Although we stress the importance of honesty, our 12-year-old daughter is continually lying — even about the most trivial of transgressions, like taking her brother’s video game on a sleepover without asking first. When she’s caught in a lie, her first line of defence is to cover it up with another lie.


It sounds as though your daughter’s lying has become a habit. This sometimes happens when children are afraid of the consequences of their behaviour — they lie to avoid punishment, real or imagined. Your daughter may fear your reaction to the truth or she may want to avoid feeling bad about what she has done, or both. When she lies to cover up a previous lie, it’s likely because she knows you value honesty and she doesn’t want to be found out — again, fearing the repercussions. The good news is that she appears to know she has done something wrong in the first place.

At the same time, be sensitive to the possibility she is lying to cover up feelings of inadequacy or as an attempt to keep her activities private — an increasing need at this age.

You can discourage your daughter from this habit by making an effort not to show anger or become confrontational when she lies. Instead, calmly tell her that you know she isn’t telling the truth and give her an opportunity to retract without fear of punishment. Praise her when she tells the truth and reinforce the importance of preserving trust, both in your relationship and relationships in general.

Written by Dr Ruwa Sabbagh. Originally published in Today’s Parent, November 2008.

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