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Norman M.
Norman M., Principal psychotherapist in private practice. Newspaper contributor, over 2000 satisfied clients on JA
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2568
Experience:  ADHP(NC), DEHP(NC), ECP, UKCP Registered.
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My daughter is 16 almost 17, since she was 10 we have

Customer Question

my daughter is 16 almost 17, since she was 10 we have constantly caught her out stealing and lying.. mostly her lies involve creating a persona for herself that is untrue.. things like, meeting people online and tellign them she has broken her arm after fighting after school, being suspended, her family beat her, she cuts herself, she is dying from some incurable disease, her mother is dying etcetc the latest lie i have found out about is that she has told some young guy on the net that she is pregnant with another guys child, i found in her emails that she has contact with more than one guy and each of them believe she is something differant than the other.. it is almost as if she is living four or five differant lives. In other aspects of her life she does well in the sense that she is working as a chef apprentice and from all accounts she does fine at work. but socially and within her family she lies so much i rarely believe anything she says. It hurts to find emails and messages where she has told people that she is abused or hurt by her family and or that she has sent pictures to people or innocent injuries from work or from say falling off her bike and said that her family has done these things to her. I have taken her to councillors and to a psycologist but nothing ever seems to come from it and she goes back to lying and hiding everything from us. I am at my wits end, i dont know where to turn next.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Norman M. replied 6 years ago.
Chat Conversation Started
NormanM :

Hello - are you ready to chat. I'm Norman.

NormanM :

I've been waiting for a while, so I assume that you are not yet able to chat, so I,m going to post an answer for you here.

NormanM :

Hello, and thanks for visiting JA.

She lies basically because she gets a reward out of it. Now that reward could be almost anything -it could be that she looks better to those she is lying to, that she gets away with hiding things she does not want known about, that she gets a better job because she makes herself out to be more qualified than she is, that she gets sympathy and attention - the possibilities are endless.

However, at the root of things, she lies either because she gets something out of it or avoids negative consequences by doing so.

She can be truthful – if she is prepared to accept and deal with the consequences, and that is what you need to be aiming towards.

First off, your daughter needs to be confronted with unacceptability of her behavior, and made to understand while you care for her, her behaviour is unacceptable and has to change.

She also needs to understand that any continuation of deception will have unpleasant consequences. They need to be spelled out to her very clearly, with clear emphasis on the fact that they will apply immediately should she lie to you again – even once.

We humans only indulge in behaviour that brings reward of some kind. Only when that reward (whatever it might be) disappears, or the consequences of our behaviour promise to be unpleasant do we consider changing what we do. She therefore needs to be given reason to change.

Here is the clue to sorting things out. When you are faced with non-co-operation – give her choices, and make sure she understands the consequences of her choice – and always follow through. If you don’t she’ll just get confused. Please make sure though that all her small successes are praised and occasionally rewarded.

Choices are not always about punishment - they can be offered in advance.

"We could eat out on Saturday, but only if you promise honest about things. Now, would you like to do that or would you rather stay at home?"

Make it clear what you expect - “ know how things have been in the past, but we can change that. However, I do expect you to be truthful from here on in”

When it does come to punishment, try to make sure that it is something that will have an impact "Give me your cell. You won’t need it until you learn to be honest."

And make sure you vary it otherwise it becomes stale, and therefore more or less ignored.

Ask her too, what she is prepared to do to change her behaviour in future – tell her to research what might help her, what help she feels she needs, and even consider a ‘contract’ between you. In other words, involve her in her own change, with a prospect of a small reward for success.

Never get angry, stay cool and in control, matter of fact and stick to the facts. Avoid drama. If she hangs up on the phone, write to her and tell how you feel, and what you are going to do about it.

Part of the problem is of course, that you need to decide just how hard a line you are going to take on this. If you do nothing, she has no reason to change, and will not. If you take very hard line, there is a very good chance that you will alienate her completely.

Finding a compromise between those extremes would be best, ***** ***** since only you, know her, her history, and your situation intimately, you are the only ones who can decide where to draw the line.