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Teenager Lies to Mom Constantly

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Dr. Laura,

I have an 18year old daughter who lies a lot and does not want me to ask her anything. I am always catching her in a lie and she does not listen to what others have to say, all the time. She just lies to go along with you, sometime just to get you out of her face and leave her alone. I am a 59 year old mother and I am at my end about this girl.

Upset Mom (Bertha)


Dear Bertha,
How upsetting to have your 18 year old daughter lying to you all the time! I know I would feel betrayed and pushed away. Good for you for reaching out for help.

It's easy to blame our child for lying, especially when we're trying so hard. And yet, Dr. Shefali Tsabary says, "There is only one reason a child lies to its parents: the conditions for it to feel safe have not been created." So to change the situation, you'll have to try to create more safety for your daughter.

Can you sit down with her and tell her, without attacking her, how much it upsets you to have her lie to you? Don't get into a fight with her about whether she is actually lying. Just explain that you want to be close to her, and when she lies to you, it destroys your relationship with her because you can't trust her.

She may not admit to lying, and she may get angry at you. Your job is to keep calm and just express your sadness without getting angry. If she begins to start a fight, don't let your buttons get pushed. Just repeat that it makes you very sad to not have a good relationship with her because you love her. Tell her that you can't talk when you feel attacked, but you will be ready to talk sincerely whenever she is. Then get up and end the conversation.

If you are both able to stay calm during the discussion, you can talk more. You will probably want to ask her whether she lies because she is afraid you will lose your temper if she tells you the truth. If she says yes, can you commit to controlling your own temper? That could make a big difference in her being willing to tell you the truth.

You may also want to ask her for a commitment that she won't lie to you anymore. If she finds herself lying, she can say “Sorry, Mom, I can't answer that truthfully right now.” But she is not allowed to lie.

I want to let you know what the research says about lying. Many, if not most, kids lie. However, kids whose parents don't punish and who feel they can talk with their parents about their challenges generally do not lie to their parents. They have no reason to. Is is possible to raise kids without punishment? Absolutely. They turn out a whole lot better, in every way, because they become self-disciplined, once they aren't being disciplined from outside. For more info on how to raise a wonderful, responsible, considerate, self-disciplined child without ever punishing, click here.

I don't know if your daughter lives with you, but if she does, you may want to tell her that now that she is 18, if her relationship with you doesn't improve, she may want to plan on moving out. That might give her some incentive to straighten up. But you'll also need to tell her that you will do your share (more than half, since you're the parent!) to make the relationship better, starting now. And that you want her to tell you what you can do to make things better. Then, bite your tongue and listen.

You might also want to check out the section of this website on Communication with Kids. There are some great articles on talking so your kids will listen, and listening so your kids will tell you the truth.

Blessings to you for stepping up to the plate and taking on this healing with your daughter. Good luck!
Dr. Laura

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