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Why Do Teens Engage in Chronic Lying?
Let’s face it: human beings are prone to fibs and little white lies. Some are even blatant liars. Lying is just one of many human flaws that we struggle with. Adolescent compulsive lying is no different.
But when it’s our kids who tell lies, well now that hurts. It is disrespectful for a teen to lie to a parent. When your teen lies often, then it can result in a broken trust bond between parent and child.
An important distinction must be made between telling a fib versus a lie. All kids and teens will tell little white lies to cover their guilt tool. [Mom: Who broke the sugar bowl? Kid: Not me, it must have been the cat.] But at what point does lying become destructive?
Teen lying can be a real problem if it recurs often. Lying might signal the presence of a mental health problem, like a personality disorder, bipolar disorder, ADHD, or sociopathy. Chronic liars are often not even aware that they are lying at all.
So when a teen is lying on a regular basis parents have good cause for concern. Parents should enlist the guidance of a mental health worker to help see what might be the cause. Noting the factors behind the lying can help them create a treatment plan for helping the teen to change this behavior.
Why Do Teens Tell Lies?
Furthermore, chronic teen compulsive lying carries more weight than the common white lie. Constant lying may become, like any bad habit, harmful to the teen or others. Parents trying to grasp why a teen would want to lie a lot is not easy. Many times, the lie doesn’t appear to serve a larger purpose for the teen. These types of lies seem to be more about lying for the sake of lying. However, most teen lying falls into 7 groups:
7 Groups of Teen Lying
To conceal a truth
There are many times when an act could result in punishment, so teens may lie to detract from that act. These lies might pertain to something mundane, like lying about doing their homework. Or the lie could be about a more serious issue, such as lying about substance abuse.
To maintain control over privacy
Teens become more private and withdrawn during the teen years. They may lie to limit what the parent knows about their private life. Lying becomes a power play, with the teen in control about what the parent can know.
To play the victim
Some teens lie to paint themselves as a victim. Through made up stories, these teens look for sympathy and concern for their well-being by playing with emotions. They may create a detailed lie about a dire family problem or the health of a loved one for attention.
To elevate status
There is a lot of pressure on teens to fit in, or to compete among their peers. To make up for perceived flaws, teens may tell tall tales to pump up certain features about their lives. This type of lying is often caused by low self-esteem or low self-worth.
To avoid parent disappointment
Parents will pin high hopes on their teens. Parents get swept up in the college admissions or sports scholarships frenzy. This pressure to measure up to other teens can lead the teen to make up lies. They may assure the parent they are studying for the SAT when they have no intent to attend college.
To game the system
A teen may lie in order to gain a desired result. They may have mastered a way to attain a desired goal by lying, such as dodging a legal problem. These teens lie to outmaneuver and outsmart the system, and rarely feel guilt or remorse.
Unintentional Unaware of the lying.
Some lying teens may not even be aware that they go around telling lies all day. The lies become second nature, used as tools to manipulate their world with the least amount of friction from others. These teens may even be afraid of the truth.
How Should Parents Respond to Teen Lying?
Parents should not delay in noting a child’s chronic lying early on. The longer the behavior is ignored and allowed to go on, the more lying the child will do. Parents should manage the lying in these ways:
- Teach kids the virtue of honesty when they are you, and then live these traits as parents.
- Address the lie a calm manner when you catch them, and ask them to explain why they lied.
- Set rules about telling lies and explain when they’ll be punished for the behavior.
- Expect the teen to be account for the lie. Have them make amends for the lie, or to apologize if the lie has been hurtful to another person.
Different Treatment Options for Teen Lying
Subsequently, when a parent suspects a mental health issue is the cause of the chronic adolescent compulsive lying, it is good to meet with a mental health worker for an evaluation. Because there are many disorders that could explain the lying, the therapist will likely conduct an interview and some psych tests.
Based on the level of the problem lying, the teen can get treatment in an outpatient or residential treatment setting. The level of care relies on the diagnosis and how severe the mental health problem is. The teen engages in therapy, groups, and activities that help them make basic changes in their thought patterns and actions.
Mental Health Treatment for Teens
BNI Treatment Centers is a leading residential mental health treatment program for teens ages 12-17 in L.A. BNI Treatment offers teens a safe space in which to work through the reasons behind their chronic lying. The therapists are trained to note the mental health issues that might be behind the lying. They then create a treatment plan that is tailored to the teen’s unique needs. To learn more about the program, please contact BNI Treatment Centers today at (888) 522-1504.