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A Lying 14yo Daughter

answered 10:45 PM EST, Wed October 03, 2012
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anonymous anonymous
My 14 year old daughter lies all the time, even for things that do not require her to lie at all. Like I will ask what she had for lunch and she will say a sandwich and then I will see the burrito package in the garbage...why bother to lie about something like that for no reason? I would say that about half of the things she says to me are lies. I am not joking. I do not know how to stop her and she can’t or won’t tell me why she lies all the time. She just says she doesn’t know why. It is not only at home either. She gets in trouble at school for her lying as well. I am worried that this is a sign of something bigger that is going wrong with her. Is this kind of lying a symptom of some sort of mental problem? Does she need to see a therapist?

David Johnson Says...

I'm so sorry that you are struggling. Some lying from children is normal as they learn their behavioral limits and begin to understand the value of trustworthiness. But a child who lies a lot is telling you something, in essence letting you know that there is a problem she is dealing with she can't handle alone.

Children communicate through their behavior. As they work their way through adolescence, they struggle to learn how to communicate their thoughts and emotions and assume responsibility as an adult. They learn expectations and how to negotiate compromise. By age 14, most teens are just beginning to learn they have a voice in their own affairs. At the very least, a 14 year old who lies a lot is telling you she doesn't feel that she can be honest with you. And she may not have an understandable explanation for this. She may not know why.

That is because we have two brains in our heads. One is based on feelings and emotions and is active in young children and slowly recedes into the background as we grow up, learn to talk, express our feelings and negotiate our boundaries and limits. By the time we get to adulthood, our thinking brain based largely on language has taken over.

One of the tasks of late adolescence and adulthood, is to learn the wisdom of our emotional brain. Our emotional brain was fully developed when we were very young, memories are recorded in the form of emotions and perhaps some vague images. That's why, through adolescence, we are often confused by our own feelings. We haven't made sense about what they mean. But emotions are compelling and difficult to ignore. Many of us grow up believing that our emotions can take control of us. Some adults never learn this is not true. Our thinking brain is mostly in control of our emotions with the practice we hopefully get during adolescence.

The work of feelings and thoughts together is to make decisions, judgments, especially social judgments, and to negotiate relationship boundaries, starting with one's parents. One way we begin to learn is by testing limits. That's why every child can tell which parent she can manipulate the most.

So your daughter is expressing her emotions when she lies, and even she may not know what it means or why. Your relationship with her is damaged, and her discouragement is spreading into her life outside of the family. You both need to see an therapist together and figure out what is going on. Bring her father and any other family members who live in the house, including her siblings. They may know something you don't or have a part in this of which you are not aware. Do not delay. What damage has been done is likely fixable now, but consequences get worse as she gets further into high school. I wish you the very best.

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Page last updated Oct 03, 2012

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