Have You Caught Your Child Lying?

Posted September 18, 2008 by

I guess this comes up because, if you’re watching “Nancy Grace,” or even just the news and have heard about the Casey Anthony story, you have a front-row seat to a family where parents have been listening to a child lie for, well, apparently quite some time.

But it shouldn’t take some perhaps overblown national soap opera to bring this into the open. My mom and I have both been called “reality-based” parents. Some people might think we are tough on our kids, or just suspicious by nature. (Both are probably true.) But haven’t we all seen families full of denial and enabling? I would personally rather have my son wonder whether I’d believe a given statement, than assume I will believe anything and everything he says just because he’s the one saying it.

What have you done when you caught your child red-handed (or “red-tongued”) in a lie? Did it matter if you had incontrovertible proof, or if you just “knew” it was a lie, or if it just violated all rules of common sense to the point that to believe the lie would have been insulting to your intelligence? Have you let “little” lies go — the lies that don’t really “matter” one way or the other — because you just didn’t have the time or energy, the appropriate place and time, to confront them? And only called the kid out on the biggies?

There are so many parents out there who think maybe their daughter might be pregnant, but the girl says, “Oh, I’ve just gained some weight.” (Apparently this was the case with Casey Anthony’s pregnancy.) And Mom says, “Oh, OK. Lay off the donuts, sweetheart.” Or Mom finds marijuana in the teen’s nightstand and when she’s told it’s “herbal tea,” she buys the story, or pretends to, maybe because she’s afraid of her own child, or afraid of finding out or admitting to herself (and others) that her own child isn’t perfect. That’s called denial, and enabling. It’s never healthy.

Don’t we all know parents who operate like this? Who will believe anything their child tells them, no matter how outrageous? And will deny that their child could be responsible for doing anything wrong, no matter what kind of proof is given?

We all do. It seems to me that some people — some kids — just gradually work their way up the lying ladder. They are seemingly believed for so long, by so many people, that their lies get more and more daring. My mom and I (and the counselor at our local middle school) say that, when you think your child is telling a lie, call them on it, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential it seems, right there and then. You don’t have to punish them, or hash it out, or make a big case about it every time. Just let them know that you don’t believe them. Simple as that. A lie can be inconsequential, but the truth is never inconsequential. I’m not saying that telling a single lie is proof a child is a sociopath. I am saying that letting kids think you’re not onto them is a mistake. Don’t be an enabler.

What say others? What do you think, and how have you dealt with this when you caught your child in a lie?


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  1. Mel Report

    Urgent worry. My just 19 years of age and she told my last night she was meeting up with a friend to say goodbye before her friend went to University next week. She said that she was not going to be late. By 11.30pm I tried to call her but her phone was not ringing. By 12.00 I was getting a little worried as she normally lets me know when she has got onto the train back home. At 12.30 I rang the mobile of the friend she was out with and her friend told me she had not seem my daughter for over a week and did not know where she was. I then began to get really anxious. I contacted another friend of hers who told me she had not heard from her but knows she had met up earlier this week with a girl she had become friends with on the internet! This was news to me. In the end she contacted us and arrived home at 1.3o with no real except that she had met up with this internet friend again in London and lied because she thought we would be cross with her for meeting people from the internet.

    She then said her life is now ruined as her friends think she had been stupied and it is my fault for over reacting! This is very out of character for my daughter, she is always upfront with things. I feel sick and worried as what to do next as we have a great relationship normally.

    Why she had to make up lies is beyone me.?

  2. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor Report

    Marie Helen: It can be so infuriating to be lied to by your own child. You are absolutely correct that the first thing to do here is to calm yourself down and deal with your emotions. Once you feel like you are able to talk to your daughter in a businesslike way, do so with the goal of exploring what happened and helping her learn a new skill that will help her in the future. It really doesn’t matter what time her guests left—the point is that she wasn’t to have guests at all. When you talk with your daughter, start by asking what she was thinking when she had those guests over or what she was trying to accomplish. Hear her answer—it will tell you what problem she was trying to solve (remember James Lehman says that kids act out because they are trying to solve a problem and lack the skills to do so appropriately). Once you’ve identified the problem, reiterate your family values, rules, and expectations that apply to this situation then ask your daughter what she will do differently next time and have her write down this plan. Perhaps your daughter loses the privilege of staying home alone until she follows the rules about having friends over for a week or two. She can then gradually earn back her freedom. I am including an article that talks about this more. You could give a separate consequence for the lie in the form of the loss of one privilege for no longer than 24 hours. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Risky Teen Behavior: Can You Trust Your Child Again?

  3. Marie Helen Report

    Your website was very helpful, thank you! After reading all the comments I don’t feel alone anymore. I have a 15 years old daughter who is responsible but I have caught her lying a few times. This week I called her to let her know that I missed my plane and we will going back home the next morning. She was staying with her dad and she told me that she wanted to go home, I am divorced and remarried, so she could fix her bedroom. I told her that that was fine and that I trusted her. This is the first time she has stayed home alone for one night. When I got home the next day I turned on my computer and realized she had forgotten to sign off from fb. There I saw the conversation that she had with her friend; the friend telling her that ‘they’ better leave before 1am, since I was getting home originally at 12am…………I found out there were two guys at my apartment watching movies with her in her bedroom. She told me they left at 12am but I have a feeling that that didn’t happen and something ‘else’ could have happened. I told her that I didn’t believe her, actually I got extremely angry!!, and I was going to check with security if that is true. Anyway I know that she has a low self esteem an that she is longing to have more friends. I have never set a bad example to her so I believe she is lonely and desperate from friendship. Next step? Calm down, and………………?

    Any advice?

  4. Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor Report

    Dear Miss Kay: It sounds like your son’s behavior has been very challenging. You can try talking to him again now that some time has passed. Be calm and businesslike. Share the information you obtained from the school on this issue and then ask him (calmly and with genuine curiouity), “What were you thinking right before you did this?” or “What was going on for you at the time?” If he refuses to answer the question, try a different approach: Ask him what he was doing that made him look suspicious to the teacher. The answer he gives to either question will tell you what problem he was trying to solve. Talk to him about what he can do differently next time. You might restrict your son’s electronics until this conversation is over and until he has written down a plan for what he will do differently next time. There is no need to give additional consequences at home if he already received consequences at school. He will learn more from this conversation than from an additional consequence from you.

  5. miss kay Report

    there are 40 years between me and my son; he lies everytime he opens his mouth i call him out on it, he says i am senile. he denies lying, it is a stand off. he has been in trouble at home for porno on the computer. now he is in trouble at school using their computer for downloading music & porno. last year he was caught stealing at a discount store. he got a fine and 90 days probation. he lied and said he did not do those things at school. i know he did though, he did it at home 2 years ago. ( downloading porno). when i tried to talk to him .he said i making too big of a deal of it what can i do.miss kay please respond with any suggestions.

  6. Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor Report

    Dear Michelle:

    You don’t mention how old your child is. For example, for kids age 2-4, lying is a normal part of child development. There is another article to read with more techniques to handle lying:
    How to Deal with Lying in Children and Teens

    by Janet Lehman. 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 in them or your disapproval. James Lehman 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.

  7. michelle cross Report

    my son lies all the time about anything. i dont no what to do any more. as i have taken him to see a childs sicolagest and he lied to them as well. i am at the end of my tether i dont no what to do anymore i need help with him.

  8. yankee girl Report

    i have an 11 year old son that lies about stuff he needs to do. like brushing his teeth, using shampoo on his hair, where he found something, it worries me so much. i am going to try the “what were you trying to accomplish ” idea. i do understand the pressure kids are under. i try to make it easy for my children to come to me. i say if you need help or dont know what to do come ask, i am here to help you, thats part of my job. it does hurt though , im trying to just take it one day at a time.

  9. caroleblog@empoweringparents.com Report

    Dear ‘Desparate housewife’:

    Parents often want to know ‘why’ kids behave badly but James Lehman says it’s more important to focus on their actions and not the reasons why. As long as you can identify the problem behavior, you can develop a solution that will address it. And you don’t want to keep asking her ‘why’ she behaves as she does because you’re actually suggesting she has an ‘excuse’ for her behavior. The question “why” doesn’t lead to a change in behavior, but the question “What were you trying to accomplish” does lead to change. Regardless of how she feels or is thinking, she is not allowed to hit or curse at others. When your daughter tells you what she was trying to accomplish, there’s an opportunity there to ask her, “How could you handle that differently next time.” She needs to learn to recognize when she is feeling a build-up of tension and anger in herself, and then tell herself it’s time to take a break and calm down. Consider putting aside the issue of chronic lying for the moment to help her focus on finding appropriate ways to deal with her strong, negative feelings other than physically acting out. James says that understanding feelings better simply does not lead to a change in behavior. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. He writes, “A child cannot feel his way to better behavior, but he can behave his way to better feelings.” Thanks for your question. We wish your family the best.

  10. Desperate housewife Report

    So what do you do when the lies ARE effecting everyone you love, my daughter has lied about everything from I gave her pills to sleep at night to I taught how to steal at stores vie never even taken her to. One year she was anorexic the next she was a cuttter ( there were never any cuts or marks on her) and this year we beat her. I cant even remember when the last time any of our children got a paddle on the butt. She lies on her siblings, she lies on her friends at school, she lies to get attention and I am so desperate to figure out why. She started this when she was about three and she is now 14 and with age the lies just keep getting bigger. We do have four children and we split our attention up equally but with my daughter no one is as important as she is, when someone try to talk or gets a good grade she can’t stand not to be everyones focus at all times so she lashes out by hitting or cussing or yelling at the top of her lungs. I’m afraid of my own child

  11. stressed Report

    I have an 11 yr old son who lies a lot. He just caused all this drama at school. He received an injury to his finger because a girl hit him with a book, he swore he did not hit her first and i believed him. I argued with the principal and even called the school board because i wanted this girl to be disciplined. Later on that night after drilling him…he admitted he lied and he hit her first. I am so embarrassed. now i have to apologize to everyone and look like a fool. i don’t know how i can trust him again. i punished him and talked to him alot about how once you lie, people always think you’re lying and how it is gonna take some time to gain everyone’s trust back

  12. Chocolate Report

    I have a 5 yr old that seems to consistantly lie about things. I think some of you are confused between a lie and a fairytale. Of course if your child says they played with a dragon then they ar not lying, they are using their imagination. However if you find a mess and your child denies they did it(when they did) then that’s a lie. I have learned that my 5 year old knows exactly when she is lying and she knows it is wrong. Some of us make the mistake of not giving our children enough credit for their smarts. I don’t even have to tell her what she did wrong, I just ask her what she did wrong..she will tell me. Then I will ask her what happens to children that do whatever it is she did wrong and she will give me a description of a fitting punishment. I have a 0 tolerance policy, 1 lie results in punishment. I only speak once and I expect immediate action. We also do morning devotionals to teach her what God wants us to do.This may seem very miltiary now, but I’d rather nip it in the bud at 5 then be dealing with a lying 16 yr old because by then the stakes are higher. Be parents and not friends. Every child is different. If your child is smarter than the average then your punishments have to exceed average for results.and be consistent. If you tell your child what punishment they are to receive then stick to it. Don’t let them off early or you are teaching them that you are not serious. Why listen to mom and dad if I can do what I want and still have the same privileges?

  13. butifulgrl Report

    I have a 16 year old son that doesn’t listen to me at all,he hangs around with the wrong crowd and they get him in trouble,now he’s in juvenile for three days,do you think those three days will help him? Iv’e been crying,crying,and crying over this my heart is so broken,because i told him how these guys were,he said i was only assuming,i really need advice,HELP please!

  14. Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Report

    Dear CowboysFan24: I agree that this seems extreme for a 6 year old. I’m not a professional counselor, but I have a 6 year old child, and making him sit and write “I will not lie” 100 times seems like an ineffective way to make him stop lying. (Also, I can’t imagine him sitting still that long! 🙂 )

    I feel like there is an age-related issue with lying. My son often talks about things he has “done” or seen, many of which are total fabrications. For example, he has an imaginary friend who is a dragon. I don’t think of that as lying — I see it as him using his imagination. So I wonder, at what point does “imagination” become “fabrication”?

  15. CowboysFan24 Report

    While babysitting my professors 3 daughters I was attempting to put them to bed. Now while the youngest had no problem with cleaning up and going to bed the 6 year old thought otherwise would take place. She started to convince me that she needed to do her “homework” for school the next day even though it was Friday night. I laughed at the fact that she tried to trick me and told me professor and his wife about it because I thought it was cute. My professors wife was very upset that her lying was seeming to esculate. Monday morning while in my professors class he said that he made her write 100 times “I will not lie” because she was caught in another lie by him. I found this to be slightly extreme especially for a 6 year old. What do you think?

  16. dlmiller1054 Report

    When I was young my parents taught me that you may be able to fool your teacher, parents, boss, the world, ect. But you cannot fool GOD! Think about it.

  17. Jack's Mom Report

    When my son (16) is caught in a lie, I now call him on it and give appropriate punishment. I was a pushover for way too many years! When he refuses to acknowledge a lie I tell him — You can lie to everyone in the world but you can never lie to yourself and you will remember it forever.

  18. maximac Report

    Reading all of this sounds all to familiar and close to home. My now 14 yr old son, diagnosed severe ADHD lies and steals as well. It started out when he was 3 & came to live with us (we adopted him,)he would lie (of course then, little things) and looking back it was his defense mechanism because he was afraid of his dad. It continued throughout his life, that pattern and now he’d tell you a lie if the truth is a better story. I feel everyone’s pain on here. I finally got a book that helped deal with this and Oppositional Defiance Disorder. It helped give ideas for discipline for such drastic behaviors. However, you can’t be lazy and you gotta be tough.

    I used to believe that this chronic lying was due to some deficiancy in his life, now I think it’s just second nature to him. Somewhere the “decision” to lie each time has to get derailed. Thank you all for sharing. I, too, have been at my wits end with this!

  19. No Where Else To Go Report

    I am at a loss of what to do. I have went and talked to doctor after doctor about my daughter. She is 7 yrs old and lies and steals all the time. She also has adhd. I call her on it and even give her punishment. The school will only work with me to a certain point and the doctors say that its because of her adhd. My mother which is her babysitter because there is no one else to watch her and her brother isn’t helping at all. My mom has done things and then tells her not to tell me. It could be little things like buying her something or letting her watch tv and play when she is grounded. I have tried to explain to my daughter that what she is doing is wrong. I have also made her take the stuff back that she has stolen but most of the time she is stealing from me and I have to find it. Her real dad has went to prison for stealing and Ive tried to use that method too. I am at a loss at what to do. The only thing that me and my fiancee can come up with is to send hr to boot camp and I really don’t want to do that. I love my daughter to death but I can’t keep going through the heart ache of all this. Im just at a loss and I need someones help.

  20. Keeping the Faith Report

    Thank you for your reply, advice and encouragement. Yes, I am extremely lucky to have my brother and my sister who has been instrumental in this whole thing too. My daughter did start cheating on tests at school and other homework. Shortly before I sent her to my brother’s, she started trying to physically attack me at home and then she would tell others that I was abusing her. She hasn’t been physical with anyone else that I know of but I felt that would be something she would start as she did start saying that she wanted to hurt people that made her mad. I had planned on reading that book when I ran across it doing some research on her behavior. I’m glad you mentioned it and recommend it. Honestly, I was half scared to read it but I am going to. I divorced her father when she was a baby and after reading the traits of a sociopath, I definitely believe he was a sociopath because he had every single trait of one and was abusive to me. (Luckily I got out of that after just a year of it) My daughter has never been around him but I read it can be genetic also so I am trying to learn more about it. My daughter has not stolen except small change from me and does not do drugs that I know of and I have paid close attention to that. She has no regard for authority though which really puzzles me because I have not been the type of parent that has let her get by with things or made excuses for her. Around age 15 she started disregarding my rules, school rules, authority figures, etc. I have tried everything to turn her around. She went to juvenile for running away and I will say that did scare her even though the officer said she did not act scared at the time. She told me afterward she did not want to go back and she did not like being there. I really think that has kept her from doing more than she has. She has threatened other things since then but made the remark that I would call the police and put her in juvenile again so I know that had an impact on her. What really bothers me is that most of her lies are about other people and she has hurt a lot of people with her lies and doesn’t keep friends because of it. She doesn’t feel bad for the people she’s hurt and always blames others for everything. My sister just sent me the transformation tapes and I am starting them. If you have anymore advice for me, I am willing to hear it. Thanks!

  21. toni vitanza Report

    No, good luck to YOU. You are the doing, it seems, the best thing you can do AND the right thing. If it’s working, keep up with whatever you are doing. You are lucky to have this brother. There are not many adults who would willingly supervise, gratis, an errant 17-year-old 24/7. This is a remarkable gift. I don’t know if I would tell her that the Anthony story reminds me of her behavior, but I am glad to see that that terrible story has some sort of meaning beyond entertaining the American public. I am curious: Does she do bad things beyond lying? Shoplift, cheat on tests in school, physically abuse others, etc.? I hope you have insurance that can cover mental health issues. I would encourage you to read a book called The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout. She talks briefly about how sociopaths, if directed the right way, can be very successful in jobs where they have less opportunity to do harm. But she talks more about how you can protect yourself and others from this behavior, which is much more common than we generally recognize. Good luck and I hope all of the parents in this link will keep us updated with how their kids are doing.

  22. Keeping the Faith Report

    My 17 year old daughter has been lying for several years now. From the first time I caught her lying, I have called her on it every time. I tried getting to the root of why she is lying, I’ve given her punishment, taken privledges away to the point she no longer has a cell phone and cannot drive the car at all. I’ve tried counseling, she’s been to juvenile detention center (and not just a tour), and it just kept getting worse. She lies when the truth would be better and about things that she would have no reason to lie about. And she never shows remorse for it and it is never her fault…always the other person’s fault. Working with a counselor, I am in the process of trying what I consider an extreme form of tough love. I sent her to stay with my brother who can provide 24 hour supervision because I cannot trust her in my house while I’m at work (I’m a single parent). It’s been 3 months since I have seen her and I am only communicating with her through letters. She is just now starting to break so to speak and is starting to behave better. We have put her on a merit system to earn rewards and hopefully in about a week she will have earned enough merits for us to have a visit in person. This is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life but if it helps her it will be worth it! I have been watching the Casey Anthony story closely and it really scares me because my daughter is very much like her. I am just praying that she will not turn out like that and that this step I am taking now will help her. I hope and pray that I will be able to give some good news or advice to someone in my position after some months have passed. It is also very important to have support and cooperation from family which I am very lucky to have. I think her knowing that the rest of my family stands behind me has affected her more than anything else. She knows she cannot lie to them either and get by with it. Good luck to everyone out there.

  23. Frustrated Incorporated Report

    My 8 soon to be 9 year old is having trouble with lying. We recently moved to a new area and this is her first year at the new school. She has had 4 letters sent home from teachers and recently 2 of them came in the mail because my daughter neglected to bring them home (purposely)! The letter was for her BITING a student (which she has never harmed anyone before) and she made up a series of lies (5 to be exact) creating a snowball effect! Just last week we talked about why we don’t have boyfriends and such things as that. She confides in me yet five days after this incident I receive word about it and she told the teacher many lies to hide all of this. She has lied before with typical kid lies (saying she didn’t do it and blame it on her younger sister) but never like this! We too use the bible as reference, recently she had to write 7 of the ten commandments to learn them all in by the end of her punishment term to help her make better choices (use as a guide if you will). We have always told her it is wrong and as time goes on the punishments get worse/longer (more privilages are lost and she’s now confined to her room w/o accomodations – radio, cards, things she really likes). She’s confined to reading only because she is a “smart” one who will sleep the punishment off to pass time quicker! So I keep checking on her to not allow her to sleep. She also had to write an apology letter to the student and teacher as well. Also the child she hurt is in her Girl Scout troop (which I just enrolled her in for social/positive assurance purposes). Now I am figuring out how to break the ice with the girls mother to break the ice before the next meeting. My daughter started out with being the new popular girl and now is being called “a part of the loser group” prior to these unfortunate events. She doesn’t like this new school now, she wants to be home schooled and I don’t know if this is a result of “new school blues” and “finding her place” that is going awry? I often thought to homeschool her for positive reassurance but the social aspect would be lacked. I refuse to pull her out to save her from dealing the consequences of her actions! We all have to learn. My way of dealing with this is holding her accountable making sure that no matter what she needs to follow through – the real world can be tough and you cannot ignore it – and that she needs to be honest for me to help her learn to deal with situations rather than lash out or run from it. Children seek discipline, routine and love. Though I have a “free spirit” on my hands, I’m trying to teach her that to over step boundaries is an unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Good luck to all you parents. Motto – “It takes a village to raise children.” – so use your resources wisely.

  24. Southeast Mom Report

    Sometimes children lie because they have seen their parents do the same. I’m not only speaking about the mom telling a fib about why she can’t volunteer for the school bakesale, or the dad fibbing to get out of a golf game with a slow putter. What about when children are told by parents that Santa Claus brings gifts to you at Christmas, the tooth fairy leaves money under your pillow, etc.? Bottom line, these are lies, too. And eventually the child finds out that “there is no ….” after all. At least on a subconscious level, I believe this can affect the integrity of trust in an honest relationship between parent and child. Maybe I sound like a mean mom, but because of this we have never promoted Santa (although gifts are still given) or the tooth fairy (although they still get money for the rite of passage in getting a “big boy” tooth) or any other fictional character. Something to think about, at least. Honesty, and learning to be honest, begins at home.

  25. Sue Carlstedt Report

    Yes, lying is a no-no in my house but my 12 yr old still does it, small or big. This morning she asked where I had gotten the science form she had filled out for bringing home a failing grade (they had a meeting with all the kids to work out strategies to bring their grades up) and I said I got it from the school (she didn’t know they mailed them out to all the parents of the students involved) and I said, do you honestly think that there is anything going on in your life that I DON’T know about….that is the point, be involved, let your kid know that you are involved, that you care about what is going on and that you will ALWAYS know. ALWAYS….then do it, be involved, know their friends, their teachers, their principal, know what they are doing, who they are doing it with.

  26. Christine Report

    I have dealt with my 16 yr. old daughter lying on a constant basis even when we have hit her smack between the eyes (so to speak) with the truth. She shows absolutly no remorse for being caught and continues to attempt to lie her way out of trouble. I think that she is totally believing her lies and it has even gone so far as when she was removed from our house for lying and stealing, she lied to the judge, the GAL, her probation officer and the list goes on and on. I have called her on the mat several times and it just dosent end. She is currently in a RTC and lying her way out of there. I love my daughter very much but have come to the realization that someone much bigger than me is going to have to call her on her lies.

  27. toni vitanza Report

    Jan in AZ, it has been a long time since I read a post on the website with so much insight. It is interesting to try to figure out why someone might want to lie, and your explanation was fresh and believable. It is also interesting to see how many responses have been elicited and what a big problem this is. To the early posters: A couple of things I will pass along…I’ve been re-reading a great book called “The Sociopath Next Door” that talks about how prevalent sociopathy is in our society, how it is both genetically- and environmentally-based, and how sociopaths are hardly all bad. Many become very successful people who do good (or at least, not bad) things, when they are given the right direction and structure. Two things I’ve taken from the book, among others: When someone lies when the truth would clearly serve their interests better, that is a big warning sign. And when someone tells you that it is YOUR fault that they have to lie to you, that is another one.

  28. Jan in AZ Report

    I used to lie to “test” my parents. Would they believe ME, no matter what? I always had to check where I stood with them. It was a child’s logic, but I regularly lied to verify that they trusted me. How could I tell them something true that might seem like a lie, or that they might find upsetting, if I wasn’t absolutely certain that they would believe me?

    My son tells the truth if it’s a situation that HE considers important, but if it’s just storytelling, he doesn’t think it’s important enough to bother telling the truth about. Unfortunately, what HE considers important, and what WE consider important don’t always agree.

    I never lied about things I thought were important either. Unfortunately, my view of important and my parents’ view were sometimes different, too. (Like where I was, or who I was with ALL the time–“Geez Mom, it’s a free country.”)

    I suspect my son lies to test us, just as I lied to test my parents.

    This is the big one: I also think he lies because he’s been disbelieved so many times that he tells himself “I’m just a liar anyway, so who cares? A liar is who and what I am.” How many times do adults behave badly to perpetuate their bad feelings about themselves, or even others’ bad opinions of them? “I’m just a fat pig anyway, so I might as well eat another piece of cake.” or “My boss thinks I’m a lazy jerk anyway, so who cares if I don’t bother to do all my work?” People will do a lot just to perpetuate their negative opinions of themselves.

    We “call each other names” a lot without realizing it. Name-calling isn’t just bad things we say when we’re angry. It’s a convenient description to say so and so “is a pathological liar,” and I don’t want to insult anyone who is merely trying to describe a horribly difficult situation, but I’ve caught myself referring to my son as “a liar,” rather than saying that he tells many lies. Even though it was true, I realized later that I was calling him names–attaching his behavior to his identity–every bit as much as if I had called him “stupid” or “lazy.” I am not to blame for his lies, but I am to blame if I call him a liar, and he does nothing more than believe me.

  29. JACKIE Report


  30. Rich and Tammy Report

    We have had an ongoing problem with our daughter counstantly lying. Sometimes I think she has gotten to the point where she can’t even make the distinction anymore, but then other times I think, oh yes she does know she’s lying. I have tried to teach my children to tell the truth from the time they were tiny by telling them that nothing they do is so bad that they have to lie about it, and that if they get caught, they will always be in more trouble if they lie. We’ve tried grounding, sending her to her room, counseling, we even sent her to live with her dad and stepmom for the summer. Nothing seems to help. She will take advantage, hide things and sneak around at every turn and she’s 16! We would really appreciate any suggestions. Thanks!

  31. Jo Ellen Report

    Okay. I understand that my comments about digging deep to find the underlying cause to lying sound simple and naive. And you’re right; it is. Perhaps since you’ve tried everything else, then maybe a trip to Juvenile Detention Center is the answer, and I’m not talking about a tour. If your teenage child doesn’t believe that lying is wrong and what may happen if he/she continues to lie, then that’s where they may be headed. If a child is lying, then he/she will most likely cheat & steal. And if they are old enough, then it becomes a trip to jail. And no matter what – – don’t bail them out. Enforce tough love here. Since they didn’t listen to you, then they need to sit in that place and have a lesson in humility by the people who teach it best —– LAW ENFORCEMENT.

  32. Cheric Report

    In one way, it’s good to know that I am not the only one out there dealing with this problem and in another way, it’s really sad to realize I am not the only one out there with this problem. My sixteen year old son is also a pathological liar. I confront him with every liar and he denies every lie until I give proof. This has been going on for years. We have tried everything from punishment to counseling and nothing works. I used to be one of those people that sat back and said that the parents must not be handling the situation correctly, or their child wouldn’t lie – what I said came back to bite me in the butt. It makes me so sad inside to realize that my son is a liar and no matter what I do, nothing seems to help. To the person that made the comment that you should dig deep to find out the real reason that your child is lying – Like myself, I am sure that most of these parents have taken every avenue to help their children including trying to find the deeper lying cause. If we as parents weren’t trying everything, we probably wouldn’t be on this site. Just watch the way you think, or like me, it might come back to bite you in the butt and you’ll be the one trying to figure out how to help your child and feeling powerless when you have tried everything and nothing works…..

  33. toni vitanza Report

    I resisted answering any posts until I read the one from Grandma. My heart goes out to her; there are far too many grandparents rearing children, and it is a sad perversion of the parent-child and grandparent-child relationships. (This is something we see in the Casey Anthony story, in addition to the issue of lying.) So I just have to reach out and give her a virtual hug, and tell her that her granddaughter is lucky to have her. I also have to answer Ann Marie. I don’t know who gave your daughter a car, or the keys, or the money to put gas in it, or to pay for insurance, or driver’s ed. Maybe she has a job and she has done all this on her own. In that case, she needs to find a roommate and rent an apartment, and NOW. Otherwise, you need to close your wallet and get those keys back. Your daughter obviously does not deserve these privileges, and I will be frank here: You shouldn’t have allowed it to have gotten this far. You must stop now, for the sake of your own self-esteem and for her safety, and so she will learn that these things are tied INEXTRICABLY to verifiably GOOD behavior…not just good, EXEMPLARY behavior, as in good grades, politeness, doing chores at home, AND PRACTICING HONESTY AND ACCOUNTABILITY. It sounds as if how you are handling it is NOT how it works. You are “embarrassing” and therefore she not only has the right, but the NEED, to hide her whereabouts from you, and you are supposed to understand and accept this “logic”? I’m sorry, but this is brat logic. I am worried that you are going to be in Grandma’s shoes very soon…rearing a grandchild. Please, please read all my posts on “abstinence-only” sex education, and take her to a clinic. Before her future, and your retirement, are both seriously compromised before she is mature enough to know what she is doing.

  34. Ann Marie Report

    Another thing: I have called parents to make sure she is where she says she is. Now that she is 17 and driving, she could be there but leave and go elsewhere. My husband and I are considered by her to be “embarassing” so she says she has to hide her whereabouts. I think it’s more like she’s doing something we would not approve of, and doesn’t want to face us about it.
    I have to admit that there are some things I would rather not know, as she doesn’t use the moral values we have shown her. It seems too common that they do different things than we role model and do not want us to know.

  35. Ann Marie Report

    How do you stop kids from lying? What makes them lie? It’s a lot of work to put the consequences in, it seems like they have to get caught in such a big lie that it will stop itself, like losing a friend or a job, or so embarassing that it may stop on its own. Once they are driving we don’t know where they are going all the time.

  36. Good Angel Report

    I am a grandparent raising my granddaughter, a retired teacher and parenting consultant, and shocked to find myself faced with a pathological liar in the person of my granddaughter. She has come by it honestly by hearing her Mother tell lies to her Father and vice versa. Since the divorce she spends her weekends alternating between the two and her weeks with me during school. She did not understand the games her parents play with one another until recently, but the damage has already been done. They have taught her that the way to get what you want is through manipulation by lying to make yourself look good, avoid consequences and cover mistakes. I have convinced her that I know the answer to questions before I ask them so lying to me is a waste of time. Her response is to get angry when I ask her a question she doesn’t want to answer. She knows that I know she wants to lie but can’t so she throws a tantrum to cover up her frustration at being caught. I respond with the consequences of her actions, the results of her tantrum, and the opportunity to stay in her room until she figures out what to do. She is getting pretty good at apologizing and telling the truth once she thinks about how useless it is to try lying after all of the drama. Once she comes to me and ‘fesses up, I tell her what she could have done to avoid the situation and the resulting consequences. She is getting better but she still lies to everyone else who doesn’t know her. Grandma.

  37. Ruth Report

    We’ve been dealing with lies for years now with our almost 18-year old. We’ve counseled her, told her we love her no matter what, and punished her with tough love. Fortunately for her, none of her lies have gotten her in trouble with the law or have resulted in physical harm to anyone, only disappointment with us, her parents, and a lot of mistrust. But no matter what the punishment/consequences, which we have been consistent to administer when she is caught (we’ve taken away phone priveleges, texting priveleges altogether, “going out” priveleges, driving priveleges, and now have parentally revoked her drive’s license), it seems she is still a pathological liar. She did better after some Christian counseling, for about 5 months, and we just caught her in a big lie again. Just when she was starting to regain our trust, she blew it. She’ll be 18 in 2 months, is a senior in high school, and we are ready to start letting her figure it out on her own. I mean, what more can we do?

  38. Bhanu Report

    I have an 8 year old and I have caught him lying many a times. I have talked to him about trust as everyone else has done in the previous posts. But I have also told him, that if he lies there is a big consequence to it, but if he comes up with the truth, I will help him solve the problem. He told me he was scared that I would scold him if he told what happened and that he was responsible for the mess. I am constantly reminding him we are here to help. Mistakes happen, its a part of life. Mom and Dad do mistakes too, and we work on our mistakes too. Its totally Okay. By telling a lie, you are running away from it. When you come up with the truth, we will work on solving the problem. Last year, he reached school a few minutes late one day. On the way back from school, he told me he was on time, when actually he got a tardy. So I presumed, thats the time he has to be in school at the most. This continued for several days, until I realized he has been lying all these days. I told him had he told me the truth the 1st day, I would have taken action immediately to stop this. That way he would have had only 1 tardy pass. He knows now that if he is running late, he will have to walk to school and mom wont give him a ride. So thats his consequence. Walking to school. That has got him going and he has worked on being to school on time.

    On other occasions, the truth would be discussed and reasoned out and we would work on ways to solve, like using words to describe anger and not hitting, reminding that he is the older one and he is the leader and if he lies he is being a bad leader to sister.

    On the other hand, lying comes with big consequences like no TV, no games, extra chores at home, extra math and english worksheets to work on, and so on.

    He is sort of getting the hang of solving a problem by discussing with me. So I guess it is starting to work in my family.


  39. jim wade Report

    First of all don’t make a big deal about it. Acknowledge that he know’s that wasn’t so and go to the next thing. Just let him know you know. Children has many ways of “getting attention”.
    Being 5 yrs. old, he has found a way to get your attention, by telling big stories.
    When our children were that age, we simply would say, you know there are no cheeta’s in Arkansas.Would be a response we might use. And then change the subject not making a big deal of it. You might try that for a while and see if it makes an impact. I’m sure he’s trying to get attention.

  40. Elisabeth Report

    I have a question for parents about what to do when you catch your children in a lie. Besides calling your child on it, what do you say to them about lying? What we’ve been saying to our son is “Lying is wrong because it’s dishonest. If you lie all the time, people won’t trust you.” He also has a hard time differentiating between lying and making up stories. He called himself a liar the other day, for example, because he made up a story about racing some cheetahs on the playground. (He’s 5.)So I guess my second question is, what do you say to your younger kids about lying vs. imagination/fantasy play?

  41. Tami Report

    We have a 12-year-old son who lies for no apparent reason. When we confront him, he adamantly denies it and accuses us of never believing him. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to handle this without him feeling rejected by us but still letting him know we want the truth?

  42. Teresa Report

    We have a nine-year old daughter that when she was younger, she always made up stories to tell taht were so close to the truth that other people believed her. Now she lies quite a bit, even about hitting or making faces when other siblings see her and tattle. She always comes back with “I didn’t do that”. Now she lies about bigger things and when we call her out she always cries and says she is telling the truth and that we never believe her. She has lied so much that we don’t believe her and can’t get her to see that she has caused the problem. It ahs become such a habit that she doesn’t even recognize that she is lying. We call her out on it every time we even suspect she’s lying and we usually are right after she finally gives in and tells us the truth. But it takes a while. We will try this and hope that it works better than what we’ve been doing.

  43. Jo Ellen Report

    “Blowing smoke” could possibly be a way for a child to get attention, no matter if it’s positive or negative. For some reason, that child feels a need the parent(s) may not be fulfilling. I agree—let your child know that you know he’s lied, that it is not tolerated and unacceptable, but perhaps you may need to question WHY your child has chosen to lie instead of telling the truth. Dig as deep as your child will allow to find out the core reason for the child’s negative behavior resulting in lying. You may be surprised to find out the REAL reasons.

  44. jim wade Report

    I’ve been fighting the lie’s for several years with my now almost 13 year old stepson and 11 year old stepson.
    My oldest is the worst. I always, no matter how small the lie, confront, dismantle and let him know I don’t buy it. We call it “blowing smoke” in our family.
    It is getting better, but it has taken several years of consistancy. Always let them know you know.
    If they get their bluff in, it just gets worse. Stand your ground. Be a role model. If you believe everything you child tells you, shame on you.
    Be realistic, you are only damaging you children when you do nothing. It is easier to let it go. Don’t take the path of least resistance. That’s one of the problems with parenting today. Some parents tend to do the easy thing and let them get by with lies and inappropriate behavior. Stamp it out swiftly and concisely. Remember, they are children and we are the adults.

  45. Chris Report

    Calling out both of my kids any time they lie works well for us. If it’s a ‘big’ lie, there is a punishment. For smaller, ‘white’ lies, a stern admonishment invoking self respect and their standing amongst their peers and parents is usually enough to get the message through to their busy little brains.

  46. Alice Report

    I just caught my nearly 14 year old in a whopper. He lies all the time and is quite good at it.

    I hold him accountable. I gave him some appropriate consequences, and explained to him that when he lies to me, I have my reasons for not trusting him.

    When I have proof that he is lying to me, I calmly let him know that I know and let him decide how he wants to live.

    I also have him read some Bible verses on what God thinks about lying, because really it is between him and God.

    He does not have my trust. He has earned that and knows he needs to tell the truth in order to regain my trust.

  47. Sheila Millen Report

    I agree with the lying and the need for parents to be aware. Kids by their very nature are going to continually push the envelop to see what they can get away with or not have to be responsible for something.

    Parents in general seem more concerned with being their child’s friend than being a parent. They demonstrate lying behaviors for their children and don’t follow through on consistent punishment (if called for) for their child.

  48. Julie Report

    I think it depends on how old your child is. With a young child, reality and fantasy are still all mixed up, so I don’t pay much attention when my 4 year old says, “Mom, there’s a dragon sitting next to me.” I guess I don’t view that they same way as I would a teen-ager lying about who they’re going out with, or where they’re going.



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