As a 9th-grade intern at Cultures of Dignity, I chose this excerpt from Masterminds & Wingmen because I think it’s important for parents to understand that when their kid lies it isn’t because they’re up to something. It could be for reasons as tasting a little freedom. If parents can begin to understand why we lie it can make communication and discipline much more productive.
Reason 1: Self- Delusion
“I lie if my parents ask if I cleaned my room. I say I did and close my door and then leave for school. It’s because I am going to clean my room later.” — Jake, 13
Why do boys lie when they know how easy it is for you to check whether they’re telling the truth or not? I want to share with you something Anthony Wolf, Ph.D., explains about lying in these situations. He calls this a “lie of the future self.” The boy lies because he genuinely believes that in the future he’ll do the things he’s supposed to have already done. So when boys say, “I walked the dog,” “I cleaned my room,” or “I did my homework,” they don’t think they’re technically lying because they believe they’ll eventually do it.
Understanding this concept and therefore confirming that my children are confused about the time-space continuum has dramatically decreased the yelling I do at them. I still have to get after them to do their chores and homework, but I don’t think they’re dragging their heels on purpose to make me crazy.
Reason 2: Managing Parental Interference
Boys lie because they believe that parents overreact to problems, and they want to manage their problems themselves. Their best strategy is to keep you on a need- to- know basis by limiting and manipulating what you know. From schoolwork to after-school activities and athletics, boys will go to great lengths to keep parental interference to a minimum. From the parent’s perspective, this doesn’t make sense, because who better than a parent, the person who wants the best for the child, to help and give guidance? Parents can help only if they know about the problem. But the reality is that parents’ reactions often cause only more anxiety, frustration, and anger for the boy.
“When my parents find out I haven’t done well, they say, “This world is getting harder and harder. You better do well because it’s harder to get a good job.” Or “You’ll have a bad job,” or “You’ll have a sucky life.” So why wouldn’t I lie to them? I don’t want to hear it.” — Max, 15
“When I come home from school and I tell her I did my homework at school, her automatic reaction is, “No, you didn’t. You’re lying. Go do it.” Thanks, Mom.” — Anthony, 15
Reason 3: Protection
Boys lie to protect themselves or their friends from harm, or in some cases to protect others from the truth. Boys are often terrified of people (including you) finding out their true self or of the judgments and assumptions you’ll make.
“I lied to my parents about my friend. He’s a really good kid, but he’s always getting into trouble. His home situation is pretty bad, like his dad drinks and he’s never home, so I know my parents wouldn’t want me going over there, but we just hang out in his room and it’s fine.” — Ryan, 13
“I had to lie about me being gay to my parents. It was a hard time for me, but now I don’t lie to them anymore. I had to lie about myself not being gay because I thought my parents would hate me for that, but I told them and I feel great about it. When guys or girls are gay, they have to lie about their true feelings and who they are because they think that no one will accept them for who they are.” — Ian, 17
Reason 4: Freedom and Independence
“I tell my mom I’m going to hang out with some friends— which technically I’m doing. I’m just not telling her exactly what I’m doing because am I really going to tell her that I’m hanging out with people she doesn’t trust, getting into a car with way more than five people in it, or possibly drinking? I don’t know for sure that I’m doing it anyway.” — Kyle, 16
Boys lie because they want the freedom to go where they want to go and believe they can assess danger and risk more accurately than their parents. For example, younger boys believe they’re better at assessing the danger of going up on the roof of their house to shoot water from high- powered Super Soakers at passing cars (“Mom, it’s fine, no one is going to get hurt”) because they haven’t seen someone get into an accident yet.
Your belief that they could fall off the roof or cause someone to get into an accident is needless worrying to them, especially since you don’t know how good they are at climbing on the roof or what a good shot they are because their plan isn’t to actually shoot at the car, just near the car. Likewise, using similar logic, older boys who drive or have friends who drive know that parents don’t want seven kids in a car piled onto each other’s laps. Of course, it’s against the law in many states too. But boys drive with too many people or get into crammed cars because they believe they know who’s a good driver and who isn’t and because they want the independence that comes with not relying on their parents for rides. Therefore, they believe they’re in a better position to gauge the safety of getting into a particular person’s car; parents don’t understand the specific situation, so their perspective is unreasonable. What’s scary about boys lying for freedom is that often they rationalize lying to you because they don’t want you to worry.
“Guys will lie in order to keep their parents from worrying. Some may see this as a positive aspect of lying because the guy is doing it for the benefit of his parents”. — Bill, 15
“When it comes to lying, I don’t like lying to my mom. So if I do something bad and don’t want her to find out, I’ll try to avoid her or the topic. But sometimes I do lie just so she won’t worry. I also lie to my mom when I have people in my house and she’s not home. And I lie to my mom about relationships sometimes”. — Vince, 16
Of course, the other reason why boys lie in these situations is that they know the possible consequences of their actions but believe they’ll never encounter them. If they’re thinking about their past when it comes to lying, they may be remembering the times they didn’t get caught and got away with lying rather than the times they did get caught and were punished. Teens think they’re invincible— or so adults love to say.
Undoubtedly this is true, but before we move on, look in the mirror. Do you talk on your phone or text while driving? Have you ever drunk a couple of beers or glasses of wine and driven home, even when your kids were in the car with you? I’m just saying that young people aren’t the only ones who are in denial about consequences hitting them upside the head.
Reason 5: Cover- up
“After a party, my mom will question me about what happened, who did what, or who was smoking or drinking. So I tell her, “If you don’t believe me, ask Drew” (one of my friends I know she likes). When I do that, I know Drew will back whatever I’m saying.” — Jordan, 15
“You have to coordinate with friends. But you only do that with guys who are really close to you. They’re sticking their neck out for you. They’re going to go down with you.” — Will, 16
What’s really important to keep in mind here is that most boys differentiate between lying and deceiving. Lying to you is clearly unethical and punishable. Deceiving is more ethically ambiguous because it relies on you making assumptions for which he’s not necessarily responsible.
This article was written by Rosalind Wiseman.
This excerpt is adapted from Chapter 6: Lying and Reconnaissance in Masterminds & Wingmen.