13yo son lying

I know it’s a common ask but I need help with my 13yo son and his lying.  He’s been lying for years and I think it’s getting progressively worse.  it seems to be to avoid getting in trouble, even though I praise him when he’s honest, I talk to him about the relationship consequences of lying, I’m calm and express my disappointment and hurt when he’s ‘caught’ in a lie, etc.  I can’t trust him even to walk the dog because tonight instead of walking the neighborhood he walked to 7-11 and tied the dog up outside (dog is young and can’t yet be left outside alone) - and lied about it until he was ‘caught' (the route he claimed to have walked had been blocked by construction work today.).  

He’s seen a therapist before, for several months, not about lying but about poor behavior and effort at school - I though was helpful, my husband did not.  I’m considering scheduling sessions with his therapist again, but is it enough? I’ve seen recommendations about Clearwater for assessments and therapy/classes.  My concern about that is that he will think even more that there’s something ‘wrong’ with him.  But I also don’t want to miss clues that are telling us he needs extra support.  And to be even more of a stereotype we found out recently he’s vaping, even though he’s denied emphatically that he had not. I’m totally ok with my teens being teens; they need to mature and explore.  But how do I know when it’s beyond 'normal' typical development and whether my son needs extra support?  

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RE: 13yo son lying ()

In my opinion and experience as a parent of teens and with many friends with teens, this is well beyond what is "normal," especially at 13. I think something is going on and I think you're wise to address it seriously. Your husband needs to get on board and if that particular therapist didn't work, find another one. Bear in mind that at 18 - just 5 short years away, you will not be able to make him do anything, or help him in real ways if he flounders badly. You won't have any power the day he turns 18. Trust me, I have friends who are facing this situation right now and are wishing they'd been more proactive when their child was a young teen.

This is a site that is really helpful - www.empoweringparents.com.  There's a program but just reading everything on the site will be enlightening. It has helped me on several occasions, especially regarding lying.

That said - I really really suggest you get him tested. He may have problems with impulse control, and there are therapies that can help. You may hear parents say this is standard teen behavior, but I have probably 50 teens in my life and the only 2 I know who do this were diagnosed with something (ADHD, bipolar, anxiety, depression in various combinations) that was not easy to spot by parents.

Good luck. 

RE: 13yo son lying ()

I am really looking forward to the answers by our wonderful group.  My 16 year old son has the same problem.  I realized I can't even have a conversation with him because he will lie about his feelings, what he did, what he plans to do, his hopes & dreams.  It's really sad that we can't have a simple conversation.  We have lots of support with therapy, family therapy, and a supportive school environment.  

RE: 13yo son lying ()

Dear parent,

Clearwater or something similar is a very good idea because your son can get assessed and also group therapy to better understand himself and realize that he’s not alone. Trust yourself and your instincts. Although each situation is unique, many families have gone through these sad situations. Group therapy can be incredibly effective. All the best.

RE: 13yo son lying ()

Can't give you advice because we're dealing with the same thing.  Would love to hear BPN parents' experiences.

RE: 13yo son lying ()

My son is 19 year old and has been lying for years as well. I recommend Clearwater.  I have tried their DBT with my son when he had clinical depression and was suicidal, so I know them from that standpoint, but my guess is they'd be good with your son's issues as well. You can at least have an initial consultation with them and see how it goes.  Don't worry about upsetting him or causing him to think he's not "normal" by taking him to classes and therapists. Now is your chance, as he'll be old enough soon enough to refuse to go anywhere like that even if his life depends on it. 

If your son is vaping (and 13 is on the younger side!), my guess is he's vaped or smoked pot and has likely tried other "stuff".  I would recommend taking him to the Chemical Dependency Recovery program even more than taking him to Clearwater.  We have Kaiser, so I've done their Chemical Dependency Recovery program with my son in his last year of high school, which is the only reason he was able to graduate (and with 4.2 GPA).  It took A LOT to get him to do that, and at that point he's been smoking pot daily, and probably tried other drugs.  In fact, if you are with Kaiser, they have a DBT program very similar to Clearwater's at their Richmond location.  But, again, I highly recommend you deal with vaping and current and future drug use first or at the same time.  You'd go through intake first, so they will tell you if your son is a good candidate. At Kaiser's Chemical Dependency Recovery Program, the teens are tested for all drugs weekly, and both parents and kids come to meetings (one group meeting for parents and kids together, another one just for kids).  If he's not doing drugs, then great, and your son will know you are dead serious that he doesn't start on those - or else he'll be enrolled in that program again.  And if he's doing them already (pot stays in one's body for weeks at a time), then you'll know the truth and he'll receive the support he needs to stop.

Good Luck!  Who said parenting was going to fun?

RE: 13yo son lying ()

The following book completely changed the way we viewed our daughter's behavior:

"Beyond Behaviors" by Mona Delahooke

A very empathetic look at "behaviors", with immediate application.

This article is a good primer.



Been there

RE: 13yo son lying ()

We have a similar situation with our 15 year old daughter.  She tells white lies and big lies.  Only after duress will she admit to lying.  She is currently in therapy, but for something entirely different.  I’m now at the point where I assume the worst and I’m not sure how to navigate this.  I’m worried she will lie about everything and never tell the truth.  We dealt with a similar behavior with one of our older kids, but she seems to lie to the extreme.  

RE: 13yo son lying ()

Sounds like there are some very good suggestions from other parents. I am not an expert by any means, but I do have teenagers. And I remember my own lying when I was a kid and teenager. As a kid I think I lied because I didn't want to disappoint my parents, and as a teenager I lied about everything because I knew my parents would never accept the things I was doing. If they knew half of what I was doing they would have just been judgmental, angry, and punitive. Luckily there were no long term consequences to my behavior and I matured and made better decisions. The teenage years are so difficult! I even read in a book that even though all kids and teenagers lie, especially to their parents, they actually consider themselves to be quite honest people. I think back to how I wished I could have had a more honest relationship with my parents, but they did not value my feelings or opinions, and I was too immature and emotional to understand the reasons I was doing various risky things. I wished we could have had some sort of family therapy to improve my communication with my parents, especially so that they could get some coaching on how to be better listeners and really hear and understand my point of view. I also wished I had had access to therapy to work through my feelings and struggles with someone who wasn't my parent. I have been very reluctant to aggressively catch my kids in a "lie". When I realize they are not being truthful or transparent, I tell them that I understand they might want to say something other than the truth because they don't want to disappoint me. When they do tell the truth, even regarding something I am not happy about, I try not to get mad but instead try to very calmly ask them some questions about their feelings on the topic, and then try to describe in a very non judgmental way my views on the subject and my belief about the risks of what they are doing, long term consequences and how it has worked out for other people. My daughter was vaping in college - obviously I was not happy about it. I didn't "forbid her to vape" (as my parents would have done). Instead, at every opportunity, I tried talk to her about addiction and health issues, cost, etc. My daughter's boyfriend's mother, who follows a more authoritarian parenting style, found out that my daughter was vaping and said "I would just tell her she needs to stop that", to which I said "well, I am not happy about it and would like her to stop, but want her to be honest with me". Funny thing was that my daughter told me her son (my daughter's boyfriend) was also vaping and she said to me "Please don't tell his mom because she would be really mad at him". When my daughter decided to quit, she was super excited to tell me because she knew I would be really proud of her and happy that she quit. So this has been my experience - I have to make sure the lines of communication are open by not being judgmental and punitive. If they feel they can talk to me, I hear the truth and then have the opportunity to share to my reasoning and offer guidance and suggestions. Certainly it is more reasonable to do this with older teens and young adults, but open communication has to start somewhere.