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Lying, lying, lying - what can we do about it?

(25 Posts)
Palika Thu 05-Sep-13 14:37:31

DS 14 has much improved in recent months and has actually been a joy to have around this summer holiday. He is genuinely kinder, more helpful and more reasonable. He has also become so funny and we laughed so much. I really thought we had cut a corner.

But he has a terrible lying habit. It's not big things he lies about, just about the everyday agreements we have made...agreements that he was involved in making with us, that were discussed at length and then mutually decided.

For example, at the beginning of the holiday HE decided to do some homework on week days because English is is weakest subject. I just found out that he had simply be copying it from the book. Yet he told me an elaborate story how he had only read it and then closed the work book and written everything from memory.

He has been lying to his dad all summer long in this way - dad never spots anything sad( but today I looked at the work and pretty much guessed the fraud.

Our relationship has become so good in so many ways...we laugh and talk reasonably about many things. He tells us how much he loves's been brilliant in so many other respects?

Why is he lying so much?

Our policy has been that he must sit 1 hour in the front porch every time we catch him lying. He does that willingly and is always very sorry.

We also handed over responsibility in pretty much all areas of his life, in order to minimise conflict.

What do you do if you catch your teens lying?

ohtowinthelottery Thu 05-Sep-13 19:00:13

I wish I knew the answer palika
DS was caught red- handed lying yesterday. I saw him going in the opposite direction to where he should have been, and from the evidence when he got home, it was clear that he hadn't been where he should have been. But he lied all evening about it. And the sad thing was, there was no need to have lied at all - he could have just said he didn't want to go out and that would have been fine.
It has taken until today for him to finally admit that he lied, and even then he did it in a jokey manner.
Have not punished him - just lectured him about honesty and cheating on this occasion, but think it may all come back to bite him on the bum tomorrow anyway grin

I think they lie because they can. Testing the water to see who is in control to a certain extent.

adeucalione Thu 05-Sep-13 19:01:06

No advice on what to do but Nurtureshock has a great chapter about why teens lie - IIRC they lie because they love you and want to please you.

Clearly he was not as committed to the English revision as you thought.

FWIW I think sitting in the porch, like a naughty step, is a slightly mad punishment for a 14yo.

Palika Thu 05-Sep-13 22:53:45

thanks for the input, guys.

Interestingly, DS seems to BE more mature. Since this afternoon he has confessed 3 more lies. He says he feels like a bad person now when he lies (that's new!) and wants to stop. then he confessed these lies.

I actually feel quite relieved about it.

quote: FWIW I think sitting in the porch, like a naughty step, is a slightly mad punishment for a 14yo.

I think this is as good a punishment as any. We call it reflection time and DS benefits from it. He comes out calmer and more reasonable. As long as he does not refuse this he will be going in. (schools do similar things in detention and isolation) We also take away computer time etc and pocket money as discipline but it is always good to have few cards up your sleeve.

will have a look at the article now.

Palika Thu 05-Sep-13 23:53:49

Just had a look Nurtureshock on amazon preview and was able to read almost the entire chapter on lying. They present a lot of research on that topic and one thing amazed me and that was, the better a child knows a lie from honesty the more they will lie. They are more skilful than others who do not really know the difference. Interesting!

The solution to encouraging truth telling is to say to a child - you will not be punished if you confess a lie AND I will be really happy if you do. The last bit is important because the child has such a great need to be in your good books. This need gets them into lying in the first place: they want avoid you being angry with them.

It really makes sense and I will try this out.

Palika Fri 06-Sep-13 11:54:30

More lying this morning. I just asked if he had finished the book that he had been reading earlier. There was no pressure or expectation in any way, just a bit of conversation. Oh dear!!!

I confronted him that he was lying and he threw a tantrum screaming that 'everything he says is a lie'.

Five minutes later he confessed after I tried the new 'technique' of saying that I will be HAPPY if he tells me that he lied. He said that he thought I would be disappointed if he had not read the entire book...(makes me feel guilty, arghhhh!)

Anyway, what are your experiences with lying teenagers? According to the book Nurtureshock roughly a third of all children continue lying after the age of seven. The rest stops. Why??? The book does not tell you that.

Kleinzeit Fri 06-Sep-13 14:14:30

Oh Palika, I do think some of the lying may just be about the way you ask questions. This is what I’d call making conversation: “Is Lord of the Flies interesting?” “I enjoyed 1984 when I read it” “I always envied the kids in To Kill a Mocking Bird, would you have liked to run free the way they do?” “What’s Catch-22 like, I’ve never read it”

But I’m afraid “Did you finish the book” is not just making conversation. It’s nagging – or at least, that is how it will come across. Imagine your boss making conversation by asking “did you finish those timesheets?” And if your DS already feels a lot of stress around reading the book then I’m afraid nothing you say about the book will sound like “making conversation” it will all sound terribly loaded.

Sometimes just talking to you must be so stressful for him, you ask painful questions and then you punish him for trying to wriggle away from them. To me the bigger problem is if he feels the need to hide so much from you, whether he confesses or not. He probably finds your questioning intrusive. I’m sure he has told you the truth about why he wasn't honest about finishing the book (I can't honestly call something so trivial a lie!).

You could easily get caught in a vicious circle where the worse he feels about himself the more he instinctively hides anything you might disapprove of. You could have been positive about copying the homework, spending time copying is good in itself, and writing in his own words is better (and wont get him in trouble for plagiarism if it's work to be handed in!) There’s no need to feel guilty but could you stop punishing him for these minor cover-ups, save the punishments for really important lies, and keep focussing on improving your communication with him?

Palika Fri 06-Sep-13 15:29:39


I agree, letting go of too much control is important and part of that is how you are asking questions. On the other hand, I think it is part of our parenting job to do some 'nagging'. Not a nice and rewarding part, for sure, but necessary nonetheless.

You say, I could let him get away with all these cover-ups. But what is the price? What will it do to our relationship?

What does it do to your relationship with your family members when you let them get away with little lies, white lies, cover-ups etc? Does it make your relationships better, closer and more loving?

It's an honest question that I am asking myself, so I would be interested in your answer as I assume that this is how you deal with your teens (and possibly DH, as well?).

adeucalione Fri 06-Sep-13 16:31:34

I'm glad you found Nurtureshock interesting OP; there's a lot of counter-intuitive sense in that book IMO.

In answer to your question, I honestly think that my DC would not lie to me about trivial things like reading a book or doing voluntary revision. They wouldn't need to lie, because the truth would not be met with disapproval. We might chat about why the book hasn't engaged them, but they wouldn't have the sense that they'd failed me in any way, to the extent that a lie was preferable to them than the truth.

From what you have said, your poor DS is trying so hard to please you and give you what you want that he will risk a lie rather than disappoint you.

I don't think he needs an hour in the naughty porch to reflect on why he lied about finishing a book, I think you need an hour in the naughty porch to reflect on how you have managed to turn your DS into someone who can't face the consequences of telling you the truth.

Palika Fri 06-Sep-13 16:50:24

adeucalione, before you attack me it would be great if you at least make the effort to read my posts. I am not here to be attacked but to get help. Shame on you for your smugness!

Nospringchickendipper Fri 06-Sep-13 17:06:34

Palika You have posted on here for some advice about your son yet you seemed to have verbally attacked anyone who has offered you any advice.
My 15Ds lies to me at times usually about trival things and I find it upsetting but I agree that at times he is just trying to please me.
I have let him know that I don't like him lying and that it is about being able to trust him.
I have never and would never make him sit in a porch for an hour.

Palika Fri 06-Sep-13 17:10:50

I have 'verbally attacked' everyone? Are we on the same planet???

Kleinzeit Fri 06-Sep-13 17:19:26

Yes, I really do think it can improve things. I try to make a distinction between big misbehaviours and little misbehaviours, there can be big lies or little fibs and often it’s much more effective to let the trivia go. And since my DS is also prone to the anxious cover-up I try to put things in a non-threatening way - "I forgot to remind you to practise piano yesterday, did you happen to remember?"

The time when it’s appropriate to punish a lie is when it’s a cover-up for real misbehaviour, like stealing or breaking or going somewhere forbidden.

One practical thing you could do for your DS, would be to give him a mechanism for “taking the Fifth” smile You could agree on a phrase like “that’s personal” that he can say anytime he doesn’t want to answer anything at all and you will absolutely drop the subject. And compliment him when he uses the phrase no matter how annoying it may be not to get a proper answer!

My DH is generally a very truthful person and I value truth highly. I don't expect him to lie about where he is or what he's done, big or little, I tell him the truth myself and I expect the same back. Equally I try not to fuss if he's done something minor that I don't like. And I might say “Do you like my new hairdo and by the way “no” is not an acceptable answer” - and I can tell by the tone of voice if he means the “yes” or not, but I'm not going to call him on it!

As for serious lies, one approach is not to give youngsters the opportunity to lie because no matter how pointless it is they often take the chance – so if you already know they did it then don’t insist on a confession, just say you know they did such-and-such and take it from there. You only ask when you really don’t know. So I wouldn't just say “What did you do today?” I'd say “I know you didn’t go to music” and then “The consequence for skipping music lesson without asking me is….” or “Remember you need to go next week because….”

It's different in an adult relationship. A marriage needs trust. There isn't the discipline and learning side, and big lies from a spouse would be a dealbreaker. At least for me.

Kleinzeit Fri 06-Sep-13 17:32:41

PS I meant that letting small things go improves things with kids. Different with adults - I would hate even small fibs from my DH, and big ones would be a dealbreaker.

adeucalione Sat 07-Sep-13 14:52:05


I'm sorry that you felt it necessary to report my post, but am glad that MN found it to be within guidelines.

I would prefer it if you didn't PM me again.

Palika Sat 07-Sep-13 20:27:12


sure, I won't pm you anymore and will answer you here instead if you prefer:

I found your post quite hurtful as I was opening up about my problems and made myself vulnerable and you just tried to make me feel really bad about myself. Mumsnet agreed with me, as you have read in the email that I have sent you. They said your comment was 'just' within their guidelines.

I do believe that there is a way of helping others without making them feel as if they are a really bad parent. Surely, you have been stressed about the parenting job yourself (why else would you be spending time on mumsnet) and questioned your every move as being either too strict or too lenient or wrong in every way. It is not easy to be a parent. You would not want anyone coming along and saying that all your child's misbehaviour is entirely your fault. Even in the worst-case scenario a parent child situation is more complex.

Telling me that it was entirely my fault that my son has a lying habit is ill-informed, ignorant and also plain nasty. I can't help but wondering if you have been taking out on me some problem of your own that you have not been addressing and therefore feel the need to take out publicly on others.

Having said all this, I am letting it all go now and wish you from my heart that you feel happy as a parent and everywhere else as well.

Palika Sat 07-Sep-13 20:33:22

thanks for the thorough reply - very interesting!

DS is getting better and has confessed a few more lies. I am very glad - things are developing into the right direction. Thanks everyone who tried to help me.

sashh Sun 08-Sep-13 12:15:31

What would you have said next after "have you read that book?"?

That's what he is trying to deflect, I know with my mother the next would have been along the lines of why not?/what have you been doing?/well if you were not going to finish it you could have done the washing up/washing/cleaning/taking the bins out.

I would obviously say I had finished it.

isagrey64 Fri 10-Feb-17 04:08:12

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

Bensyster Fri 10-Feb-17 08:24:28

Isn't lying a very normal thing? I mean people lie all the time - little white lies makes everyone happier - wasn't there a Hollywood movie based on this concept a few years ago - can't remember what it was called. Your son lied about doing homework because he didn't want to do it and he lied about reading the book because he didn't want to do that either.....
How to talk so teens listen, how to listen so teens talk suggests there is little point in punishments and I think you are finding this - sitting on the porch is not solving the problem.
I think it's great that your relationship has improved but I get the feeling you are putting too much pressure on him to do things he doesn't really want to do and when he tries to get out of it you are taking his lies too seriously. We all lie!
Ds lied the other night about clearing up the bathroom after he showered - I called it out and asked him to do the task, he was trying to avoid a confrontation - he didn't get a confrontation as such, but he also had to do the task.

Fingalswave Fri 10-Feb-17 11:39:00

Op, I suggest you buy the BK "Get out of my life but first take me and Alex in town" and read pages 111 to 115 (PB edition). It discusses the issues of trust and communication and lying in relation to teens.

Basically the author says that all teens lie as part of the separation process from their parents. And if we are honest with ourselves, we probably lied quite a lot to our parents when we were adolescents too (which doesn't mean we do so now).

The advice given is to not get too caught up in the lying itself and thereby lose sight of the underlying issue ie your DS needs to focus more on his English. Otherwise, one gets caught up in long harangues that go no where and negatively impact on your relationship. Obviously, lying isn't to be encouraged and should be confronted but not to the extent that it encourages more cover ups!

And, honestly not saying this to be snippy, but I too think making a 14 yr old sit on a porch for an hour is way too humiliating and heavy handed. (Apologies, I'm sorry, but I genuinely think there are more positive ways of dealing with this, especially as it was his suggestion to do more work; OK - so he didn't tackle it in the best way possible - but he's a teen and he did do something! If you want him to follow through on his promises then praise and encouragement is the way to go!

AnyFucker Fri 10-Feb-17 11:45:32

This is a zombie thread bumped by a troll

ImperialBlether Fri 10-Feb-17 11:52:59

I used to read the books my children were studying for English Lit and talk to them about them. If someone really doesn't like reading that much, it can really help.

I have to say making him sit in the porch is something you are very likely to regret. He's not a little boy. You are using the same punishment on him that someone might have at pre-school age. Do you really think that's age-appropriate? And what will you do when he decides one day that he's just not going to do it? In two years' time he can get married, he can get a job, he can move away from home. If you humiliate him with your punishments, it's far more likely that he'll rebel against you.

Bensyster Fri 10-Feb-17 11:53:47

Ahh so it is! I wonder how the OP got on?

Fingalswave Fri 10-Feb-17 11:56:01

Thanks AF, I didn't notice (obviously). Where have all the zombie warnings gone?

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