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Son Lied About Where He Was Going After the Prom

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Recently, my 16-year-old son wanted to attend his high school's annual military ball. Since he had no means of contributing to the expenses, his dad and I initially said he couldn't attend. However, after talking with his dad, he agreed to get a job and help with the cost. The evening was to include a limo rental until 3:00 AM. We told him that he had to come home at that time and he outright refused. We found out that he lied to us about where he was going after the prom. One of the boys he was riding with told his mom that he intended to drink that evening. After several long hours of arguing, we refused to let him go. It was the hardest thing I've ever done as a parent, and now I'm wondering if it was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, we've caught him in lies in the past and we aren't able to trust him or his judgment. Did the punishment fit the crime?

A: I am not a believer in rewards and punishments as a means of discipline. Not allowing your son to attend this dance was not a punishment. It was a judicious parenting decision based upon his unreasonable refusal to return home after his limo rental concluded at 3:00 AM, and your discovery that he had lied about where he was going after the prom. In my opinion, a 3:00 AM curfew is very liberal for a 16-year-old attending a school prom. I would like to know what his objections were to that curfew, as I can not imagine any objections that would be justifiable. His lying to you about where he was going after the prom is a betrayal of trust, something that he has done before. The possibility that he may have been planning on drinking cannot be proven, but this other boy's confession to his mom at least raises the question of that possibility.

Your son has tried and will probably continue to try to punish you for making him miss out on this important social event. You will get over this bump, but I am concerned about his continuing need to lie to you about his life. It's very difficult for parents to give their adolescent kids respect, trust, and responsibility when the kids repeatedly lie to them. I would recommend a few sessions with a talented family therapist to help you and your son find ways to reestablish a trusting, honest relationship. Don't feel guilty. Feel concerned enough to get the help that your family needs.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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