the reasons behind the feud are valid and other times they are not but regardless if your parents don’t like one or more of your friends you should ask yourself why before continuing the friendship. The most common reason teens think parents want to know who they’ll be with is to stop them from being around friends they do not approve of.

The real reason parents ask this question.

Yes, there is some truth behind the idea that parents ask this question to make sure you aren’t spending time with people they do not like but the more pressing reason behind this question is much less ominous. The most common reason parents ask who you will be with is to know where to start looking if you are late or missing. Parents may also want to know who you’ll be with so they can touch base with other parents about where you’ll be, what you’ll be doing and when you’ll be back.

The danger to YOU if you answer this question with a lie.

When parents don’t like your friend or friends 9 times out of 10 it is with good reason. If you have fallen in with a bad crowd or are engaging in risky peer activities your parents will be unable to help you if you lie about who you are with. And again, because you told one lie you may continue to tell lies to cover it up and you may be less likely to ask for help when you really need it or when you know something is wrong out of fear of having to come clean about the initial lie.

Remember flat lying about your plans or who you’ll be with can do some real harm but leaving out important details, lying by omission, can do harm as well. Lies of omission are the kissing cousins of outright lying and the negative results are often one and the same. Honesty is always the best policy when your parents ask questions no matter why you think they may be asking. Giving away a little of your privacy is a small price to pay for building trust between you and your parents and for keeping you safe.


Amanda said...

I'm so thankful to have stumbled across your blog! I'm a stepmom to 13 year old twin neurotyoically developing boys, adoptive Mom to Anna (age 6, adopted from Russia with love- and FAS, RAD, and 26 other diagnoses), and bio Mom to 20 mo th old Sara (typically developing). Life is hard. No, exhausting. Safety measures are exhausting. In thankful for your blog. We have a blog ( and facebook page (AdventuretoAnna).

Miz Kizzle said...

I like your reference to Monk. I happen to agree with another TV detective, Dr. House: everybody lies.
Our lies come in all shapes and sizes from big fat whoppers to little white lies, to "forgetting" to say or do something. Most of all we lie to ourselves.
Of course children should be taught that lying is bad and that loss of trust is a direct result of being caught in a lie, but I doubt that lying can ever be eradicated.
My kids are older than yours and they're NT. We never had a problem with them stealing. For that I'm grateful.