Six-Year Old Has Discovered Lying -- Strategies for Dealing
December 9, 2014 7:03 AM   Subscribe

Our otherwise delightful six-year-old daughter has begun to tell an increasing number of lies over the past 6-7 months. The lies tend toward the lazy, (e.g., "yeah, I've already done my homework") rather than malicious or fantastical, but the frequency and ease with which she dashes them off is alarming -- as is her increased propensity for fabricating more elaborate tales. I know some lying by kids is to be expected (I certainly was no saint at that age), but do any parents out there have any winning strategies to help deal with this?

I know that all kids lie -- it's part of growing up and learning boundaries. But our first-grade daughter has begun to really test our patience, and is damaging her credibility in the process.

It started with simple things like claiming she had washed her hands after using the bathroom, when she clearly had not, or falsely claiming that she had cleaned her room as we had asked. However, a few weeks ago we noticed she had not brought home any math or reading homework (a very light but daily load at her school) for several days, and she claimed that the teacher hadn't handed any out because they were having standardized tests that week. But during a routine conversation with her teacher early the next week, the teacher told us that although they had had a single test in the middle of the week, she had indeed been handing out homework -- and our daughter hadn't turned it in. After some investigation, it turned out she had been throwing it away unfinished, because, as she later said: "I don't like homework." The next day she was caught in another lie when she made up a fantastical story about how her class had done well in some fundraising event, so all the kids were asked to bring candy to school. This sounded suspicious, so we again checked with the teacher, who claimed there was nothing of the sort going on. Our daughter is a very good student, so I'm not concerned that there is a learning issue going on with the homework -- it truly seemed to her to be a good solution for not having to do an onerous task. There have been similar lies since, at least one involving a call home from school to confirm our daughter's false claim that we had told her to go home with her friend on her friend's bus.

So the lies have progressed from merely lazy to actually fabricating stories to get what she wants (or get out of doing something she dislikes). We've tried to explain the concept of credibility to her and how important it is for us and other adults to be able to trust what she says, and we've also doled out punishments for her recent untruths -- but the punishments (reduced privileges, extra chores, losing a toy) don't seem to have much effect. Talking about it with her and explaining the ramifications has not yielded positive results, either, nor have we been able to uncover any cause to believe that she is having a hard time socially or emotionally that may be a contributing factor.

I know in the scheme of things this isn't a huge deal, but I'd like to instill in my daughter the value of credibility. I've tried to do so by stressing that if something bad really did happen, it would be horrible if people didn't believe her because of her known history of fabricating stories, but like pretty much all kids that age, she just shrugs and waits for me to be done yapping.

Any parents have any successful strategies for helping curb lying, especially for kids in the 6-9 year-old range?
posted by GorgeousPorridge to Human Relations (31 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I can't remember many details but I believe 'NurtureShock' had an entire chapter on lying that might be helpful.
posted by bq at 7:05 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

We had a phase of this with our younger daughter and I think the things that made a difference were catching her out "red handed" - that really upset her because she couldn't mentally square the lie away when it was right in front of her - and then explaining that we needed to know she was telling the truth so that we could trust her when she told us something. Trust and breach of trust seemed to be the thing she responded to because we explained that if we (eg) couldn't trust her to brush her teeth on her own then we'd have to supervise her like she was a little girl again - she did not like that idea at all. I'm not saying it magically fixed the problem, but once she'd been caught out a couple of times and we followed through with a consequence that showed she had to earn our trust back then she improved quickly.
posted by crocomancer at 7:13 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm not a parent. Instead, I was one of the kids who lied all the time. My lies, like your daughter's tended to involve school or petty things that mean more to you than they do to her. I lied to assert myself, because more constructive means of self-assertion failed.

I knew damned well that neither my parents nor the people running the school cared whether I wanted to be in school at all, let alone spend my nights on homework that was nothing but busywork because I had already mastered the material. I also knew that direct confrontation wouldn't get me what I wanted. Since I couldn't reason with the adults in my life, and didn't have the power to get away with outright defiance, I resorted to lies.

My parents thought I outgrew lying once I reached my mid-teens. I didn't "outgrow it", but I was old enough and capable of commanding sufficient respect from adults that I didn't have to resort to lying most of the time. I'm still a liar - it's just that some people pay to read my bullshit because it entertains them.
posted by starbreaker at 7:14 AM on December 9, 2014 [30 favorites]

We are not yet to this stage with our children, although your daughter may still be in the age range for our preferred book, "The Berenstain Bears and the Truth". It's a good book about lying and trust.

I do recommend the lying chapter in NurtureShock, as well as these two blog posts written by a child therapist: Part 1 Part 2

Good luck - I'll be following with interest. I think starbreaker has some good points about lying sometimes being a kid's primary source of agency. This is definitely the source of a lot of lies I told as a kid. The rest were pretty standard issue cover-your-ass lies as described in the "Part 1" link above.
posted by telepanda at 7:25 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

the prologue of this week's This American Life involves a vignette regarding lying and a parent's (apparently effective) long-view strategy.
posted by zachxman at 7:36 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

When this happened to us for a brief period, I realized my kid had been quietly absorbing all my socially-smoothing white lies for years. "I'm sorry we'd have loved to come but I have a previous commitment." For a while at least I had to stop that. At least in the kids' airshot.
posted by third rail at 7:43 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't put her in the position of lying to you. Assume there's homework, and if you're told otherwise, simply say, "Gosh, that seems odd. Let me call Mrs. Nelson about it, I have a couple of questions for her anyway." Then wait and see if kiddo 'fesses up. Do call the following day, but let her not do the homework that evening if she insists.

Sometimes the consequences need to be felt to be learned. If she cares about grades, then let her grades suffer and see if that changes her tune.

As for hand washing, just say, "hey! wash your hands!" Instead of asking if she did. If she says, "but I did," just say, "humor me."

You already know when she's lying, and as a parent you have to instill the idea that you're omniscient. "I need cupcakes. Cupcakes to learn," is rightly countered with a call to the teacher to confirm. When found in a lie, there needs to be a swift and fair punishment.

Story: When I was about 7 my Mom had a sunlamp. We lived in California and it was cold and damp. So I got the bright idea to use the sunlamp to warm the carpet so my feet would be warm. I put the bulb directly on the rug and burned a perfectly round scorch mark in it. I told my Dad that I spilled chocolate milk. The man got down and tried to scrub it out. Then, he got suspicious. Then I got busted. I was supposed to go to a birthday party that day, and my folks put the kibosh on that. Made it VERY clear that the burn in the rug was uncool, but the LYING was unacceptable. I pulled the, "but she's EXPECTING me, I have to go, not for me, but for her!" No soap. I was scarred by that. Trust me, I became the most painfully honest kid on the planet after that. I had lots of faults as a child, but I never lied again after that.

I think the thing that seared that lesson home for me was not only did I not get to go to the party, but my friend, who really wanted me there, was indirectly punished as well.

So be prepared to punish your child for lying and be prepared for it to be a BIG DEAL. But it's really, really worth it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:51 AM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

I remember lying as a kid - I was older (a teenager). I stopped when I realized it was too much to work to keep track of my stories and figure out who I had told what to. Childhood is *the* time to figure these things out, as you have nurturing people around you that can set you straight (instead of getting fired/arrested/divorced/whatever as consequences).

In adulthood we don't trust liars, right? When someone we know to be a liar says something we don't act as if it's the truth automatically, we assume they are lying.

So perhaps that's the thing to do. Next time you call her teacher to verify a suspicious sounding story, do it in front of her. This will demonstrate that you don't take her at her word. Verify assertions she makes to you in front of her.

She very well might be upset that you don't believe her. Tell her not to take it personally, it's just that she's been lying, and when you lie you show people that your word can't be trusted. And the real-world consequence of that is people won't automatically believe you.

Yes, punish her when you catch her, but I wouldn't punish her that much; make your not trusting her the actual 'punishment' (or 'consequence' as I like to think of it).

Let her know that trust has been broken, and that she can regain it, but it will take time to regain trust, and if she breaks that trust again she'll be starting from scratch.

In my mind the punishment for lying would ideally be - she gets caught, loses trust, and most importantly *gains nothing*. Also make it clear that the punishment for lying will always be worse than the punishment for the thing she's trying to hide (if she lies to avoid punishment).

Good luck, this is an important time to learn life lessons. Ideally you won't have to deal with this again in her teen years (when I was a liar); the consequences of lies get larger as you grow older.
posted by el io at 7:56 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I lied as a kid because that feeling of getting off scot-free when a lie worked was so worth all the lectures and punishments when it didn't work. Because lectures and punishments were every day, no matter what. If it wasn't about lying, it was about something else. But getting out of doing something, even once? Was a miracle.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 7:57 AM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

I too used to lie and say the teachers didn't hand out any homework. My parents handled that one by giving me a small notebook where I'd list all homework assignments, and that I had to get each of my teachers to sign every single day --- not whether or not I actually did those assignments, just what was assigned.

One of my teachers liked the idea so much, my mother said that teacher was suggesting it to other parents.
posted by easily confused at 8:05 AM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Here's an article from Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting about lying, if you're inclined towards these sorts of methods. I am.

I told some lies as a small child. I *remember* telling them. I was 100% aware that lying was wrong, and the idea of being thought of as a liar was deeply upsetting to me. Nevertheless, I told some lies. I told them when I had done something I knew I shouldn't have (which was generally because I lacked impulse control*), when I felt that nobody was paying attention to me, or when I felt wronged. I still remember all of these lies. They still make me squirm and feel deeply uncomfortable.

With one exception (a lie that ended up inconveniencing a neighbor), I was never punished or really even called out for these lies. But I was pretty sure my parents knew, and even if they didn't, *I* knew it was wrong. They didn't try to fix specific lies. It was just crystal clear that lying was wrong, disappointing behavior. As I got older, I stopped lying, in all circumstances. I think the last part of lying to disappear was making up harmless stories that were more interesting than the real truth. Pretty sure that didn't last past 9th grade or so.

My son is only 1 year old, but I expect him to lie to me eventually. When he does, I plan to calmly counter with the truth (as long as I'm sure), and move on.

*I was about the least impulsive child you can imagine, and even so, I distinctly remember the feeling of being unable to stop myself from doing things I knew weren't a good idea.
posted by Cygnet at 8:07 AM on December 9, 2014

I wouldn't make this about the lying. Kids lie when they want the truth to be different. Stop putting your child in situations where it's so easy to lie. Instead of, "Did you clean your room," instead try, "I'm going to check your room in 30 minutes, and it needs to be clean by then."

Don't assume she's lying, but do assume you need to double check. My 9 year will lie about washing his hands and little stuff like that, but he is incredibly honest when it comes to emotions and big deal things. I avoid calling him out directly on the little stuff and instead just verify (the sink isn't wet; wash your hands, please).
posted by bluedaisy at 8:21 AM on December 9, 2014 [16 favorites]

Lying requires a huge amount of memory. Put together a game only you and allies know about requiring elaboration around one single lie (like a little white lie that gets out of control) about something that would be passing be inconsequential but will over the course of a single day become something so important that the truth is required because the liar is tired of carrying around the weight of guilt and memory.
posted by parmanparman at 8:27 AM on December 9, 2014

I agree with bluedaisy. Stop giving your daughter opportunities to lie. Instead of asking "Did you finish your homework?" Tell her "Let me look at your homework."
posted by Bruce H. at 8:30 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Oh, the other thing I would suggest is that if you catch her lying, give her a graceful out. I think the link above mentions something like that - whether that be "I'm going to ask you again in five minutes", or a guarantee of amnesty if she confesses to something of her own accord.

The biggest and worst lie I ever told started as a small impulsive cover-your-ass lie, but unfortunately my parents believed me, flipped out, escalated, and it ended up with the school principal and other kids involved and I could not for the life of me figure out how to stop the avalanche thundering down the mountain. I was in second grade at the time and I'm still bothered by my role in the situation and how things went down.

The silver lining is that some important life lessons about morality, privilege, and race were seared into my brain.

Anyway, give the kid an escape strategy to help her do the right thing.
posted by telepanda at 8:36 AM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

One thing is, try not to ask questions for the purpose of seeing if your child will be honest. Make sure if you are asking "Have you done your homework?" then that it's the one and only true purpose for asking the question. Don't ask it just to see if she'll be honest. Why? Because then it becomes a dishonest question.

Kids will understand when you are asking questions just to test them, and when they start to understand that your question isn't really about homework, but something else, then it may cause all sorts of anxiety. "How was your day at school?" "... Fine."

I'm not accusing you of doing this! You probably don't. But asking somebody a question just to see if they will give you the right answer, instead of asking to get the information you want, is how you create liars.

My other suggestion (like bluedaisy) is to not put her into a position to lie if you don't have to. Honesty isn't about giving the right answer necessarily, it is about openness, and she can learn to be open without being put in a position to lie.
posted by 90s_username04 at 8:37 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

This journal article just showed up in my news feed: Threats don't stop kids from lying
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:56 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

We handled it with my son (though it was never that bad) with sarcasm and humorous eye-rolling. But you have to have that kind of relationship already. "Oh, reeeeeeally? You picked up all your books in the living room? Well, I'm sorry to say that the cats have dragged them all back out again and you'll have to do it again. I've told them to leave your stuff alone! Should've never taught the beasts to read."

For more serious stuff, we also do amnesty. Stuff like fights with other children, whether he'd been doing experiments on the cats, whether he broke something important. "You can change your answer if you want. We won't be angry and there won't be consequences. Let's just make sure we all have the same facts."
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:34 AM on December 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

To live a good example is the only thing that helps at length. Never lie to your kid, or otherwise. Make 'not lying' part of a family culture that offers good rewards. Make 'lying' a thing that offers no rewards, and no attention.
So, for example, counter small obviously lies with "yeah duh" and perhaps some offhand humor, and not with any display of outrage or other forms of negative attention.
Make clear not only that, but how lying only brings short-term relieve (until the parents have gotten around to fact-check). Create an environment in which not-lying is consistently the better option.

Being suspicious by default doesn't make your job easier. The blanket wisdom that "all kids lie," is your enemy here.
posted by Namlit at 9:47 AM on December 9, 2014

I lied a lot as a kid. Usually it was in a situation when I had done something childlike for a very child-like reason that I knew my parents wouldn't approve of. Things like borrowing money from a friend and buying a ton of candy, not doing my homework because I was playing, washing my hair with soap instead of shampoo because it seemed like a good idea at the time, breaking a christmas ornament because I threw it in the air and didn't catch it.
One main reason I started lying was because it was easier to make up a story than to try to face my parents saying "You know better than that. Why did you do that?" There's no answer to "why", so I was going to have to make up some wild excuse anyway, I may as well start lying early and see if I can avoid that disapproval.
So my advice would be that, as well as working on consequences for lying, you doublecheck what the environment is like when she makes a mistake or does kid things like a kid does.

Agreed, the whole crazy stories about school to get candy is over the top, but it might be interesting to think about where it started.
posted by aimedwander at 9:50 AM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

What happens if you ask her if she has done her homework, and she admits that she hasn't? If the answer is a big freak-out or lecture, or shaming, that might be at least part of the problem. If you want her to tell you when she has done something wrong, you can't fly off the handle when she does. Go into your bedroom and scream into your pillow later if you need to, but try to control your reaction around her.
posted by Anne Neville at 9:58 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I work with preschoolers, who often lie. I understand that your daughter is a few years older, but I think some preschool strategies could be tailored to her.

When preschoolers lie, sometimes it's for immediate rewards (screeches along the line of "I didn't get a snack! I didn't! I want the cheerios"). By contrast, sometimes, it's more for the pleasure of expressing a fantasy (like when they tell me anecdotes about improbable pets, trips, birthday parties).

For small lies that seem to serve a practical purpose: I like to rephrase those lies, so that they're translated into the subjunctive mood. Then, I'll try to talk about a better way the preschooler can get what they want or remind the preschooler why they can't get what they want.

For example:
Preschooler: I didn't already get a snack!
Me: (after making sure they didn't) I see that you have cheerios. And, you wish that you could have another? Yeah, our snack today is tasty. But, we only have enough for each person to get one pack of cheerios so I can't give you another one right now. You'll get another snack tomorrow.

Another example:
Preschooler: That's my baby doll!
Me: (it's our classroom doll) You wish you could share the baby doll that Shyala is using? I have a suggestion: why don't you ask Shyala if you can help her burp the baby doll?

Sometimes, preschoolers tell those practical lies in a far more manipulative and troubling way. I those cases, I try to react more sternly. More specifically, I try to make sure I understand what the kid is claiming, then I'll talk about how I know it's a lie, how lies make me feel (esp. helpful to harp on that, since young children struggle to understand other people's emotions/perspectives), and, if I have the wherewithal, I'll try to mention some honest ways they could get what they want.

For example:
Preschooler: If I don't get to be the line leader today, then [another teacher] said she won't let me go home to see my mom.
Me: I know that [the other teacher] lets all the preschoolers go home with their families at the end of the day. That's how preschool works; that's what happens at the end of every day. When you tell me things that aren't true, I feel sad and disappointed. I know you really want to be line leader today, but it's not your turn. It's Daquann's turn. Maybe you could pretend to be line leader in the dramatic play center? Even if you really want to be line leader, you can't tell me something that isn't true.

For kids that regularly tell those more manipulative or troubling lies, I try to make a point of regularly telling them stories about truth and deception, just so we're talking about it in moments when there's no crisis or strong emotions at play. That involves talking about times when I lied (and what happened next and how people felt), talking about times when I was lied to, and highlighting moments in stories and books that touch on themes of truthfulness.

Finally, when preschoolers tell lies that just seem to serve the purpose of expressing a fantasy, I like to react mildly and rephrase those lies so that they are in the subjunctive mood. That helps them get a sense that stories and hypothetical chatting is acceptable, but only if those stories are discussed with a certain kind of vocabulary and attitude (i.e., not passed off as the truth). Plus, then, I can play along and add enriching details to what they're saying. For example:

(Scene: preschooler's birthday isn't for months and there is no baby in the preschooler's immediate or extended family right now.)
Preschooler: I took my baby outside and we was walking all the way to the park and then the birthday party!
Me: You wish that you had a baby? And you wish you could take that baby to a park or a birthday party? Yeah, sometimes spending time with babies is enjoyable. And, you're right: if you did have a baby, it could be pleasant to use a stroller to push that baby along a path in a park. Maybe you and the baby could see some trees or some squirrels... Maybe some people would be walking their dogs...

Sometimes when preschoolers lie, I just react irritably. But, when I'm more energetic and patient, I think conversations about truth have been some of the more interesting ones I've had with tiny kids.
posted by newtonstreet at 10:56 AM on December 9, 2014 [20 favorites]

Seconding the person upthread who suggested catching her red handed and punishments/consequences based on the lie itself rather than the misdeed involved in the lie. My parents did this with me and it totally worked.

One thing that was especially humiliating was the time I had pulled the "teacher didn't give any homework" thing for an entire week, and then my parents ran into my teacher*, who asked why I hadn't done any homework for a week. That afternoon after school, my parents sat me down and told me the whole story. And then they grounded me for a week, including no TV. (I was in 4th grade when this happened, though, so YMMV on the punishment severity.) I don't really remember the being grounded part, but having my lie rubbed in my face is one of the most cringeworthy events of my childhood.

Also, yes, I believed my parents were omniscient about this stuff until an impossibly old age. In high school I wouldn't smoke because I knew my parents would figure it out.

*This was pre cell phones and email, when you could really get away with telling one story to your teacher and another to your parents.
posted by Sara C. at 11:16 AM on December 9, 2014

I tried my best to never lie to my kids when they were growing up. And I told them that the punishment for lying would be much worse than whatever it was they tried to lie about (say, not doing homework). I made a commitment to not be one to punish harshly (sometimes even not at all) provided they told the truth. It worked.

But, as they grow up, you have to be ready to tell them the truth about X, when they ask you, even if X is embarassing you, so as to reinforce to them that lying is wrong.
posted by aroberge at 11:41 AM on December 9, 2014

To link this back to a thread from yesterday, my parents instilled a strong value for honesty when talking about important things. So we had conversations about how it was important to be honest with us, so they wanted us to know that Santa/the Tooth Fairy are pretend, etc.

You don't have to ruin Christmas if your family does Santa for small children, but if you could work similar "it's important to be honest with you because I want you to be able to trust me, so xxxx", that might help model the behavior for her.
posted by ldthomps at 12:35 PM on December 9, 2014

I want to echo Anne Neville above. If you tell your daughter that you won't be angry if she just tells the truth, that has to be true. It was not true with my parents. I was (and am) a pretty good liar and it was really easy to make the choice between the 100% chance of yelling and punishment if I told the truth and the smaller chance of yelling and punishment if I lied. Not lying has to become the more attractive option.
posted by darchildre at 1:37 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

If your kid lies about their homework, ask for proof next time you think they're lying about their homework.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:37 PM on December 9, 2014

You might find this article interesting; it echoes a lot of what people have said up thread (e.g., don't put the child in a position to lie, don't get mad at them for telling the truth).
posted by pitrified at 8:01 PM on December 9, 2014

You are the parent and you decide what's okay and what isn't. If you just let lies slide as too much trouble to make a fuss about or it's just part of the natural behavior of kids or well, it really isn't anything serious - you're encouraging your child to build better and bigger lies that enable him to do whatever he wants instead of what he's supposed to be doing. One day it comes back at you like gangbusters.

Young kids tell lies that are easy to recognize but they get better at it with time and by the time they're in high school they can actually get a kick out of setting things up and watching them fall into place - all based on lies and manipulations. This is especially true if your child is very bright - and bored - and what we used to call spoiled, meaning the child's behavior has gone uncorrected for far too long.

You're doing the child no favors if you don't show him what happens when trust is broken. It's a pretty easy demonstration: When you catch him in a lie, say so, and then start supposedly doubting everything he says until it drives him nuts. It doesn't take long before he decides he liked being trusted much more than he likes being doubted. And always make it clear that if he does something he clearly knows is wrong he might be punished in some way, but lying about it will make things much worse.

There was a kid's cartoon when my granddaughter was little that I found disturbing, but I suppose it could be effective as a tool against lying. A child of a single mom wanted to go to the fair on Saturday, but Mom had to work so they couldn't go. But then Mom's office decided to take the day off and go to the fair and have a blast. Someone photographed the Mom and her friends on a ferris wheel and it was on the front page of the newspaper, where, of course, her daughter saw it and knew then that her Mom had gone without her in spite of her excuse of having to work. The trust was broken and no amount of Mom trying to explain that the trip to the fair hadn't been part of the expected work day made any difference. If your child lies, ask her how she'd feel if you did the same thing to her.

The hard part about raising kids is (oh, ha ha - ONE hard part about raising kids is) trying to remember that your goal is long range - to turn that little person into someone who can make a happy life for herself out amongst all the dangers and temptations and rules and unfairnesses and such that life is all about. There is no tougher job on earth - and no better paying one, either.
posted by aryma at 10:10 PM on December 9, 2014

Don't just avoid punishment for telling the truth about doing something bad. You should avoid drama, too. Adults lie to avoid someone's drama about some issue (I'm sure you could find several hundred examples here on AskMetafilter). Kids don't like family drama any more than adults do. They probably like it even less, because it's harder for them to get away from it.

You can't necessarily control how you feel about something she's done. You might feel mad or frustrated or disappointed. That's normal. But what you do control is what you say and do in front of her. If your boss made you feel mad, frustrated, or disappointed, I bet you could control your reaction (if you couldn't, you might want to get help for that). I bet you wouldn't give him a lecture on how he's disappointed you, or yell at him. You have to control your reaction here, too.

Remember, this is a long game. You might think it's bad that she got away with not doing her homework this time by not lying about it. But you want her to be able to tell you if she's having real trouble in school, or in a relationship. If you lecture or start drama every time she tells you something negative is going on in her life, that's not going to happen.
posted by Anne Neville at 5:43 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I was a kid, I lied incessantly to my parents and teachers. This continued on through college, and if I'm honest, I still do it (not to teachers obviously, but other authority figures -- it happens less, but it still happens). In retrospect, it all centered around my then-undiagnosed anxiety disorder. I had trouble with completing homework mostly (though I was smart and capable and had no end of resources), and I constantly lied about my assignments and grades. Luckily, I'm doing okay now, and it hasn't ruined my life -- but it was and continues to be hugely stressful. Both the lying itself and the expected reactions (yelling, disappointment, lectures, punishments, restrictions, and later, suspension, being fired, etc.) were just unbearable and made me even more anxious, depressed, and withdrawn. Shame and humiliation just made the problem worse. I dreaded the "have you done your homework?" question every night, because no, I often hadn't (see: anxiety), but I couldn't very well tell my parents that, could I? I'm trying to say: be careful about your reactions to her lies. Discourage lying, of course, but be aware of the reason behind it. At this age, it might be just testing boundaries, but it can easily turn into a habit or mask other underlying issues that she can't identify or verbalize. Create a space where she feels safe to talk about what's going on in her head, and to fess up to lies and/or "bad" behavior without enormous drama and out-of-proportion consequences.
posted by Ragini at 10:38 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

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