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Dear Stavroula

Dear Stavroula: My Daughter Lies to Me a Lot

November 11, 2023

Dear Stavroula,

I am married and have a 16 year-old daughter. I thought that my relationship with her was very good because since she was born, I try to talk with her, listen to her opinions, and show her respect even in cases where she is not right.

So far I haven’t had any particular problem with her. She is very consistent in her duties and doesn’t ask to go out late at night. She cares about other people’s feelings and often helps me with her younger siblings.

However, I found out that she is lying to me. She even lies to me about things she could discuss with me, like the fact that she has a boyfriend or what time she gets home after school. And I can’t understand why, because I’ve never given her the impression that I’m the strict mom who always wants to impose her will and who doesn’t understand her needs. But since I discovered it, I watch her constantly and find that she lies to me with great ease, and with great naturalness. All this has shocked me, I don’t know how to deal with her and I would like your help.

Christina

 

Dear Christina,

A lie is an attempt to falsify or hide the truth and unfortunately the child learns to lie from a very young age through his contact and relationships with adults. It can be innocent lies they are exposed to, like a “pick up the phone and tell him I’m not here” or a doctor’s note to excuse a few extra days off at school or even promises made every day but not kept.

Through all these processes the child understands and learns that it is not necessary to always tell the truth, and that he can sometimes lie to satisfy his own needs, such as to avoid a punishment, to attract attention, or even to claim his independence.

The latter is especially pronounced in adolescence. As teenagers grow older, they begin to have an increasing need for privacy and to hide their personal issues. For this reason and many times in their attempts to become independent and avoid parental control, they lie.

Something similar may be happening in your case. Perhaps in this way your daughter seeks to preserve her personal life away from the rest of the family.

This can happen for many different reasons. She may feel that you will not understand her, that you will try to force her to change her behavior, or even that her choices are not in line with family standards. She may fear that she is not living up to your expectations because you may blame her or criticize her for her behavior.

So she chooses to avoid the conflict that revealing the truth might bring and to keep to herself if she has a boyfriend and who he is and when she sees him.

It would help a great deal if you try to answer the question “why does my child lie to me?” by looking for your own share of the responsibility. Think of the lie as a code and try to decode the message behind it. It may be a way your child tries to show you that you are too involved in her life, that she may choose the significant others in her life without asking your opinion in her attempt to become independent and find her own way in life.

In no way will it help to overreact or express strong disapproval and criticism. Better to create the right conditions so that you can talk to your daughter honestly, trying to listen to her and understand her point of view. Use the lie as a means to understand what is happening to your child, why lying seems to her the right choice, what is it that puts her in a difficult situation and prevents her from telling you the truth – and not as an act that you will punish.

Finally, it may not help to try solve the problem by regularly monitoring your child in an attempt to confirm that she is lying to you. Since this isn’t honest behavior either, it might not help as much as talking to her honestly and letting her know how you feel every time you catch the lie and how it’s affecting you and your relationship with your daughter.

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