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Child Not Telling the Truth

Child Not Telling the Truth


Dear Rachel,

My son, now 14, has started a streak of lying. He tells me he does things (like brush his teeth) and then I find out that he didn't. He tells me that he doesn't get his grades for his tests in school, but then I found out from a friend that the kids do get their test grades. He does extremely well in school so there is no reason for him to lie to me. I have discussed the matter with him but he seems to continue to lie. The problem has been occurring for approximately three months now. I want him to understand that lying is unacceptable. Do you have any suggestions?

Frustrated Mom
Nashville, TN

Dear Frustrated Mom,

Being lied to is an awful feeling. Being lied to by your own child can feel like a downright betrayal. I can understand your frustration over this matter and your urgency to resolve it.

Fundamentally, lying is never okay. That much is clear. The question that needs to be addressed is why is your son lying? Is he perhaps testing boundaries? Did something occur over the last three months that prompted this new behavior? Is something going on in his life that he feels unable to express? Ultimately, your son is the only one with the answers to these questions.

You can’t do his work for him. But you can begin to take a look at the possibility that you may have a role to play in his behavior. As Chassidut teaches us, everything that happens in our lives, every challenge, ‘every leaf that falls from a tree’ is an opportunity for us to learn and grow. You can begin by asking yourself some fundamental questions about your relationship with your son. For example, "Am I giving my son enough independence to make his own choices?" "Am I approachable?" "Do I allow my son the opportunity to make mistakes and grow from them without fear of punishment from me?"

Sometimes we come down on our kids so hard when they don’t perform the way we expected them to, that they find it “easier” to lie about it then to deal with our wrath. We have to be willing to look at ourselves with the same scrutiny that we afford our kids.

In terms of your discovery of his lie(s), it is important to remember that there are always natural consequences for our behaviors. It is imperative that a growing teenager understand that concept. If your son doesn’t brush his teeth, he could likely develop cavities, which will likely lead to fillings, which in turn will lead to a large dental bill, which ultimately could lead to your son spending a chunk of his allowance to pay for it – for example. Experiencing a natural consequence is really much more of a gift then it is a punishment. If his lying is stemming from a desire for more independence then he will come to appreciate the notion of taking responsibility for his actions.

Additionally, I encourage you to create opportunities to connect with your son on neutral grounds. You don’t necessarily have to have a "lets talk about your lying" conversation, but rather, you can make “special” time to do something fun together. The idea is to make a connection with him and to see if that leads you to a more open and honest relationship. If his lying persists and he continues to be non-communicative about why he is doing it, maybe you could suggest to a family member or teacher, or someone else that he trusts to try talking to him to see if there is something deeper going on that he feels unable to communicate with you.

I look forward to hearing good things. Please keep me updated on your (and his) progress.


“Dear Rachel” is a biweekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sarah Zadok.

Sarah Zadok is a childbirth educator, doula and freelance writer. She lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, with her husband and four children.

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Anonymous February 1, 2013

Lying in school There has been a complain against my son for pulling off's someones eye brow. He clearly denies it over and over again. Hw do I make out whether he has been just framed in this act by the other boy or has he actually done it. Please advice. Distrssed Mom. Reply

Anonymous myrtle, ms April 19, 2012

lying 15 yr old this problem has been going on since the 3rd grade every year its the same thing. I dont have any homework,were not doing anything this week except watching a movie. Its always something different. He failed the 5th grade and im afaid he is going to fail the 9th. I love him so much and I just want him to do his best.Everytime he does bring home something to study we go over it and he does really well he just dont want to do it cause hes lazy! I just dont know what to do anymore. grounding doesnt work. I keep thinking well maybe the older he gets he wont act like this, but im wrong its only getting worse. He is a very smart kid even talked to the teachers and they said he was just lazy. I could really use some adivise. Reply

anonymous anonymous, anonymous via November 12, 2007

To the mother/father It is it imperative that if you wish to deal with your child that he perceive you not as a voice of absolutes but rather as a voice of reason. If when he tells you "I did not brush my teeth" you respond "then brush them" all you have done is alienate him from you. A much better response would be telling him that he may get cavities and his teeth look yellow, which makes him look worse to other so on, so he will come to the logical conclusion on his own.
Contrary to popular children, especially teens are able to think things through logically and generally prefer to make the most rational choice. Sadly they are not given such opportunities. Reply

Lesley Levy Hubbard Laurel, Maryland, USA October 22, 2007

Child not telling the truth It seems to me that nowadays, sending someone for "counseling" is the "thing to do" whether they need it or not. Counseling is not the ultimate and only answer. A good parent can counsel and direct the behavior of their own children, if they really want to. Too much dependence on counseling is prevelent in our society. Be your own counselor - dig down deep into your very soul and with Hashem's help, you'll find the answers for which you are searching. You and you alone are the best 'counselor for your child. Don't pass the buck. Reply

Rivka October 9, 2007

Problem with younger children My son has been lying since he was 4 and has only now understands (at 9) that one lie leads to another and another etc and eventually nobody believes anything he says. He is a likable boy and i can't imagine he will ever stop lying but he is learning to control his lying. Sad but true. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI May 29, 2007

Child Not Telling the Truth Lying is NEVER acceptable - it's a betrayal of trust! Not being able to trust your own child is one of the most heartbreaking things some parents have to deal with. If something happened to this 14-year-old boy in the past three months, I wouldn't call it a phase - it's something MUCH more serious that needs immediate attention - especially since this boy refuses to talk and continues to lie!

It's not enough to consider consequences and punishments. Teenagers are in a tug-of-war between wanting to stay children and wanting to grow up. In this case, this boy seems depressed, confused, emotionally disturbed and doesn't know how to cope. Maybe he's lying to protect himself from getting hurt.

Whatever the case, I can only hope his mother can get him to talk to someone he can trust and even take him for an evaluation and behavior counseling. Reply

anonymous March 22, 2007

intriguing Reply

Anonymous March 18, 2007

I disagree completely with the previous comment. A teenager trying to retreat into himself and keep his mother at bay by lying is a completely normal thing for a teenager to do. It's part of the trials and tribulations of having teenagers growing up. It is EXTREMELY UNLIKELY to be an indicator of metal illness. In today's psychiatrist-happy society, it seems to be the fashion to diagnose mental illness for completely normal behaviour. This is wrong. Let the teenager be a teenager. We're allowed to be normal. Reply

Anonymous January 4, 2007

Child Not Telling the Truth What you said is not wrong, but is incomplete. The possibility of mental illness should also be considered, as these behaviors are often early indicators. Depression can usually be treated, through cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, or a combination of both. if the parenting measures you recommend don't work, the child should be taken for an assessment. The parents should also check with the school to see if others are also noting changes in the child's behavior. Reply