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SvetlanatheGreat's avatar

How to deal with a child who lies a lot?

Asked by SvetlanatheGreat (213 points ) April 3rd, 2011

One of my daughters is 10 years old. She lies about everything, even if it is pointless. I am getting so sick of it and she is the only child that I’ve ever had this problem with. How do I make it stop?

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32 Answers

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DrBill's avatar

warn her of punishment, then increase the punishment for every occurrence.

atomicmonkey's avatar

Fight fire with fire! Tell her she’s adopted. But only if… you know… she isn’t.

I went through a phase like that as a kid. I was a creative kid, with no satisfying outlet for it – I always preferred my version of reality to everyone else’s. Her motive may be different though – I’d suggest looking at the lying as a symptom, and start looking for a cause. It may not be anything earth shattering – boredom, for example.

At any rate, don’t panic. I turned out okay, and hardly ever kill anyone any more.

SvetlanatheGreat's avatar

@atomicmonkey My daughter IS adopted, so that would a no-no. I have tried a lot of things already. She’s not creative at all, so I don’t see why she lies. I feel so bad for her because I think she has to lie to fit in with our family. It’s just hard for me not to panic because the woman we adopted her from turned out to be a horrible person. I just don’t want her turning out to be like her real mom.

crisw's avatar

Have you spoken to a counselor? This is probably a much better solution.

atomicmonkey's avatar

@SvetlanatheGreat Hmm… yes, kindly disregard my flippant ‘adopted’ gag.
Sounds like you may be onto something with the whole ‘fitting in’ thing.
Is she aware of the way her birth mother is? Could be that she has decided that it’s ‘in her blood’ and she’s self-fulfilling that. Which would be fine, because she can un-decide that kind of thing. So hard to say without knowing all the details.
I’d check with a counselor also, but definitely don’t panic. There’s obviously a lot of love for her (it’s proportionate to the concern) and where there’s love, there’s a way.

DrBill's avatar

Do not lie to her, you need to setting an example, not reinforcing her behavior.

BarnacleBill's avatar

What kinds of things does she lie about? Does she do it to get out of being punished? I never really punished my children at that age for what they did, but heaven help them if they lied. That’s not to say they skated through, but the punishment fit the situation. Tell her that it’s important for you to be able to believe and trust her, and when she makes up stories about things, then you have a hard time not knowning when to trust her and when not to.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I would look closely into what she lies about. Is it a family history she wants in order to feel secure, that kind of fitting in? Aside from negative things about her birth mother, do you have anything to share that she can call her own background that will help her build a sense of self, enough to feel comfortable that she isn’t “blood” but still part of your family?

If she’s lying about non family things then she probably doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere and is creating her reality as she goes. As an adopted kid within my own family, I know very well what it feels like to “come with defects” (unmentionable or disgraced family members). Fitting in somewhere you feel respected and not shamed becomes important in order to feel safe. If a counselor or therapist could’ve explained this to my family early on then I think it would’ve helped immensely. Good luck with what you choose.

cak's avatar

I worry about the comment you made. “She is not creative, at all and you are afraid of her turning out to be like her real mom.” (paraphrasing, of course.)

Certainly, she doesn’t hear this, correct?

Take some of that lying and help her be more creative. Give her a journal and turn her lies into stories. I think, like others have stated, counseling is something to look into to, at this point.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@cak: That’s the first thing that caught my eye before I started reading from the beginning.

AmWiser's avatar

There can be many many underlying reasons that a young child lies, and before other problem behaviours associated with lying come into play you should seriously consider conselling.

Welcome to Fluther KatetheGreat’s Mom;-)

Nullo's avatar

Try explaining, or demonstrating, the importance of truth and trust and how the latter can be destroyed by lies. Maybe tell her that, since she lies so much, you can’t afford to believe her, then match words to action.

creative1's avatar

Ok as an adoptive parent myself I have to say all children are creative and yes I am sure you are worried more about nature is going to win out vs nurture but you have to realize that everything you are doing and the love and stability you are providing her biological mother probably did not have growing up so right there that will make a huge difference in her life.

Now about the lying have you tried the following technique. Instead of accusing her you need to ask her, her own opinion so she can think for herself what is right and come to the conclusion to tell the truth even though you know you can’t accuse she has to learn to make these decisions to tell the truth by herself. When she has done something wrong she still gets time out even at age 10 but at least she told you the truth and praise her for doing so when she does. It will reinforce that behavior and tell her how proud you of, of her. I cannot tell you how my daughters face lights up everytime I tell her I am proud of her. That I think you can never tell your kids enough.

tranquilsea's avatar

My daughter went through 4 years of vying for the best liar in Vegas award. She’s a super sweet kid but the whoopers she would convince everyone about was just amazing. It really worried me that she was so good at it.

I spent that whole time outlining the difference between a story and a lie i.e. you preface what you are saying with “this is a cool story I made up” as opposed to “this really happened”. I had many conversations with her about personal integrity and being known as an honest person vs. a liar.

What ended up working was talking to her about why she was lying. She was lying because she felt her life was boring and no one paid attention to her. She’s the quiet one out of my three kids. She’s book ended by two boys who talk constantly. I had to make sure that I was spending one on one time with her.

Eventually she stopped.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Is it possible she’s lying because she’s not mature enough yet to see a hard line between reality and everything else? She may not realize that you see it as lying – she may feel she’s just telling stories.

I would ask her why she’s lying before punishing her – I lied to my parents because I felt it was necessary to protect myself that way (and it was…).

YARNLADY's avatar

We went through this with my oldest son. I finally put him in counseling when he was around 13, and the psychiatrist diagnosed him as a compulsive liar. There is no cure, and the only treatment is to help the liar develop some alternative methods of acting out, such as prefacing with “Wouldn’t if be great if…..” or “I dreamed that this…....”, and couch the lies in the form of stories.

skfinkel's avatar

Your question may hold the seeds of at least part of the problem. She is adopted, and different from your other, non-lying, children. She is the biological daughter of a horrible person. Fortunately, whatever she may come to biologically, there is much that she gets from you and your attitude toward her. Do you make her feel wanted? special? do you listen to her when she doesn’t lie? She is ten years old, still very impressionable, still lots of room for her to become a straight-shooter. But she needs to be supported for who she is, she needs to be loved, and she needs to not be compared to anyone else. If she has a predisposition to “horrible,” she still has much, much room for wonderful, if she is around wonderful. This sounds like a challenging situation, but I urge you to see the good in this young girl, and let her find you as her champion.

SpatzieLover's avatar

This sounds like an issue for a counselor/child psychologist to me. It could be so many things: her way of dealing with anxiety/pressure, compulsive lying, oppositional defiant disorder…

Maybe there is something at home and at school that is making her feel unworthy?

No matter what, if this were my daughter, I’d try my personal best to praise every single good thing I’d see her do. Hug & kiss & praise.

Instead of trying various punishments to force her to stop, have you tried rewarding her when she isn’t displaying this behavior?

Cruiser's avatar

Ignore her lies….IMO she is doing this to get attention she craves. Praise her for her honesty if and when it does appear. Tell her how special she is in your eyes when she is honest. She will very quickly see that telling the truth is much more rewarding than lying.

sisterofmany's avatar

How old was she when you adopted her?
I sometimes think people that lack self-confidence lie.
You say she is not creative, but I believe all kids are, maybe
she just needs to find a passion for something.
Also, connect her to other adopted kids, in a group maybe
There are lots of way to build confidence.

JLeslie's avatar

I wonder does she know things about her biological parents, ask about them, want to meet them? You mentioned you worry about a genetic factor, so are you saying her parents were less moral, likely to lie? I know several adoptive girls who repeat their biological mother’s past and get pregnant young and give up a baby. It is like they need to feel ok with their moms decision. If your daughter is aware her bio mom was a liar and irresponsible, it could be some sort of self fuflling prophecy.

This also could be simply a lying stage not relevant to her being adopted at all, or she might be a pathalogical liar, or she might be feeling some sort if grand empty feeling from being adopted, or empty and insecure just being a young girl. Hard to know. It seems to me you have to be sure how she is doing psyhologically in general, aside from the lies. The lies are likely a symptom to something else.

Is she very different from other family members in several ways. Her coloring? Her interests? Her grades at school?

I agree counseling might help, or even enlisting another adult in the family she might open up to. Kids many times simply don’t tell their parents their problems. Can an aunt or cousin take her shopping and to lunch?

Also, you must be very honest yourself during this time in my opinion. You cannot lie for convenience or avoiding confrontation. You cannot ask your kids to say your not home if a friend calls and you don’t want to talk to them, or not go to a meeting and say a child is sick when they aren’t.

FluffyChicken's avatar

first off; ALL children are creative. Just because her stories aren’t creative doesn’t mean SHE’s not creative. Parents making statements like this always put up red flags for me.

I used to lie all the time. I did it to get attention and because I wanted to people to think i was a special person. Every kid I’ve ever known who is a liar feels a need for attention. Most of them felt like they were inferior from their siblings or piers in some way or another. It is a sign that the kid feels bad about herself. Find out why she feels bad about herself.

Do NOT put her down, and don’t put her birth mother down either since she will inevitably see that as an extension of herself. Make sure she understands that she is loved, and make sure she knows that she is a special person! Also, make sure she understands how much you appreciate it when she she is telling the truth. focusing on bad things will cause more bad, and focusing on good will help her want to do more good.

If a problem with your kids is getting out of hand, maybe it’s time to see a counselor.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t get why everyone is jumping all over the snetence the child is not creative. I agree all children have some ceativity, but certainly the OP was just making a point that her daughter typically does not live in a make beieve fantasy land where she invents stories all of the time. It seems like she is jus commenting on the childs overall personality to say this lying seems out of character with her persona so far.

FluffyChicken's avatar

It is a worrying thing to say. If the parent says things like this within earshot of her kid, or even behaves like she believes this, OF COURSE the child going to want to act out.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

How long have you had this child – from birth or just a few years? Does she have a history of foster homes in her past? Is she lying to protect herself from punishment? What kind of lies is she telling? Big yarns about how her dad is the King of England, or little fibs like she didn’t take the last cookie out of the jar. When confronted, does she immediately blurt out a lie out of habit, even if it doesn’t matter, as you say. It could be a defense mechanism, in which case you should work hard to make her feel accepted and loved unconditionally to relax her feeling of impending doom.

cak's avatar

@JLeslie: It may seem like a simple thing to jump on; however, I think of my sister and I. A conversation that she’s never let go of, but I finally did:

Mom to friend: (pointing to my sister) This is my pretty daughter. (Then pointing to me) This is my smart daughter.

Both of us walked away, without telling each other, with the feeling that we were inadequate in any other area, except the one she mentioned.

When a child hears things like that, it can affect the way they see things and respond to things. My sister, she only valued her looks and I only thought I was smart – I felt like I was the ugly duck of the family. Turns out, my mom was truly trying to compliment both of us, but it backfired, big time.

As adults, we understand the idea of letting words or thoughts roll off of us, but as children, words can hurt. They can as adults, too.

Not knowing the full story, it’s hard to know what is truly going on. That is something that jumped out at me, and because she mentioned it, I responded.

JLeslie's avatar

@cak I agree it should not be said to the children. I just was not assuming she says it to the children, just like the child probably does not know the OP is talking about her child on a website for advice. I can understand pointing out what you have written, how it affects children to be typecast so to speak, but I perceived the OP as just trying to paint the picture of her overall experience with her daughter.

cak's avatar

@JLeslie: Very true. Sometimes reading too much into a question can be a problem. For me.

JLeslie's avatar

@cak Although as I think about it more, your point reminds us that it is important for the daughter to not become known as “the liar” in the family. Tricky.

blueiiznh's avatar

It sounds like she may be telling lies in order to feel of value or to have something to add to the conversation. It also could be out of competition or attention seeking.
Some children that age tell tall tales just to kind of “one-up” the other people and things they do.
So pay close attention to the types of lies and where and when they occur.
Make sure you enforce to her how loved and valuable she is to your life. Spending some focus time is really valuable to understanding this as if left unchecked and unreversed can have some huge negative consequences.
I hope you can reverse this bad habit.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@JLeslie it is important for the daughter to not become known as “the liar” in the family Oooohhhh I know a family like that. One daughter pitted against the other. One labeled the “angel” child the other the “liar”. It took at least a decade for her to shed that.

It’s difficult enough being a kid. Add to that being “an adopted kid” mixed in with biological kids. I’d be cautious about labeling any issues onto any child.

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