An Open Relationship With Our Teenager

There is nothing as valuable and precious as having an open relationship with your child. If a teenager is lying and going behind his parents’ back, it is a real travesty. While it is normal and healthy for a child not to disclose everything to his parents, a child should, in general, be sharing a basic idea of where he is holding if the relationship is the way it should be.

Contrary to what people may think, a child wants to be open with his parents and does not like to lead a double life. It hurts him to have to lie to his parents. So why do teens so often lie to their parents and do things behind their backs?

I think the answer is twofold. One, the child will no doubt consider what the reaction of his parents will be before he discloses anything. If the child’s past experiences have been negative, he will certainly stop disclosing information.

This is not to say that his parents need to approve and pat him on the back for his misbehavior, nor does the child expect this, but he does hope and expect that he won’t be rejected. He hopes that his parents will accept him with his shortcomings and continue to love him and be there for him just the same. When parents react with negativity and aggressive attempts to stop his misbehavior, it is a closed case. He will not turn to his parents anymore and is forced to live a double life. When parents ask, “Why didn’t he tell me?” they need to honestly contemplate how they would have reacted if he had told them.

Two, parents often make the mistake of not taking seriously what their child says. They assume that the child is manipulating them to get something he wants and do not take his words at face value. I believe this is a grave mistake.

If my own children tell me that they are not feeling well and are not up to going to school, I believe them. While I might be suspicious about their motivation, nonetheless, I feel that there is no way to respond other than to believe what they are saying. If I accuse them of lying, they will feel hurt that they are not trusted. It sounds humorous, but even when a child is pulling a fast one on his parents, he will be very hurt that his parents don’t believe him. I believe that it is far better for a child to “fool” his parents once in a while than for his parents to wrongly accuse him even one time of lying.

When children’s words are not listened to, it is inevitable that they will stop talking to their parents openly and honestly. They will resort to whatever it takes to get what they feel they need, whether by doing things behind their parents’ back or by twisting a story to achieve their desired result. They are not liars and manipulators. They are humans fighting for their own survival and needs. If the parents would be more in tune with who they are and what they need, there would be no need for this unfortunate dishonest relationship.

Parents complain to me about their teens manipulating them and going behind their back, but what they fail to realize is how they have inadvertently set up this situation. In order to cultivate an open relationship, we need to put in the necessary ingredients that allow such a relationship to flourish.

No price can be put on achieving such a relationship. It gives our child emotional security. It gives us the ability to support them through their challenges. May we have the wisdom and sensitivity to create this beautiful bond with our children.