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“How Dare You Lie to Me!“ How to Deal with a Lying Teen

by Megan Devine, LCPC
 “How Dare You Lie to Me!“ How to Deal with a Lying Teen

“My 17 year old son lies all the time,” a mother said to me recently. “He lies about his schoolwork, what he ate for lunch and whether or not he’s brushed his teeth. He also exaggerates to make his stories more dramatic or to make himself sound bigger. It’s come to the point where I don’t take anything he says at face value. He’s not a bad kid, but I just don’t understand why he lies so often, especially when telling the truth would be easier. What should I do?”

By acknowledging the lie without moralizing or lecturing, you are sending a powerful message to your child that being dishonest won’t get them what they want

Dealing with lying is frustrating and confusing for many parents. Unfortunately, teens and pre-teens often lie or tell only part of the truth. James Lehman explains that kids lie for many reasons: to cover their tracks, to get out of something they don’t want to do, and to fit in with their peers. Sometimes kids tell white lies to protect other people. I’ve heard my stepson claim a “bad connection” while speaking to a relative on the phone, rather than simply telling them, “I don’t want to talk right now.” When asked, he says he doesn’t want to hurt that person’s feelings by saying he wanted to get off the phone. Simply put, it was just easier to lie.

Related: Learn how to teach problem solving skills to your child.

Some teens develop the habit of telling half-truths or exaggerating about things that seem completely irrelevant or unnecessary. They might think it will get them what they want, or get them out of a sticky situation. Like many adults, kids can also be less than honest at times because they think the truth isn’t interesting enough. They may lie as a way to get attention, to make themselves seem more powerful or attractive to others, to get sympathy or support, or because they lack problem-solving skills.

Lying about Risky or Dangerous Behavior
It’s important to differentiate here between lies that cover up for drug use or other risky behavior, as opposed to “every day lies” that some teens tell just as a matter of habit or convenience. Make no mistake, lying that results in, or covers for, unsafe or illegal behavior must be addressed directly. If your child is lying about things that might be dangerous, involving drug or alcohol use, stealing, or other risky behavior, seek resources and support in your local community.

Why Doesn’t My Child Care that Lying is Wrong?
Adolescence is such a tough time: trying to fit in, feeling unfairly judged or limited, wanting to be seen as powerful even while you feel completely powerless. Teens and pre-teens are navigating some pretty challenging waters. For some, lying can seem like an easy way to deal with the stress of being a teenager. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, an occasional fib from a child is nothing to get too concerned about. Chronic dishonesty and exaggeration, on the other hand, should be addressed – but maybe not in the ways you think.

We talk with many people on the http://www.empoweringparents.com/How-to-Keep-Cool-When-the-Kids-Push-Your-Buttons.php who feel that lying is a moral issue. But even so, as James advises, treating it that way is not likely to help solve the problem. When your child tells a lie, giving a lecture about why it’s wrong is probably not going to help them change their behavior. Most of the time, they’re tuning out our words of wisdom anyway! On the other hand, if you feel that your child is making a habit of lying, you need to acknowledge what you see happening. Open a discussion with them and find out what problem they are trying to solve. Are they trying to avoid trouble? Do they think it’s easier to lie than to risk hurting someone else? Do they believe that saying something dishonest helps them fit in? When they answer you, listen to what they have to say carefully.

When Kids Lie to Get out of Trouble

Kids often don’t understand how hurtful lies can be.
Kids often don’t understand how hurtful lies can be.
In The Total Transformation Program, James points out that most kids lie because it’s expedient—it seems like the best decision at that time. Once you understand what your child is hoping to gain from lying, you can help them come up with a better problem-solving strategy. If your child is being untruthful to get out of trouble—for example, telling you that they took out the trash when they really didn’t—clearly state the rules of your house, and the consequences for breaking those rules. Remind them that they don’t have to like the rules, but they do need to comply with them. You might also tell your child that if they break a rule and lie about it, there will be a separate consequence for lying. (For more information on how to do this, please see James Lehman’s article Why Kids Lie and What To Do About It.)

Exaggerating and Lying for the Sake of Lying
If your child isn’t simply lying to keep out of trouble, you might have to dig a little deeper to find out what’s going on. Start by saying, “I notice that you often lie about things that seem strange to me. For example, when I asked you where the phone was, you said ‘I don’t know, I don’t have it,’ and then I found it in your room. You wouldn’t have been in trouble if you’d told the truth. Can you tell me why you lied about it?” If your child is exaggerating a story, you might ask, “I was interested in your story, and then it seemed like you started to add things to it that weren’t true. Can you tell me why you decided to do that?”

Related: Does your child yell, call you names or swear at you?

Now I realize you may not get a great answer from your child. From some teens, a shrug is the best response you can hope for. But by acknowledging the lie without moralizing or lecturing, you are sending a powerful message to your child that being dishonest won’t get them what they want. You are also letting them know that you are aware of the fact that they were being less than truthful.

Kids often don’t understand how hurtful lies can be. Still, you need to remind them that not knowing doesn’t make it okay. Start a discussion with your child about honesty and dishonesty, and why they choose to lie. And remember, focus on the problem your child is trying to solve instead of on the morality of lying. You may not be able to stop your teen from creating those every day lies, but you can send the message that there are other options available.


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Megan Devine is a licensed clinical therapist, a former Parental Support Line Advisor, a speaker, and writer. She is also the bonus-parent to a successfully launched young man. You can find more of her work at www.refugeingrief.com, where she advocates for new ways to live with grief.

READER'S COMMENTS

I loved the article, i read everything that you send. My biggest problem is getting my husband involved. He says that he reads everyting that you send but i am sure that he isn't -

Comment By : KLT

You mention in your article to avoid talking about the morality of lying. Well, I am one of those parents that is concerned about the morality of it and have noticed that my son is forming a habit of lying to avoid taking responsibility for things that he knows he should have done or knows that he shouldn't have done. Currently he does receive a separate consequence when he lies, however that doesn't seem to deter him. I suspect that in his mind he figures that if he can get away with lying more than 50% of the time then in the end he comes out ahead, consequence-wise. In your article you mention that we need to listen and figure out why our child is lying. That's all well and good but if the child is lying to avoid consequences for something else, what do you recommend that we as parents do to correct that sort of behvior, especially when we aren't aware of every lie?

Comment By : Steve

Well said. In my world (three sons aged 17, 13 & 11) it's very hard for me not to react to lies by taking offense. "How stupid do you think I am?" I learned the hard way, you don't want to go there. The advise in this article is excellent in dealing with lies from just about anyone. Thanks.

Comment By : Christine, Mom of 3

I have read many of your email articles and now for the first time disagree with you. If parents are not responsible to teach there children morals then who is? Parents must confront their children's immoral behavior. Obviously, we want to stop the lying but to remove the moral code to get compliance seems out of balance. Buddy

Comment By : Buddy

The Children in my house, my two boys, lie! The younger one plays this game runescape by Jagex and we are dead set against it! We take the computer from him, we have tried everything! He finds a way to play the game and lies to us about playing it! We are exhausted and don't know how to get him undercontrol so he is not playing runescape. We are exhausted, hurt, we have been lied to continuously, we need major help with this one. We even had our church come over and showed him how bad it is and he agreed which in hind set he would say he disagrees now. We prayed over him at the time and everyone was in agreement that he shouldn't play the game even the youngest son. But, to NO AVAIL, as soon as everyone left, he was back to playing the game runescape. I am affraid we are out of options and can not stop him from lying about him playing runescape the menace in our lives.

Comment By : rollinwithnolen

What type of consequence is appropriate for lying?

Comment By : nikki

runescape is the worst game! I wish there was a way to ban it. My son turns into a complete psycho after playing it. He lies, he is violent, he is rude to his siblings, his friends, us and even the animals after playing the game. I have taken the computer completely away from him. He is not to be unsupervised on the computers even while doing homework. After we did this he went through withdrawls! It was like he was addicted to crack!

Comment By : Parents with four

I am blessed to have a housefull of kids who help me find our who's lying. I usually only problems with the youngest. I agree with you al who say its a moral issue, but I see Lehman's point. If I howl at her, it becomes about me. If I act nuetral (even though it makes my blood boil) and just dish out immediate consequences, she thinks about it. Lying is selfishness, so why would a liar care if you are offended? It is also about control, I think that's why kids lie about stupid things. If lying is not given severe consequences, they will think that "it works" and carry lying into adulthood. So, for younger kids I take away all priveleges for a day or two. When they next ask for something related to the lie I say, "I can not trust you, so until you build back trust, no." For instance, my son downloaded nasty lyrics to some songs, so the computer is off limits to him for a year or more. For older children, who lied when they were grounded from boys and asked if they could go to this guy's (frm church)sister's party, I had them look up 100 scriptures on lying and truth and write a 3 page essay on it. Their eyes were opened. I also grounded them from all major school dances the rest of the year and made them serve at church until school was out for the year. I don't think they've lied again. The other consequence is that others lose respect for and trust in them. I think it needs to be pointed out.

Comment By : rm in az

How do you handle the argument your child starts because you do not believe their lie. When I open a discussion with him to find out why he is lying, instead of having a discussion, he begins arguing that he was not lying. Days later, if the situtaion poses itself, he will draw attention to a point to prove he wasn t lying. Most of t he situations is when he hasn't taken responsibility for his actions but rather try and place the blame back on me.

Comment By : A mom with 2 ADHD sons

I have a comment on behalf of this game runescape. This game has been in our household for a few years now and at first I was just as opposed to it. But since my son was so into it I looked into it further, It's a game out of the UK. You have to be a member in order to get into Member worlds. It's a game of acuiring goods and wealth in order to buy sell and trade. There are quests to complete which is a way of advancing in this game. However unles you are a member you can't go far. As long as his homework was done, he could go on until bed time. My son is a member and has played for hours, gone as far as he wanted to, and is borred with it. The game is not to blame, it's how you precieve it. I wanted to know what my son was into while on the computer, so I asked him to show me. And honestly there are a lot of worse things out there. .

Comment By : LAC

I had the same problem with the website Runescape. How did I get my kids to stop going to the website. I blocked it. Pretty simple.

Comment By : mamabear

I have a 13 year old boy who continually lies about everything! Nothing I have said or done will stop him from lying! He is completely out of control and I honestly believe that he has no conscience about it! I have tried all your tactics with the lying problem, but nothing is working! He also has ADHD, ODD, Anger Management disorders, Conduct disorder, etc. We have come to the conclusion that he needs help from a professional doctor. No one else in the family can control him and my husband and I hardly have any time together anymore. Our marriage is suffering! Our daughter cannot stand to be around him and is also depressed about our family situation. I live upset, depressed, worried, stressed out, etc. I'm at my wits end and that's why we are seeking help from a professional. Signed: Cannot live like this anymore!

Comment By : holding on for dear life!

Both my sons lie continually. The 13yr old is learning, however the 17yr old is not. We to are holding on with dear life. Nobody in the professional world has helped us. I think we are dealing with BiPolar. The 17hr can not drive because he can not be trusted. We point out every lie, we point out that it is wrong. I have showed scripture, and nothing works. NO consequence works, he claims he dont care and acts like he really dont. The computer is OFF limits unless someone is watching. Its sad to me. He not only lies to us at home, they also lie to teachers and bosses on the outside of home. My two oldest children have a hard time coming around because of the caos. "holding on for dear life" painted a picture of mine!

Comment By : DOT

I have a 16 yr old daughter(now in a RTC)who lies to "take the heat off of her", but she is so personable that most adults believe her. She has lied in a court of law without blinking an eye, and now she is lying about her peers at the RTC and they watches them spin out of control and everyone looks at my daughter and says how wonderful she is not knowing that it is she who started the whole thing. I find this unsettling.

Comment By : Sizrs

to dot: I have a 14 1/2 boy that does the same thing. He has seen a number of professionals For sure he is not ADD, but he has been diagnosed with ODD and mild depression. But we don't know why. He sabotages our family by hiding phones, keys, shoes, laptops, etc he also removing light bulbs. Wants everything his way and not want to follow any rules. We are at our wits end.

Comment By : heartache

* Dear heartache - While it sounds like there is a lot going on in your family, I'd like to address what you bring up - hiding objects and not responding to rules. If you know your son is hiding things, he may well be looking to see how upset other family members get while searching for their things. Remember, some kids get a sense of power by seeing how upset they can make others. Calmly tell your son, "we notice that you often take other peoples' belongings. That is not acceptable. If we find you have hidden or taken something that is not yours, you will lose access to your electronics for that day (or until it is returned). We are not going to argue or play hide and seek with you." Of course, only do this if you are very sure he has taken the item - you don't want your son held responsible for every missing thing. If an item is missing, you might spend a few minutes looking, but then remind your son of the rules, and move on to something else. For items you actually need - such as keys or computers, consider locking them in a closest or other vehicle; this will prevent a stressed out, time sensitive, frantic search. You can let your son know, "because you have a tendency to take things, we will be locking up certain items." You might even work with him on how to resist the temptation to take things that aren't his by saying, "what can you do differently when you are angry at us? Because taking our things is not going to solve the problem." As far as not following basic rules in your home, you might check out James' articles on ODD To create effective consequences try this one.

Comment By : Megan Devine, Parental Support Line Advisor

My 17 year old daughter lies about everything big and small what shall i do to help im tierd i have try everything possible

Comment By : concern mom

* Dear ‘concern mom’: There is another article on Empowering Parents by James Lehman about how to handle lying: Why Kids Tell Lies And What To Do About It, http://www.empoweringparents.com/Why-Do-Kids-Children-and-Teens-Lie-What-To-Do-About-It.php Although it can be very troubling when our kids lie to us, it’s also very common. James Lehman says, “Kids lie to solve a problem.” Sometimes it’s to solve the problem of getting into trouble or to not face what they have done to protect themselves from your disappointment or your disapproval. James says, “Parents should hold their kids responsible for lying. But the mistake parents make is when they start to blame the kid for lying.” He suggests that you try not to over-react to lying, but have a simple consequence when kids lie -- separate from the consequence for the behavior they lied about. Over-reacting and giving severe punishments will probably encourage lying to avoid punishments, rather than to discourage lying. Call us here on the Support Line for more ideas on how to help your daughter learn to problem solve. We’d like to hear from you.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

my 13 yr old likes to lie , cant live wiithout handphone and tends to have gangster's gesture....worst, the father couldnt control his temper, causing the relationship between them very tense. i feel so stressed at home. the home is no longer in harmony. one hand i am trying to use my paitence on my teens, the other hand, i need to talk my husband round so that his bonding with our son will not be erroded. but he is so stubborn in using his own way to control the teens. to the extend that he shouted he will no longer treat the teens as his son. i am v exhausted. i think, my main problem is that traditional stubborn old man...

Comment By : worried mum n wife

* Dear ‘worried mum n wife’: It is uncomfortable for all family members when during an argument someone loses their temper and says hurtful things. James Lehman recommends that if the parent loses their temper, they should apologize to the kids. It’s important to ‘role model’ how to ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again’. Kids pay more attention to what we do then what we say, so witnessing a parent apologize will be a lesson remembered by the kids. It’s not necessary to make too big of a deal out of the apology. James says, “Apologize and move on.” Dad could say, “Hey. That didn’t go so well. I apologize. I need to get better at taking a break to calm down before I get really upset.” Fathers of teenage boys are faced with a son who is changing in challenging ways. Their son used to admire them all the time but now has times when he does not value his Dad’s opinions or ideas. It’s a time of change for both of them but their relationship is still very important. We hope your husband will find a way to work with these changes and stay available to his son. We wish your family the best.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

13 yr old daughter and her friends snuck out of the backyard tonight - they were sleeping in a tent (they've done this before, without incident)...and were out front with a neighborhood boy. I was and still am so upset that she would sneak out - so many bad things could have happened. I talked to her about the fact that she's lost my trust, that I wonder what else she's done behind my back, and that I am the one who is responsible for her and her 2 friends and that if something had happened and they were taken, I'd have NO CLUE where to begin to look for them! She seems to get it, but how do I prevent this from EVER happening again...? I'm so beside myself right now. My husband didn't seem to think it was a big deal...if she had snuck out to go to the boy's house (about 10 houses away), then it would be a big deal in his mind, but they were just out front...and PS it was 11:47pm when I found her.

Comment By : Mom of 3 in Willow Spring NC

* Dear ‘Mom of 3 in Willow Spring NC’: It is alarming when you discover that your child and her friends are not where you expected them to be. What’s hard is not taking our kids behavior personally and going too far in our remarks when we’re upset by telling them that you ‘wonder about them’ now—what they are capable of and have already done. You don’t want your child to feel that you think ‘less of them’, that you think they are capable of doing bad things. Having your parent think badly of you can make you believe that you are a ‘bad’ person. Sometimes when you believe you’re bad, you act out that role. What your daughter actually demonstrated is that she’s capable of doing foolish things. Although what she did was not okay and was potentially very unsafe, it’s was also very normal in many ways. Kids break and bend rules all the time. They make poor decisions and take risks. It can be challenging to remember that many of our kids choices are not about ‘us’—they’re not telling themselves, “I’m not going to listen to my Mom”, but rather “I want to go talk to that boy in the front yard.” Remembering this helps us not take our child’s behaviors too personally. Of course, you still want to hold your daughter accountable for her decision and give her a consequence. You might tell her that because she made the choice to go into the front yard to hang out, going forward she and her friends will have to sleep inside your home. It’s very challenging to raise kids in this ‘day and age’. We’re very glad you found this web site. I’m sure many parents share your experience. Thank you for the opportunity to answer your question. Please keep in touch. We’re here to help.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

my child is a pathological liar, her friends have all left because of the lies, I am worried all the time and am concerned for the future. Could this be medical, some tell me bi-polar could be the reason

Comment By : parent52

Dear 'parent52': Lying in and of itself is not an indication of a psychological disorder in a person. Everyone lies at some point in their lives. In order to know whether or not your daughter is struggling with a psychological disorder she needs to be evaluated by a licensed mental health professional. Any evaluation should begin at the pediatrician’s office to rule out underlying medical conditions that could contribute to behavior problems.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

My 14 year old son has developed a habit of lying. He's even lied to get his 12 year old brother in trouble. When I try to understand why he's doing it he says 'it doesn't matter if I lie or tell the truth because you won't believe me'. My husband & I have always told our boys it's better to tell the truth than to lie because the consequences for lying is worse (and we've enforced that rule). Now he doesn't seem to care if he's lying or telling the truth and I cannot tell if what he's saying is truthful or a lie. I almost feel like I cannot trust him. Is that wrong? He doesn't seem to care about anything and it's very concerning. I don't know what to do or how to handle this situation.

Comment By : Concerned & Worried Mom

* Dear 'Concerned & Worried Mom': You probably couldn’t find a parent of a teenager who trusts their child 100 percent. There is always a balancing act between ‘trust and suspicion’ when dealing with our teens. Parents of teens usually keep ‘one eye open’, checking in and supervising them as needed. Even though we expect they’ll make the wrong decisions now and then, we want to convey to our kids that we think they’re good people who want to do the right thing. If your child feels you regard him as someone who can’t be trusted, it sometimes becomes a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy.” Some kids tell themselves, “If I get accused of it anyway, I might as well enjoy the fun of it.” Consider telling your son that you believe he’s capable of telling the truth but may have gotten into a habit of denying things automatically. Set it up so that if he lies initially but comes to you later and changes his story, then there is no consequence for lying. (He may still receive a consequence for the behavior he lied about). This method can help to change the habit of habitual lying.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I have a 13 yr old son (no father around...as he is in later stages of ALS and living in hospital...but, never really was that involved prior anyhow). I do feel worried and hurt when he lies. It's a feeling of betrayal...like I've provided so much for him, care greatly for him, want to help and protect him...and then he lies to me? We do attend a christian church and do participate in the joy of worship. I don't want to disuade him from this path, but will have to pray that God convicts his spirit about this. In our house we do have consequences. Oh..the many priviledges kids have today, that somehow we expect they should have and w/o question and w/o them earning it. My son has at present gone thru the first few warnings/strikes and thus has now acheived what we refer to as "the brick wall." He will not have his electronics back for a month, etc. and only if he follows "all" of the rules w/o problems for that month...otherwise...the time is extended. If I'm going to care about him...he needs to be apart of it...otherwise I'm wasting my time. ?? He has to decide to be worthy, if you will and choose either black or white and stop the guessing game I have to go thru while he chooses gray. In the real world people will not accept his lying or any other neg choice he makes, to which we have discussed. I am beyond lecturing him and thus consequences are his only response at the moment. It's what he's earned and he should have expected it. Hopefully, he will realize who he wants to be, how he wants to be perceived and which set of consequences he would like to receive...as there are "good" consequences as well.

Comment By : feeling betrayed

* Dear ‘feeling betrayed’: It’s very hard for most parents when their kids lie to them. They experience all kinds of emotions from frustration, to anger, and even betrayal. Author of the Total Transformation Program, James Lehman says that it is not useful to take lying too personal—to let your self dwell on feeling betrayed by it. It’s usually pretty inaccurate to assume the motivation for lying was all about the parent. Kids lie for a number of reasons, the most common being simply to get out of trouble quickly. Kids sometimes lie or withhold information because a parent would get extremely upset at the truth. It’s the same reason we don’t give a lot of details to little kids because they could not handle it. We keep details about death and sex for example from children until they are emotionally ready. James says, “Kids lie to solve a problem.” Sometimes it’s to solve the problem of ‘getting into trouble’. Sometimes they lie to not face what they have done—to protect themselves from their parent’s disappointment in them or their disapproval. Or they lie because their parents would ‘lose it’ if they knew the truth. It can take awhile for a child to learn that it’s better not to lie, but lying probably won’t go away all together. And it can take time for kids to understand that lying won’t change what really happened. James writes, “Parents should hold their kids responsible for lying. But the mistake parents make is when they start to blame the kid for lying.” He suggests that you try not to over-react to lying, but have a simple consequence when kids lie—separate from the consequence for the behavior they lied about. Over reacting and giving severe punishments will probably encourage lying to avoid punishments, rather than to discourage lying. Punishments should be very short in time, such as that same evening or afternoon, or the child could be on restriction or for the next 24 hours. We do not recommend a consequence that lasts a month. Read: How to Give Kids Consequences That Work. Lying is actually an indication that your kids know they have done something wrong—that they’re sense of right and wrong is working. Try calmly telling your son he doesn’t need to lie to you, that you can handle the truth and you are willing help him problem solve around changing his behaviors. We’re glad you asked this question and hope that you will consider using the techniques in the Total Transformation Program to give your family some good resources for making positive changes in your home.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

my 17 year old daughter is having us walking on eggshells she keeps threatening to leave home. goes out nightly she is in when we say but everytime mom speaks it gets into a row. wears way too much makeup ( i have to, not say anything but worry what people think now she says i care too much? she has stopped bothering about personal care and picks a fight with her sibling brother if shes in the same room she is very abusive oh god help

Comment By : dotty

* Dear ‘dotty’: You describe a situation where your daughter is using threats and intimidation to get her way. She threatens to leave home so you ‘walk on eggshells’. When you do speak to her, it ends up in row. These are tough parenting challenges. If you have not purchased the Total Transformation Program yet, consider doing so. It’s designed to help with the situations you describe. For example, James Lehman will teach you that you don’t have to get into arguments with your children to set limits on their behaviors and give effective consequences for poor choices. Just walk away from those invitations to a fight. Instead of arguing, you simply state the rule, such as, “It’s not okay to speak to me that way. I don’t like it.” At times when you need to add a consequence for this behavior, you can say, “Give me your cell phone for the next two hours. As long as you speak appropriately during that time, you will have it back in two hours.” Some other articles you may find helpful are: Masters of Manipulation: How Kids Control You With Behavior and The Lost Children: When Behavior Problems Traumatize Siblings. We appreciate the opportunity to answer your question and invite you to keep in touch with us. We’re here to help.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

Its nice to know I am not alone. My 15 yr old daughter has lied about everything from what she ate for lunch to how she got home from school. Its so frustrating! I am taking your advice and trying to call her on all the lies as I catch her, but like someone else said I will not ALWAYS know and she will get away with some. She recently told me that she get a good feeling when she lies and that she likes too lie more than to tell the truth. We are seeking counseling for her lying and hopfully that will help her. I am afraid that she will not grow out of this behavior and be without good friends.

Comment By : willing to try anything

i have a nephew living with us. he lies about everything, and when you ask him about it, the response is i dont know. he is 13years old. lacking attention at home, mom works night shift, sleeps all day. the nephew gets no supervision. now he leaves the house in the middle of the night, we think he spokes pot. you ask him why he does what he does and he says i dont know. i really would like to help him, but he does not seems to care.

Comment By : worried

I have a 13 year old son who also lies all the time, about what he has eaten, school work, household chores etc etc etc. I have over reacted as a parent in the past and have tried to change that. This year has been quite difficult and has brought out many things. My son feels as though no one likes him at school, he has only 1 friend that he just recently lost because he made a decision to follow two other boys that broke into his friends house. So now we have the police involved. I can tell from the way he carries himself that he has very little self esteem, he struggles socially. His father has been in and out of his life and I don't know how much of this is related to the feelings and emotions he has with this and how much is normal teenager stuff. I am really at a loss as to what to do. I feel he is completely unmotivated, and nothing I do makes any difference. To top it all off this summer he had a severe jet ski accident in which he was trauma alerted and spent five days in the ICU after having major facial reconstructive surgery. I see him stand in front of the mirror and look at himself - I believe he feels he will look this way forever. Is counseling my next option? It may be to late but I have an open discussion with him everyday now - about something, whether it be about lying, about the decisions he makes today will affect his life forever, about how to be a friend / good person. But I'm not sure any of it is getting through. I just don't know what my next step should be....

Comment By : Lost Mom

* To ‘Lost Mom’: We are so sorry to hear of the horrible ordeal you and your son have been through. As you know, teens feel a strong desire to be accepted socially and the typical teen is very concerned about his appearance. For this reason, facial injuries can be particularly difficult for teens. In contrast, it’s great that you and your son are communicating openly. You can certainly take advantage of his willingness to communicate with you by doing some basic problem-solving with him to help him learn some new skills that will help him in life. However, I want to stress that the most important thing right now is helping your son to deal with the trauma he’s experienced. Counseling can help, but it might not be your only option. We recommend that you see if the hospital that treated your son has a social worker that can meet with you and discuss the support options available in your local area. If not, here are a couple other places to contact for referrals:
Boystown National Hotline: 1-800-448-3000
211 National Helpline :1-800-273-6222, www.211.org
We wish you and your family luck as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

Oh wow, this helps alleviate my anxiety SO much! We just did these things last night, and what made the most impact, was explaining to my 15 year old daughter that yes, the little things DO matter, and reiterating, "We are NOT the enemy." While I find myself hopeful that it worked, I am more relieved that someone else is suggesting what we did! Explaining does wonders! :)

Comment By : cin

13 yr old step daughter whom ive been with since birth the dad and mom hate each other will not even speak on the phone so it gives her lead to lie at both homes and get away recently she sent naked photos of herself to a boy he in return sent them to everyones cell, she copied a pic of her onto a nude body off of a web site showed it to her dad n mom they believe someone hacked her, trust me this was her on these cell phones, i have no support no help. she cusses always has drtama and the parents hate each other so bad they paly one against the other and she gets away, they are ruining the child by there hate for the other, what do i do

Comment By : fedup67

* To ‘fedup67’: It’s so hard to be a part of a parenting team in which none of the members agree with each other. It sounds like mom and dad can’t agree, and you and dad don’t agree either. Unfortunately, you can’t control what your husband chooses to believe. James Lehman suggests that in blended families it is most effective for the biological parent to play the leading role and the step-parent to play more of a supporting role. What this means is that you and your husband can talk about some common goals you have for your step-daughter and try to set up some rules and expectations for her, as well as some consequences. Dad, however, would get the final say in decisions regarding his daughter. In situations like this it can be helpful to look into some local support, such as a local therapist, social worker, or even religious leader. Getting some local support can be helpful in learning some more effective ways for you to communicate to your husband about what is going on. Here are a couple articles for more information: “My Blended Family Won’t Blend—Help!” Part I & “My Blended Family Won’t Blend!” Part II. We wish you and your family luck as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

I have a 17 yr old teen that is so hung up on having a girlfriend and being all well too liked to being in a crowd where he is always having fun that he lacks doing his homework then lies about it he is the captain of the soccer team; basketball team; and does alot of volunteering through the church. but now he has found these new friends who are supposivily having him HOLD his cigars and mary jane and swears hes not doing this. how can i really believe him. i am furious, i send him to a catholic school and I am a single mom doing this help........

Comment By : kay

* Hi Kay: It sounds like you have a lot going on with your 17 year old right now. What we recommend is being very clear and direct about your rules around things like tobacco and marijuana use in your house; for example, “Having marijuana in the house is not allowed; if I find it, I am going to flush it”. With his new friends, it is not very effective to forbid him to see them. You can set some limits around his time spent with them; for example, you may verify that there will be adult supervision if he is going over to his friend’s house, or you may allow him to have one friend over so you can supervise. As mentioned in the article, if the lying is about things like illegal activity and substance use, those things need to be addressed with local supports. A helpful place to start is the 211 National Helpline. Here, you can find referrals to helpful resources in your local area. You can reach them by visiting www.211.org or by calling 1-800-273-6222. I am also attaching some articles which I think can be helpful for you: My Child Is Using Drugs or Drinking Alcohol—What Should I Do? & Does Your Child Have "Toxic" Friends? 6 Ways to Deal with the Wrong Crowd. Good luck to you and your son as you work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

Hello, I have a teenage daughter who abuses me verbally everyday. I pick her up from school and ask her how her day was and she says "who cares" and then I tell I bought her clothes and I want her to try them and she says "get the f. out of my room" What is wrong with this child talking like this? She constantly abuses me verbally and I don't know what to do.

Comment By : coffee

* Hi ‘coffee’: It can be so hurtful when your child speaks to you this way, and very easy to take it personally. James Lehman believed that kids act out because they have a problem they don’t know how to solve effectively. In other words, your daughter’s behavior is not a personal attack, but rather the result of a lack of effective coping skills. In the moment when your daughter is being abusive (and by abusive I mean cursing, name-calling, or yelling), the best thing to do is stay calm and walk away. When things calm down you can ask her, “What was going on when you cursed at me earlier? What was your reason for doing that?” Her answer will tell you the problem she was trying to solve and then you can talk about what she will do differently next time. As a consequence you can put a privilege on hold until she talks respectfully for 2 hours. The attitude (“Who cares” types of comment) should be ignored. Here are a couple articles that will talk about this in more detail: How to Deal with Teens with Attitude & Disrespectful Child Behavior: Where Do You Draw the Line? We wish you luck as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

Hi, I have a 15 yr old daughter and she lies a lot. We have her homeschooled now because she lied a lot about school. She lies about what grade she got in a quiz and I can see the grades. She also sneaks food up in her room and hides the rapers in the room. She also rides horses and she has lied to our neighbor about things. What do I do to stop her?

Comment By : Beryl H.

* Hi Beryl. Lying is an incredibly frustrating thing for many parents to deal with. Telling the truth is such a simple thing and yet many children just can’t seem to do it. It’s enough to make you want to pull your hair out. One of the hardest things to remember is that there is no “magic consequence” that will make your daughter stop lying. Rather, it’s important to help her develop the skills she needs to be truthful, in addition to continuing to provide a consequence for lying. We recommend using a standard consequence that you repeat each time, such as the loss of the computer for 2 hours. The emphasis, though, should be on talking about the lying and what your daughter can do differently, otherwise it is likely to continue. And don’t get me wrong, I know this is easier said than done. It does take a lot of time and repetition but if you are consistent and deal with lying in a calm, business-like way, you can see some progress. Here is another article about lying for more information: Why Kids Tell Lies And What To Do About It. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

i have a 13yr old step daughter recently come to live with me and lies about everything she got accused of stealing from her fathers work denied it and got real mad at the fact that everyone accused her so she said check the cameras if you dont believe me i did not steal it and she was caught on the camera taking everything but still says she did not do it skipped school and said the teacher is lying she was in class i ask her why she tells these lies and she says she is not lying at all and i dont even think that any punishment i give her is working what do you do?

Comment By : M

* To ‘M’: It’s so aggravating when you’re dealing with a child who, even though they were caught in a bold-faced lie, continues to argue that they are innocent. James Lehman felt that consequences alone are not enough to change behavior. It’s going to be important to have problem-solving discussions with your stepdaughter after she has been caught in a lie. For example, you might ask, “What were you thinking when you told me you didn’t take that object even after we saw you on the video tape taking it?” If she continues to maintain innocence and you know without a doubt that she is lying, tell her you’re not buying it and her privileges will be on hold until you can talk and come up with a plan for what she will do differently next time, then walk away. We also recommend that you give a standard consequence for lying, such as the loss of just one privilege for a period of time no longer than 24 hours. Give separate consequences for other behaviors such as stealing and skipping class. Here’s another article about lying for more information and ideas: Why Kids Tell Lies And What To Do About It. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

this article is good

Comment By : kris

Thank you so much for this article. We have been having a lot of trouble with our teenage son "telling stories". He exaggerates often and lies about the most trivial things...we just don't get it. It breaks my heart that I can't believe anything he says whether it's about what he had for lunch or where he went on his bike.

Comment By : RB

I have a special needs daughter that is age 19 but is mentally only about 12-13. We live in a small town and my daughter attends a different school than her brother but they socialize with the same people in the community and church. She will tell lies on her brother to his friends at her school. They always get back to him. For example she told them once that he was caught smoking (he wasnt) and that he had gotten in a fight at his school (he didn't). She lies to our friends and family about things that really have no relevance until people discover she has lied. I have tried to talk to her about it and explain that people will stop trusting her (I rarely believe anything she tells me now)and she will lose friends. But she continues to do it. My husband just wants to punish her and lecture her but so far that hasn't had any effect. We are really at our wits end.

Comment By : Sluggermom7

I don't understand why you don't address this as a moral issue. It is a moral issue. I am in my forties and I have friends my age who lie at the drop of a hat. If they can come out ahead by lying, they will lie. Why would you contribute to this behavior? Also, the whole "bad connection" lie: that is easy to address. For the most part, people lie in order to get something they want which they can't obtain honestly, or to evade consequences for something they've done wrong. They know it's wrong when they do it. They don't need help problem-solving, they need to have a conscience installed. Don't stop giving your kids moral guidance just because they appear to be "tuning you out." "Lying is wrong" is always a correct statement. Some kids might need to hear it more than others. (Of course, if you're one of the 60% of Americans who cheats on his taxes, or the 60% of Americans who believe it is okay to lie about a car accident, if doing so will help you to avoid trouble ... well, it might be a little difficult to sell the morality piece!)

Comment By : Kee

* To ‘Kee’: You bring up some very good points. We do not dispute that lying is a moral issue. The point the author was trying to make is that dealing with lying as just a moral issue without focusing on how they can solve the problem more effectively may make kids lie even more. As James Lehman states, “It’s considered immoral to lie. But when you look at your kid like he’s a sneak and an operator who’s undermining your authority, it’s a slippery slope that starts with ‘You lie’ and ends up at ‘You’re a bad person.’ I think that perception of your kid promotes more lying. If your child thinks you think he’s ‘bad,’ he’s going to hide the truth from you even more, because he doesn’t want to be bad.” It’s also important to recognize that as a child, one’s conscience, so to speak, is a work in progress—moral development is not complete until one reaches their early 20’s (though some people do end up with stronger morals than others for sure). That’s why it’s best to focus on the problem a child was trying to solve by lying and you named some great examples: wanting to obtain something they can’t obtain honestly or evading consequences. It’s most effective to talk about what kind of skills your child needs, like asking him/herself “Is this worth it?” in order to overcome that problem. You can read James’ article about lying for more information: Why Kids Tell Lies And What To Do About It. Thanks again for your comments and feedback. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

Great article. My 15 1/2 year old daughter is, im finding out, a real good liar and exaggerator. She blows EVERYTHING out of proportion. She tells her friends the truth, but then adds on all this extra "poor me" stuff. She tells people outside of the home that I don't care for her properly, meaning she doesn't get "things", there is never any food in the house to eat, her brother abuses her, I ignore her medical problems and won't take her to the doctor, etc. Im at my wits end with her. I try to just ignore her lies, as I know they aren't true, but its getting ridiculous. She is constantly manipulating people left and right. She is mean/bully to people all the time, so she can get her way. When I see the way she talks to her friends it really is horrible. She is in counseling, but that is a slow process.

Comment By : SINGSONGSILLY

I have a 20 yaer old daughter, who lies to the point of landing me in debt, I have done all the shouting matches to the nice talks to the I love you and always will chats, I got her a contract phone, for the bills to be paid by her, she hides the bills that come in my name now 3 months behind, I trusted her when she needed to borrow money to draw a little money out of the bank and she went on a shopping spree, I know people will think more fool you ! but I really do want to trust her, she is killing our relationship, now I dont know what to do, she walked out on her job, so now she is unable to pay her bills, feel like a total failure, I am so sad, do not think she will ever change,

Comment By : mum in need

* To “mum in need”: Thank you for sharing your story. It sounds like you have done much in trying to help your daughter out financially. I’m sorry to hear the outcome was not what you had hoped for. I can hear how upset you are about the lying. It’s understandable. Many parents would be in this situation. From our perspective, the lying is more about your daughter having poor problem-solving skills. Because your daughter is an adult, what is probably going to be effective at this point is focusing on what you do have control over, namely establishing clear limits and firm boundaries around what you will and will not continue to provide for your daughter. After a child turns 18, a parent is no longer financially responsible for her and any financial support you give your daughter is a choice. Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner give some excellent suggestions for establishing limits with your adult child you may find helpful in their three part series. You can access those article here: Failure to Launch, Part 1: Why So Many Adult Kids Still Live with Their Parents, Failure to Launch, Part 2: How Adult Children Work the "Parent System" & Failure to Launch, Part 3: Six Steps to Help Your Adult Child Move Out. Ultimately, you may not be able to change the choices your daughter is making but you can change your response to her by deciding how or how much you are willing to help her out when she is in a tough spot. We hope this information has been beneficial for your situation and wish you the best. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

What do you do if your child not only lies compulsively, but has also started stealing, and seems to be very comfortable in justifying the activity...and worse, seems to be self delusional...actually believing hes not actually lying or stealing?

Comment By : OhioStepDad

* To OhioStepDad: It is extremely difficult when your child is starting to engage in activities such as lying and stealing, and even more so when he denies doing these things. We recommend addressing this in a calm, business-like manner, and trying to be as objective as you can. Instead of focusing on trying to get him to see that what he is doing is lying or stealing, it is going to be more effective to determine how you are going to handle it when he does. James Lehman recommends in his article Why Kids Tell Lies And What To Do About It to look at lying as a problem-solving issue; that is, kids lie because they do not know more effective ways of handling their problems and do not see lying as hurtful. We recommend having a small, standard consequence in place for each time you catch your child in a lie (for example, losing computer privileges for 24 hours), and then moving on to what he has lied about. I am including some articles about stealing that I think you might find helpful as well. Take care and we wish you the best.
Why is My Child Stealing and What Can I Do? Advice for Parents on Kids, Stealing and Shoplifting
Kids Stealing from Parents: What You Need to Know Now

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

My middle son has always been the one who has never given me any trouble out of my 3 sons but now that he's 16, he lies about everything. He asks to stay after school telling me that he has a ride home but I find out its a lie & end up finding him walking down a dark road on the way to our house. This last time i came home to find that he wasn't home & his little brother didn't know where he was. I couldn't call him because his cell had been acting up so I saw it on the kitchen counter. I left going by the park, school, friends homes and I started driving back home crying & prepared to call the police, I'm on another dark road near our home & I see a shadow on the side of the road and its him?? I've given him punishments before but they don't seem to matter or connect with him. I'm a single mom, my 1st child is autistic but highly functioning and it took a lot out of me getting him through high school/graduation. I'm feeling exhausted with the 16 yr old, he's not doing his work and is failing half his classes. I don't know what to do, when I talk to him he doesn't seem to be there. My parents are old school & say don't spare the rod but I need help figuring out how to get him back on track for the sake of his future and my nerves.

Comment By : survivormom

I'm the parent of two teens. Both of them have lied to me at one time or another. I hate the panicky feeling when I find out my child has lied to me. BUT, I think it's critical to remember that their behavior is not about me. This is a teachable moment and I must do my best to teach the lesson properly. If I show bravery and calm, then I'm showing them how to be calm and brave. It's developmentally "normal" for teenagers to be less than forthcoming with their parents. They are suddenly learning to define themselves on their own terms, head toward independence. That task is somewhat incompatible with "doing what my parent told me to do". If I over-react to their actions, or make it about me, I've thrown away this chance to teach them. My job is simply to remind them of the negative consequences of not being forthcoming with the truth. I need to show them that when you are straightforward with people, they learn to trust you. If they lie to me about where they were or what they were doing, then I will need to restrict their freedom and ask many more questions in order to keep them safe. Those are the consequences of lying. If they are forthcoming and straightforward, then we can work better as a team to help them grow up. It's important not to call them names, apply excessive guilt, tell them they are morally bankrupt or mentally ill. If they believe my negative assessment of them, then I have failed to empower them to be a good person. Imagine if a toddler were learning to walk and Mom panicked when they fell down, picked them up and scolded them for falling, called them an uncoordinated fool. Would they learn to walk faster or become the most excellent walker of all in response to her behavior? My job is to tell my teen that I understand their impulse to lie, feeling like you want to get adults "off your back", that I understand where they are developmentally. Then I will explain why they must make the extra effort to be straightforward with me, friends, other adults and authority figures. If they are forthcoming, it will benefit them in the end because they will teach others that they are trustworthy. If they lie, as teenagers or adults, they will lose the cooperation of those around them. That being said, if there is a mental health issue, there will be multiple symptoms (not just lying) and it's important to let our teen known that mental health is MEDICAL, not moral. If brain chemistry is unregulated, it's difficult to "think straight". A trained professional must get an accurate description of symptoms in order to diagnose and sometimes this takes a little time to get it right. Kids with brain chemistry issues need lots of compassion because tons of homework, zits, social pressure, a teenage brain, wacky hormones AND brain chemistry issues (which they inherit, btw) is an awful lot to handle. We've been through it and it's very fixable. Sorry for the long post.

Comment By : Niklet

* To survivormom: It is nerve-racking when a child who has formerly been very compliant starts acting out. Although it seems odd that your son is now acting out in this way, it is pretty normal for most teens to start to separate from their parents during adolescence, and sometimes teens do this in inappropriate ways. James Lehman discusses these kinds of behavior changes in his article series about sudden behavior changes in teens: Sudden Behavior Changes in Kids, Part I: What Do They Mean? Sudden Behavior Changes in Children Part II: 7 Things You Can Do Today While it feels very personal when your son lies to you, chances are it isn’t. We encourage you to look at lying and acting out as a faulty problem-solving skill. We recommend having a problem-solving conversation with your son about how to act differently in the future. For example, you might say, “What was going on when you weren’t at home with your little brother, and were instead walking down the road without my permission?” Then, as a follow-up, you can ask him, “What can you do differently the next time?” You are not alone in that you do not see any changes in his behavior as a result of simply punishing him. The key to behavior change is learning to solve his problems differently, not in trying to find the right punishment. Sara Bean explains problem-solving and consequences in the following article series Why Consequences Aren't Enough, Part 1: How to Coach Your Child to Better Behavior Why Consequences Aren't Enough, Part 2: Making Child Behavior Changes That Last We wish you the best as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

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