Parenting: 'My 13 year old is a compulsive liar'

On this week's 'Parenting' segment on the Moncrieff show, one listener sought advice about her t...
Mairead Maguire
Mairead Maguire

10.58 13 Aug 2022

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Parenting: 'My 13 year old is...

Parenting: 'My 13 year old is a compulsive liar'

Mairead Maguire
Mairead Maguire

10.58 13 Aug 2022

Share this article

On this week's 'Parenting' segment on the Moncrieff show, one listener sought advice about her teenage son who has been lying consistently recently.

Joanna Fortune, psychotherapist specialising in Child & Adult Psychotherapy, joined Moncrieff to answer this and other listeners' questions.

The question:


"My lovely son is 13. Over the past 2 years or so he starting lying although he is really really bad at it."

"It's about stupid pointless things, and important ones. He lies about school tests, results (even though he knew I'd get a report card), losing things, calling into friends, everything. It seems to be second nature."

"He doesn't really care enough about video games, phones etc so punishing him doesn't seem to work."

"We have had long chats about how I can't trust him and he wants more independence."

"He's so so smart, and I have high expectations but I don't think I put too much pressure on him."

"I feel so awful about this as it must be down to his relationship with us. I can't understand it."

"My mother lied about absolutely everything. I can't stand the thought that he will be the same."

Joanna's advice:

"There's a lot in that last line right there because I think that's key. Your mother lied and, as a child growing up with a parent who lied, that's really hard."

"As a child when your relationship with your parent is the key fundamental trust-based connection you have, but you can't trust that person, that's very difficult and can be very triggering then when you see, what you infer is, a trait that he is developing."

"I would ask, if you can and if it feels safe to do it, just to sit and reflect yourself and ask and answer these of yourself: How did it feel to grow up with a parent that you could not fully trust?"

"How has that influenced your own parenting?"

"That's not him. That is your story and you have to listen to that."

"We've lots of questions about lying with younger kids - they make up these big stories and things you know they're lying about."

"I really do believe that learning how to refine and tell a fairly convincing lie is a developmental milestone. It is as important as telling the truth."

"But it does change as they grow and he's 13. So at 13 we tend to see lying, especially of this nature, in teens when they're trying to attempt to control what their parents know about them and their life so they omit details."

"It's a developmental phase in adolescence to seek more privacy, to tell less, and parents will always want to know more."

"Especially when it's about these silly, stupid, pointless things, as this parent writes,

"Dealing with lying as a parent ... it's frustrating, it can be confusing."

"Is there an even short-term gain for him to delay the point of confrontation about the report? Because then he has a reason to lie to you."

"If I was asking your son do you put pressure on him, what would he say? Would he have a different answer?"

"Think  about it from his 13 year-old brain, his 13 year-old developmental perspective. How would he tell the story that you've just told here."

"I'm not saying you're going to go: He's right, you're wrong."

"In fact, you might double down and go: I'm more right than I thought I was."

"It's not about that. It's really about trying to perspective-take."

"This whole piece about he doesn't care enough about video games, phones, to punish him - I'm glad he doesn't."

"Punishing isn't the answer here. Before you move to behavioral correction, go first to emotional connection."

"What do you enjoy doing with him? What does he enjoy doing with you?"

"If you invest in that connection with him, especially at this age, then he's going to value the relationship more and the trust, and therefore the honesty, will grow from that."

"It might be worth bringing him to a suitably qualified mental health professional who can give him the space. At 13 he's going to have to want to go and do that.

Image:  Phanie/Alamy Stock Photo

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