True Detective: How to “Out-Lie” Your Lying Kid

By Debby Shulman

Ahhh, the innocent lies of teenagers … they feel so infallible they would rather take their chances and lie through their teeth rather than risk not being able to do what they want. In their adolescent desire to have the freedom to go wherever they please, most will stop at nothing in their effort to get out that door without so much as a goodbye. The faster they run, the more suspicious we become.  Yet, the stories we share with our friends are sometimes truly funny because all our teens are so ridiculously clueless.  And the pattern is repeated over and over again, making me think, “Really? REALLY?”

Do they really believe they’re going to get away with the craziest of stories and that we didn’t do EXACTLY the same thing?

But my friend, the Internet seems to expose the best kept secrets – just when I think I’ve “won” the latest clothing war, after clearly explaining what is off limits, I can see my black leather skirt right there on Instagram … I thought I said no to that, in fact, I am positive I said no to that skirt.  The best part?  She left the house wearing jeans! Forget about the skirt, because now I can see there is a large ring on her finger that is most definitely mine!  The leather skirt is one thing, but that ring is MINE and there is no way I would ever concede to that little accessory.

So, when she returns home, I can show her that awesome selfie of the leather skirt and the ring and we can ‘chat’ about it because it’s right there for everyone to see.

I’ve heard stories of parents seeing parties at THEIR HOUSE via Facebook while out on a Saturday night (“Honey, isn’t that our basement?”), and sisters who busted one another for wearing each other’s clothes … but what happens when you discover your little angel has done something a tad worse, (courtesy of a well-intended source) and you have to fabricate an ingenious story just to squeeze the confession out of them and protect the informant?  I’ve learned a lot about this interrogation process, thanks to my new binge, “True Detective” and I can tell you all, it’s not that simple.

We end up lying right back.

Look, catching them is easy.  If you really want to know what is going on with your teen, just read their texts.

I know there are parents who choose to read their teen’s texts and others who feel that this is an invasive way to parent – I don’t have an opinion either way.  Every teen is different and parents have the right to do what is best for their kid  — but we all know what lies in that phone: a stream of conversation that reveals truthful revelations on all aspects of their life. Don’t kid yourself, EVERYTHIING they are doing, in and out of your presence, is on that phone and they are too lazy and naïve to delete.  So when you find something uncomfortably surprising, a reference that sends red warning signals to your brain, a text that makes you feel slightly sweaty and undeniably anxious: How do you nab them?

There’s no admitting that you were spying, that you grabbed that iPhone during a perfectly acceptable 30-minute teenage shower, and that you’ve already given yourself a lovely dose of self-induced, guilt-ridden, whoop ass.  (Why did I do that?  How could I have read that? Now what do I do with THAT?)

You can’t give yourself up but the information is too important not to address.

We lie.  We turn around and tell a little White Lie that puts us back in the drivers seat.

While the pattern of retaliatory lying doesn’t bring out the best in our parenting skills, there remains a necessity at the heart of it – we must at least approach the behavior that needs to be discussed, even if we have to lie to get there.  Is it wrong?  I don’t believe so, especially when their safety is at stake and their teenage judgment skewed.  Your girlfriend calls to tell you that your son is speeding through town in your car … we can’t give up the good friend so we create a story that puts an inventable character in the line of fire (“And I have to hear from some woman I know from the PTO that you’re blowing though stop signs?”) securing the ongoing secret supervision of the trusted and invisible Suburban Tattletales.

Protecting the Sibling Informant is the most critical – offering believable, made up and fabricated stories that bust the guilty brother or sister while preserving the identity of the other one.  We all know when there’s a worried sib, something truly bad is lurking just around the corner and they are waiting for you to take charge; they want you to lie, to bust the sister or brother sneaking out to God knows where in the middle of the night or to force you to reckon with why your vodka is FROZEN.  It’s their way of letting us know our eyes need to be wide open, we’re missing something that isn’t being seen … even if it means we lie to see the light and face the uncomfortable truth:

There is great hypocrisy in the art of parenting.

I am SO okay with that. Because I am the parent, the team captain and queen, I get to decide what ‘lies’ I need to tell in order to keep them healthy and safe.

There is no need to ever give up my sources (the girlfriend, the next door neighbor, the older sibling) because I need them to serve as the extra set of eyes that help me do my job.

And I’ll lie in order to do it well.

Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: Debby Shulman is a college essay consultant and academic tutor with a private practice in Northbrook, Illinois.  She also professionally collaborates with Amy Simon College Consulting in Bannockburn, Illinois.  Debby also blogs about Motherhood/Teen issues for Your Teen magazine (www.yourteenmag.com). Check out her valuable advice. 










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