November 15, 2010,
L.C. asks from Manassas, VA on November 14, 2010
Compulsive Lying in 11 Year Old Step Daughter
I have an 11 year old step daughter that is lying about everything. We will hear her say something to her siblings and then when scolded not to say things she says she didn't say them, she lies about homework, and sadly even flipping another girl in our neighborhood the finger. What do my husband and I do about this. We have started family counseling to help adjust to her living with her dad and I full time, instead of her mom, to help adjust to her dad and I getting married, and new step brother. I know that her life has just been turned upside down and needs time to adjust, but her lies are getting worse, and there is a long family history of her lies.
What do we do?
A.J. answers from Portland on November 14, 2010
It sounds like your step daughter is unable to know how to get her needs met and maybe doesn't even know what her needs are so is behaving in ways that provide her with some sense of control. If her home life has been unstable, particularly recently, maybe acting out in negative ways reflects how she feels on the inside and lying about her actions provides her with a temporary, though not successful, means of controling the negative responses from others. This is just my two cents, but when she is responded too with scolding, maybe that validates any negative thoughts she has about herself so reinforces what ever internal struggles she is experiencing. I think people of all ages are most comfortable with the familiar, even if the familiar isn't positive. So in a way, maybe this is the need she is trying to have met.
Counseling is a good idea. Have you and her biological parents talked about why she might be lying? There are some protective factors for youth that promote resiliency and decrease risk factors for negative experiences/actions. If she has caring and supportive relationships, high (but realistic) expectations, and opportunities to participate, and if these 3 protective factors are a daily goal for all caregivers, she might start to turn around over time. It sounds like she has some insecurities so maybe these steps, along with counseling, will help boost her confidence so she won't feel the need to act out and instead act towards something that makes her happy and feel worthwhile.
I have lots of experience working with troubled youth and have come accross my fair share of pathological liars. And I can say with absolute certainty that once they were able to identify on heir own but with caring support what was troubling them, they were able to make sense out of their internal experience and eventually thrive.
It is frustrating to be in your position for sure. I might advocate for all parents to be on the same page and to help eachother take breaks when it becomes overwhelming. What this little girl needs most is discipline, not punishment, consistency, and the knowledge that all boundaries you are setting with her is for her well-being. Who knows, maybe she even has some ideas about what might help her stop feeling the need to lie.
I hope this helps some:)
5 moms found this helpful
S.L. answers from New York on November 14, 2010
I agree with Marlene K. never compare her to liars in the family This is a confused little girl coping with big changes not a compulsive liar. Until this is better -hopefully the counselor will help! Never put her in a position where she is tempted to lie. Say firmly "we don't say---in this house" not "did you say...?". or even "why did you say.....?" If I hear you say it you will (Name the consequence)
"I want to know what you are studying at school so let me see your homework," not "do you have homework?" or "have you done your homework?" the teacher will prob have a routine like homework Mon-thru Thurs or Math homework on Tues and Thurs Reading homework on Mon and Fri so it will help you to know that. I assume there is a reason she has left mom's house. Either she learned to lie as a coping mechanism OR she is emotionally so immature she doesnt really understand the difference (would we complain about a two yr old lying?)
Also it is common for older kids in a new home to be bad on purpose to test the parents _how long are they going to keep me? sometimes they behave in school but are horrible at home or behave for one parent and not the other. they want to see what are the boundaries, how will you discipline and most of all -how bad do I have to be before they send me back or give me to someone else? This will be difficult and you may have to let some things slide if you do not see or hear it for yourself but hopefully the counselor will have great ideas on how to deal with all this.
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M.K. answers from Chico on November 14, 2010
Without any expertise at all to back it up, I say don't call her on the lies unless it is a big deal. And definitely don't compare her (to her face) to whoever in her family is the constant liar. Flipping someone off is rude and mean, but in the scheme of things not really that big a deal. She maybe was embarrassed at her behavior so she denied doing it- something I would put in a different category than lying about taking money from your purse or causing an accident. Don't give her any reason to lie- when you ask her questions, try to stay positive: Something like "Tell me what happened with the neighborhood girl that made you so mad" is better than "Why did you flip her off?" The first way takes the accusation out of it and (hopefully) will allow her to open up and talk about it. Her dad really needs to step up and be extra loving and attentive, too, if he isn't already. When I was 11, I moved (with my married parents and two siblings) to a new town and it was a major difficult adjustment. If she has switched towns or schools, you might try having a playdate (an awkward word for 11!) with one of her new classmates- they can bake cupcakes or cookies or something active that will allow them to talk and build a bond. That's work for inviting old friends to her new home, too, if you haven't left her old town. As far as homework goes, you can get into a routine; as soon as she gets home check her backpack and help her stay organized. Along the same lines as above, try to keep it positive. "Show me what you are working on in math." (or whatever subject) or "What tests do you have this week?" and have her check in with you with her completed work instead of just telling her to do her homework. If she says she doesn't have any, then make her sit and read or buy some practice workbooks for her grade level and make her do 2-3 pages. Also, see if her teacher would be willing to email you weekly homework lists or sign something that says she doesn't have homework at the end of the day.
I sure hope you find lots of good advice here. It sounds like you have a tough road ahead. When she's grown, though, she will remember how you treat her now and hopefully will appreciate all you and her dad are doing to help her.
4 moms found this helpful
S.B. answers from Redding on November 14, 2010
It's awesome that you're getting counselling. You will get your best insight and techniques for handling this there.
I just want to say that I had a very difficult step son and things got so much better when he and I had a talk and I told him that I was not his mother and didn't want to be....he already had one and he loved her. I was not a replacement in any way, shape or form. But, I WAS a parent, and I DID care for him, and he didn't have to love me if he didn't want to, but he had to be nice to me in our home. I said I'd be straight with him if he'd be straight with me.
It didn't cure all the problems, his mother was very bitter and my husband was nuts after all, but it took the air out of the "monster" balloon.
Step-families can be really tough adjustments for everyone.
Stick with counseling.
I wish you the best.
3 moms found this helpful
L.A. answers from Austin on November 14, 2010
Great advice moms..
I wanted to add that when my parents divorced, my mom sat me and my sister down and made a deal with us.
She said, "from now on, IF you tell me the truth, I will not be mad. I may be disappointed or hurt, but I will not get mad at you"
"If you DO lie, it will take a while for you to earn my trust back, it will hurt my feelings and I may need to rethink what I believe about you, that is, that you know right from wrong and do not have any reason to not be truthful. "
Mind you, we knew the rules of the house and my moms rules of behaviors. We knew what was expected.
One day while my sister and I were playing ball, in the formal living room (a no, no) we broke a large glass candy jar. When our mom came home we told her "we need to tell her something".. We told her about playing in the LR and breaking the jar.. She said, "well what did you learn?". we said "not to play ball around in the house, we might break things".. She said, ok since you told me the truth, I am not mad, I also trust that you 2 have learned this lesson." She then told us she "never cared for that jar anyway".
We really did have open conversations with our mom about anything from then on.
She also modeled mistakes, disappointment and failures in front of us, we learned that as a family and in life, it is not a competition to see who is right or wrong or who has the most stuff. Instead life is to do your best at all times, but there will be mistakes, losses and disappointments. Use these times as learning lessons, not as failures.. Also "No regrets" when you are honest that you did your best and did the right thing..
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S.P. answers from Los Angeles on November 14, 2010
HOW GREAT that you're getting family counseling.
You will learn new skills there that will help you
deal with challenges from SD, et al.
I presume the children are also seeing the counselor?
They may learn new ways of interacting, as well.
For now, you may want to have a conversation w/SD
in which you explain the rules in your home,
encourage positive behavior, and set up consequences
for negative behavior, in advance.
Find out what she dearly wants . . . if possible.
Set up a system whereby she can earn this prize.
About the family history . . .
this was probably her way of coping through times of confusion and upset.
You may be able to talk to her about new situation . . .
that there will be less confusion, less potential for upset, etc.
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R.M. answers from Cumberland on November 15, 2010
Ooo-how lucky for the mommy. Tell your step daughter that she is with you because that's the best thing for her-and because you want her and want her to be part of your family-not because her father is the only one willing to try to care for her. Lying is not an option-nor is obscene gesturing. You're going to instill some character into her or die trying. She is going to be a happy, confident teenager whose qualities define her and not some sulky brat that thinks it's ok to be disrespectful to the people who are bending over backwards to help her into adulthood. Good luck-this has to be done now-once she gets a little older, she will morph into something unrecognizable-and you will swear she is in need of an exorcism.
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A.K. answers from Roanoke on November 15, 2010
I'm sad to hear about your step daughter. I'm a child from a family of divorce so I do understand how hard that can be.
It sounds like she is very angry and resentful about the changes. The best advice I have to offer is to **stay in counseling**. If your therapist isn't helping, then find another one. But be patient. This young lady needs lots of love and support. She probably needs her own therapist who is not involved in the family so she feels totally free to speak her mind.
You need support too! Make sure you have plenty of help from friends and family. It sounds like you are drained from the ordeal! Remember, she needs to adjust and it may take more time then you'd like, but she'll get there eventually.
One other thing that just occurred to me is that when I was 11, I probably would have lied about flipping the neighbor off as well. And I probably would have flipped them the bird because I was furious with my mom and my dad and the whole world in general. I remember how much I hated feeling like the "odd man out" in my family. And for a few years I just HATED my step parents. They are both wonderful people and they treated me very well - but I couldn't help the way I felt at the time. (Good news, I grew out of that!)
Hopefully trying to see things through her eyes may help. Also it helped when my step parents would just call me their "daughter" rather than "step-daughter." It made me feel like they were proud to call me "daughter" and that they loved me like I was their own child. I never called either of my step parents "mom" or "dad" (those are strictly reserved titles for kids of divorce) but that didn't seem to matter to them. They still called me their daughter and did their best to love me through each terrible phase. It didn't cure every issue, but it did help a little bit.
Also, each step-parent let the biological parent do the lecturing, scolding and discipline. That made a big difference for me.
I am hoping for the best for you and your family! Seeking help is one sure sign you are on the right track. Keep it up - you're doing fine.
Many blessings to you and yours. xoxo