"Thanks for your post. It gave me a lot to think about. The one part I am still unsure about (and I know I just need to take it to prayer) is about treating them as if they have lied even when you just suspect it. I find myself wondering whether I am unfairly accusing or if I am wrong when I feel like I am probably being lied to. I don't want him to feel like he can't gain my trust no matter what he does and that I expect the worst from him. I don't want him to feel like he can lie and get away with it either though."
I can completely understand your concerns about treating dishonesty when you are not absolutely sure a lie occurred. I have gone the rounds with that internal battle a few times myself. The only time I treat a suspected lie as a lie is when I am working with a youth who I know lies often. It is better to assume and mis-diagnose occasionally than to be too cautious and let a lie slip by. Each one that slips by is a positive motivation for lying. Also, a youth that lies a lot has to learn that one of the natural consequences from lying sometimes is that people will assume you are lying even when you are not.
In the past I have done two different things. The first thing is to just say, "Quinton, a few minutes ago you said.........that was a lie........etc." (Then I do a corrective teaching- the best rationale for not lying is to describe what will happen to friend relationships if your friends find out you lie)
I say, "you lied" instead of "did you just lie?" because it is much easier to see if a person is guilty if you present yourself as already knowing the truth. There have been a few times I did sense the person had not lied as well, because of taking this approach. I then tell them that they should remember they always have the opportunity to disagree appropriately with me. If I have felt their innocence then I accept their disagreement. If you ask the child if he just lied, he will almost ALWAYS say no. Saying no in this kind of setting is a very normal childhood survival strategy. If you asked and he says, "no," then where do you have to go? Most people end up arguing.
This is the approach I use most often.
Remember on my second CD I talk about the "brownie incident"? In this story I told how we decided that if a child "self-reported" and told on themselves for what they did wrong (or come clean) then they would earn a positive consequence or an easier negative consequence because "self-reporting" is such an important step to learning how to govern yourself. First a person has to admit their wrong.
When I am not completely sure if the youth lied, I say, "Just now you spoke dishonestly, you can either choose to self report and correct your statement and earn a shorter negative consequence, or you can stay with your statement and earn to follow through with our normal consequence for dishonesty. I then offer an opportunity to "self-report" and do a corrective teaching.
You mentioned needing to pray about how to teach your son. That is the best thing you could ever do! It is also good to leave a situation when a lie has just occurred and go to pray for direction on working with that one incident. I often go to the Lord and say, "I feel like Sherry has just lied when she said..........Could you please bless me with confirmation of the Spirit to know whether she really did lie?" Then I close my prayer and wait on my knees until I feel a yes or a no feeling. Great reminder! Prayer is always your very best source for determining honesty. The Holy Spirit can not lie.
Dishonesty is a very difficult behavior. I could probably talk forever about it, because I had so many youth come to live with me who had this problem. I hope this helps.