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Teens & Pre-teens Lying

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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Teens & Pre-teens Lying


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14-year-old wiith serious lying habit

Oct 2010

Hi, My step-daughter, 14, has developed a serious lying habit. ( she lives with us full time) It has been a long standing issue with her, but lately it seems to be that she is lying about anything and almost everything. She lies about big stuff...money that missing, who she is meeting to hang out with on Shattuck etc...and about stupid stuff that she get is trouble over only because it is a lie. She will walk away from us after having asked to do something, like call a friend, and if we have said no ( because of being grounded) she sneaks the call anyway. Then finds herself grounded for longer, or losing a planned activity over a seemingly small infraction. But because they come in such close progression and so often we end up extending her consequences. We need some more ideas about how to deal in the moment with her, and in the long term. We tend to just ground her...which in turn im sure makes her feel like she has to lie more, because she ends up being so restricted.

She is in general a good kid, but gets on these downward spirals more and more these days. She has some transitions lately.....started high school, new siblings, new step-father.But, her home life with her father and i has been stable since she was 4.

We are tired of grounding her, and of her behavior, and she is tired of being grounded. We have pretty open lines of communication about it....when she has ''snapped out of it'' she can talk with us about it and yet she just cant change her behavior in the moment. So, is this some sort of new developmental phase? Is she becoming a pathological lier? Is our plan of responding to every lie, no matter how small, making it worse, or helping to curb it in the long run? She thinks that because she in not having sex or using drugs her behavior is not that bad....even the lying. We feel that it is just a matter of time, that if she is lying about things now, she will be lying about sex and drugs soon enough. Any advice welcomed...and any recommendation for family therapists also welcome. worried step mom


Lying - trying out how to act and fool - what one can get away with - asserting independence by getting parents off your back - indirect disrespect for others to make yourself look smarter for yourself (Low self-esteem covered up with lies always backfires! Time will ensure that). It can be all of the above. If you have a complicated family situation, I would also add the attention giving component of lying once caught. ''Hey, if you are too busy with your life to notice/acknowledge when I'm doing/behaving well, I'll get your attention by messing up and getting you worried. Bad attention is better than nothing and shows my power over you. And I feel more powerful with every lie you discover and get mad/worried about me, because I never learned to build my self-esteem any other way. I had little control over the events in my life and I am making you pay back now: what it feels like to not have control over someone elses actions!'' A very counter-productive line of thought, but could be partially true. My daughter would do tryout lying at 12 years of age and when caught, concluded ''Just kidding!'' I kept repeating that joking is when two people laugh, not just one and I'm not laughing! It took a few months combined with clear warnings and a clear demand for her to respect us just like we should respect her, and she switched back to truth. She even admits her fault now when it could work agaginst her. However, I don't punish for truth. If something got messed up, I thank her for her honesty and we immediately move forward to look for the best solution.

In your case, the teen needs to be crystal clear why it is so appealing to lie and you need to find a way together how the teen can get this appealing feeling in even more quantities in a more productive way with nothing but good feedback. Otherwise, what's the incentive to change? Anonymous


Oh man, this is the EXACT situation I was in a few years ago with my stepdaughter. Very similar situation, all was good and then small lies started and then larger and larger until everything was a lie. It was so upsetting because she could sit there and have a great talk with me and cry and hug and later I would find out it was a lie. I was ready to give up.

It all came to a head when she let out to her teacher at school she had been molested years earlier by her bio mom's dad and had been told by her biomom mot to tell anyone. It was a sticky web of lies that her mom had created and even she tried to lie to authorities. A few years later our SD got involved with a much older man and we had him arrested (we had no clue - you would be surprised how much they can cover up). Because she was a victim of crime we got a referral to Clearwater Counseling in Oakland. They were phenomenal. They deal very well with teens and parents and looked into some borderline personality disorders (look it up, you may see some traits you recognize). We don't think my SD has it but that her mom does and she was picking up on it. The have some groups that deal very specifically with the lying, manipulation, attention getting behaviors and were so caring and helpful. She was able to see more clearly why she lied and how to control the urge to do so. I can't recommend it enough. Demi and Rachel were great. I was at the end of my rope I can't tell you how that kind of behavior can destroy family relationships and Clearwater intervened and saved our family. If you have more questions feel free to message me directly.


Pre-teen lying

July 2007

My child is nearly 12. She's been lying a lot over the past 6 months, mostly around issues of schoolwork and misplaced or damaged items (primarily clothing). I've always followed the general advice to make clear that consequences for lying will be more serious than for the mistake or wrongdoing at issue. In other words, I didn't want her to be so afraid of the punishment that she'd lie to avoid it. There's never been any corporal punishment; consquences have revolved around TV-watching restrictions. Only about a month ago did I start curtailing playdates and overnights with friends.

I've talked to her about each incident, why she lied instead of telling the truth (''I don't know'' is the most consistent response) and she always promises not to lie any more. That lasts until the next thing (sometimes only days later). I am at a loss to know what to do.

I feel I should add that I feel that at some point my daughter has to learn to deal with the consequences of actions -- that sometimes in life people will get angry at her for something she's done or not done. The consequences of mistakes or forgetting do get more serious. A future employer, for example, isn't going to worry about scaring her if he or she is angry because she's missed a deadline or lost a key document.

I'd appreciate suggestions on how to handle both the lying and guiding my daughter in learning to deal with... well, frankly, life. Worried Mom


I would be concerned about what is going on with her school activities, friendships, activities that might be influencing her. I know that I started a down-hill trend in the 8th grade; got involved with who I thought were the ''cool'' kids, started cutting classes, skipped piano lessons, etcetera. I ended up dropping out of high school and I won't even go into what trouble I ultimately got in to. The point is, is your daugher lying because she's going through a phase? Or is she lying because she's being influenced by peer pressure and other things at school? The end result is that you need to be mindful that her lying might not be something simple, that it might require you to get more involved with what's going on with her -- and that her lying might be a lot more than simply ''lies'' -- it might have to do with what she's getting involved with in her school life. On the bright side, maybe she's just acting out, and you should just be strict but open to communication (which you must be, no matter what she's going through). Good luck. Anon
This looks like a perfect place to use ''love and Logic'' techniques. I don't actually like the techniques for my child (who is 6), but the techniques really deal with the natural consequences of choices,and really work to get your child to understand responsibility. Just google love and logic. They have a book, an email that comes out every week, and apparently they have a session that you can attend. A friend of mine loves it. good luck
I wonder if there isn't something else going on with your daughter. Have you gone down the ''check list?'' Unusual stressors, changes in the home, school, or any other event or situation that could cause this reaction? I bet she is a pretty sweet kid... anon

6th grader lying

Oct 2006

We're catching our daughter, a 6th grader, lying a lot lately. Mostly, she's lying to try to avoid getting in trouble for something she's done that she knows is wrong or about homework. What's been a little disturbing, is how easily she does it. She doesn't seem to think twice about it-- there is no hesitation. We've done some reflecting about how we might be contributing to the problem and over the last several weeks have tried to make sure we don't overreact to issues, one of the ways we thought we might be contributing to it. Rather than get better, it only got worse. We think we're catching her most of the time, but who knows. Any ideas? I'd love to hear from parents who found things that worked. Oakland parent


I went through this myself around that age, and it drove my parents crazy (and eventually got me in big trouble and I was put in therapy for a year). Over the years I have tried to understand it, and I think it was both a desire to avoid getting in trouble (which was a big deal in our household) and an inability to admit mistakes. I can't say I outgrew it easily, I think it would have helped tremendously to have parents who tried to really understand the behavior. So my only advice is keep trying to find ways to make it easier for your daughter to tell you the truth, especially if she has made a mistake. Try to examine how you react when you make a mistake - do you admit it to her, let her see how you take responsibility for it?

Lying can become second-nature, and it's not a healthy habit to develop. Try to talk with your daughter about how it makes her feel to lie, and how it would be different if she could be honest. Ask her what would help her be comfortable being honest with you.

My parents tried the approach of making me ''earn back'' their trust. I think that backfired somewhat, I just felt on the defensive all the time. Only an environment of trust will foster a child's honesty, and you will need to find a way to punish her for specific lies (however you do that) without resorting to calling her a ''liar'' or telling her that you don't believe anything she says anon


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