While it is troublesome to learn that anyone has not been telling you the truth, it is especially difficult when it happens with a son or daughter who is attending college. In our work as ADHD coaches for college students, we have frequently seen students fail to tell the truth!
Questions Parents Frequently Ask
- Should I just accept that my young adult child will sometimes not tell me the truth?
- Is “hiding the truth” or “deception” as bad as a lie? For example, when I asked my son how he did on a mid-term paper, he told me it had not been graded yet. I’m not sure if he knew it had been graded, but I found out that it had – and he made an F!
- My daughter told me all semester long that she had decent grades in every class. Yet, she failed three courses this semester. Is she a pathological liar? Do you think she can change?
- My son won’t give me access to his Blackboard (one brand of online college grade dashboards). So I have no idea how he is doing in his classes. He argues that he is an adult and doesn’t need me peering over his shoulder. Do other parents have access to college student accounts?
- Now that my daughter is in college, I am lucky if I hear from her once per month. She’s always “busy” or “doing homework.” I have a feeling she is hiding something from me. What can I do?
Reasons College Students Don’t Tell the Truth
Shame: Many students tell us that they withhold the truth or fabricate a more favorable story because they are ashamed. They know that their parents are spending a lot of money on their education. They feel that they are letting their parents down.
Punishment: Some students expect their parents to punish them if they know the truth. They don’t want them to take away things or privileges that create distractions. They don’t want their parents to set additional restrictions on their activities.
Immaturity: Many students are not mature enough to think through the long-term impact of deceiving their parents. They underestimate the extent to which parents might decide to monitor them even more closely.
Ongoing Bad Habits: Some parents tell us that their young adult child has a long history of withholding information or telling outright lies. The young adult tends to repeat these patterns until the “rewards and payoffs” are altered in a significant way.
Making if Safer to Tell the Truth
- Reward Them for Telling the Truth – Thank your young adult when they tell the truth, especially when they admit that they are struggling or failing in some way.
- Avoid the Shame-Punishment Cycle – While deception can easily make you angry or disappointed, this is a good time to count to 10 (or higher). Hit the pause button long enough to regulate your emotions and reactions.
- Apologize If You Have Overreacted – If your initial reaction was very negative, express your regrets for making it even more difficult to have a candid conversation.
- Look for Something To Be Grateful For – Rather than viewing the situation as a disaster, try to find “teachable” principles. This may reduce the likelihood of similar behaviors reoccurring.
- Put the Behavior in a Broader Context – Help your young adult child think through the likely consequences of being deceptive with friends and future employers. For example, if your daughter lied to her boss, would she lose her job?
- Stress the Importance of Timely and Reliable Information – Parents, coaches and others are in a position to help the student take corrective action. Get “accurate and timely” readings of how well your child is doing. Despite what they say, students are often relieved when their parents have login access to their student accounts. It helps to keep them honest.
Coaching to Help Rebuild a Depleted Emotional Bank Account
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey develops the concept of a healthy “emotional bank account.” It’s an account of trust, instead of money. The account balance is determined by how much you feel you can believe or rely upon another person.
By telling you the truth, your adult child can add substantial deposits to his or her emotional bank account! By not telling you the truth, your adult child makes substantial withdrawals from that account.
A coach who is experienced in working with college students and young adults can sometimes help bridge a strained child/parent relationship. And the coach can help a young adult make fresh deposits into a depleted emotional bank account.
For more tips on how to help college students tell the truth, please read Helping College Students Tell the Truth – Part 2.
To find out more about how coaching can help you and your young adult child, click on our contact form today to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.