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Teenage Daughter Fears She’s a Compulsive Liar

Question:

My 13-year-old daughter fears that she is a compulsive liar. She has told her mother and me that she lies to her friends at school about things such as where she was born. She wants to see a counselor about the problem, and her mother and I have agreed to take her, but should we be concerned? We have caught her in a few lies around the house on rare occasions, never about anything of a serious nature. What should I do to help her with this?

Answer:

Thanks for contacting us. It's great that you and your wife are listening to your daughter and validating her concerns about lying. You said you have caught your daughter in a few lies at home. It's normal for you to feel concerned since honesty is such an important virtue. What does your daughter lie about? Who is she dishonest with in your home? Is there a negative consequence tied in with teaching the importance of honesty?

Teenagers and younger children often have difficulty telling the truth. They usually are attempting to avoid conflict, punishment or embarrassment. This may also mean that they do not tell you the whole story in order to avoid information that may get them in trouble. It is easier for them to tell a lie than to admit responsibility for their behavior.

Something to bear in mind when talking to your daughter is to keep your questions neutral. Don't make accusations or interrogate her as this can back her into a corner, and she may resort to lying in order to avoid punishment. It's important that you and your wife work as a team by consistently using and enforcing consequences which can help change your daughter's behaviors. Loss of a privilege or the addition of a work chore are examples of negative consequences.

It's great that your daughter took the initiative to request help. Counselors can help with lying issues and offer your daughter additional support. Is there a school counselor she can talk to? If not, we can find counseling referrals for you in your area.

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