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Top 10 Things To Never Believe From Your Teenager

1) It's not my (pot, beer, cigarettes, etc.), I'm just keeping it for someone else.

Yeah right. The next question for the parent to ask is, "If you are keeping this for your friend, what is your friend keeping for you?" One of the reasons parents can get fooled here is that you so desperately want to believe that it is not theirs and they are not doing drugs. It's important to remember that this is something your teen might be counting on.

2) When caught with drugs - This is just the first time I've tried it.

Unlikely. Usually when kids get caught with and/or using some drugs, they have been doing it awhile. They have simply slipped up, gotten caught, and are trying to find a quick way out of it.

3) We don' have homework in that class

Sometimes this is true. Or they have already done it at school. Often times it's a good excuse for not doing homework, or for covering up for skipping class. Either way, it's one of the easiest to check out by talking with the teacher. Which parents need to be doing anyway.

4) The teacher doesn't like me

Maybe so. This is usually just a handy excuse for bad grades or getting in trouble. Either way, it's the kid's job to find a way to make it work, even if the teacher doesn't like them. It's simply practice for the real world, where not everyone is going to like you; sometimes even bosses or co-workers. The interesting thing about this one is the teens solution to the problem. It goes something like this - "Well, the teacher doesn't like me, so I'll show them by flunking the class." And who is this hurting?

5) Of course there will be parents at the party

The answer to this one is, "If that's true, then you certainly won't mind me calling up your friend's parents to see if there is anything I can do to help."

6) Everyone else gets to do it, so why can't I?

Another popular one designed to make parents feel guilty and old fashioned, so they will give in to something they think is wrong. My mother had a wonderfully confusing answer to this one; "If everyone else stood on their head in the middle of the street at three in the morning in their underwear, would you?" Probably would have.

7) Everyone drinks and smokes. There's not a single person my age who doesn't.

Many, many teenagers do. But not each and every one. I know of plenty who do not and have a very good time with what they do. Another one designed to get parents to tolerate behavior they don't like.

8) If you let me off just this once, I'll promise I'll never do it again.

Another one parents want so badly to believe. Unfortunately, what the teenager usually learns here is that the parent really doesn't mean it about consequences. While in some ways it might be easier to let them off the hook, it teaches very little about the real world.

9 & 10) Give me one good reason why I can't do that!

This one gets two places because it is so common and so important. The crucial part not to believe here is that they are really asking for a legitimate answer to the question. After giving a well reasoned adult answer, here is something you will not hear from your teenager, "Well, thank you for explaining it that way to me folks! And now that you have, not only do I no longer what to do that, I'm embarrassed and ashamed for asking. Please forgive me and good night." If your teen ever says this, call me quickly, something is really wrong!

Jeff Herring, MS, LMFT, is a marriage and family therapist specializing in working with teenagers and their parents. A nationally syndicated relationship columnist and speaker, Jeff is also the founder and CEO of, where you can subscribe to his f'ree internet newsletter "ParentingYourTeenager." E-mail Jeff at

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